from EMEKA OKONKWO in Abuja, Nigeria
ABUJA, (CAJ News) – THE sentencing of a 13-year-old Nigerian to ten years’ imprisonment for blasphemy has triggered outrage.
A Sharia Court in the northern Kano State has imposed the sentence on the youngster, Omar Farouq.
The blasphemous statement could not be ascertained but Kano is among regions where religious tensions are high in a country that is equally divided between Christians and Muslim.
Northern Nigeria is predominantly Muslim.
“The sentencing of this child – 13-year-old Omar Farouk – to 10 years in prison with menial labour is wrong,” said Peter Hawkins, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) local representative, said.
“It also negates all core underlying principles of child rights and child justice that Nigeria – and by implication, Kano State – has signed on to.”
According to UNICEF, the sentence is in contravention of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Nigeria ratified in 1991.
It is also a violation of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child – which Nigeria ratified in 2001 – and Nigeria’s Child Rights Act 2003, which domesticates Nigeria’s international obligations to protect children’s right to life, survival and development.
UNICEF called on the Nigerian Government and the Kano State Government to urgently review the case with a view to reversing the sentence.
The organisation nonetheless expressed appreciation of the strides recently made by Kano State to pass the State Child Protection Bill.
“This case further underlines the urgent need to accelerate the enactment of the Kano State Child Protection Bill so as to ensure that all children under 18, including Omar Farouq are protected,” Hawkins said.
– CAJ News