Sharia implementation in northern Nigeria after 15 years

The re-introduction of ‘full’ Sharia in northern Nigeria was launched in Gusau, the capital of Zamfara State, on 27 October 1999. Prior to that, Sharia law in northern Nigeria was limited to civil matters and excluded criminal matters.

By the end of 2001, 11 other states (Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe), and a number of local governments within them, had joined Zamfara in enacting wide-ranging legislation aimed at making their jurisdictions more ‘sharia compliant’, incorporating both civil and criminal matters, than they had formerly been. In sum:

  • All Sharia States reinstated Islamic criminal law in their jurisdictions.
  • All Sharia States also enacted Sharia Courts Laws, establishing new inferior Sharia Courts, with original jurisdiction to apply the full range of Islamic law, civil and criminal, to Muslims.
  • A wide range of other legislation was enacted aimed at particular ‘social vices’ and ‘un-Islamic behaviour’, such as the consumption of alcohol, gambling, prostitution, unedifying media, and the excessive mixing together of unrelated males and females.
  • A range of other ‘ulama institutions’ were established – Sharia Commissions and Councils of Ulama with advisory and executive functions; Zakat and Endowment Boards and Committees for the collection and distribution of zakat and the administration of wakfs; hisbah organisations to monitor and try to enforce Sharia compliance; and others.

The implementation of Sharia law raised fears of the Islamization of society and sparked a wave of inter-religious violence that claimed thousands of lives and the destruction of properties. This research project explores the trajectories and consequences of Sharia implementation in northern Nigeria between 2000 and 2015. What has happened in the course of Sharia implementation over the 15 years? The six research teams looked into: the courts, the hisbah police, the zakat and waqf institutions, the consequences for gender relations, the impact on the ulama, and wider public perceptions of Sharia implementation.

Six full length research reports and five Policy Briefs have resulted from this research.