National Laws on Blasphemy: Nigeria

Divided between a Muslim north and Christian south, Nigeria has general nationwide laws against blasphemy adjudicated by Customary Courts as well as specifically Islamic laws against blasphemy adjudicated by Sharia Courts in twelve northern states. The Customary law against blasphemy is found in Section 204 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits any act that publicly insults any religion and stipulates a prison sentence of up to two years. Sharia Courts, on the other hand, are exclusively concerned with acts considered insulting to Muslims, the punishment for which can be as severe as execution. Most blasphemy accusations are made by Muslims against Christians and frequently trigger mob violence before any official actions like police arrests and judicial trials can be taken. Blasphemy is thus primarily a driver of sectarian violence rather than legal proceedings in the Nigerian context. Recent blasphemy-related events include several deadly Muslim riots over alleged insults to Muhammad or the Qur’an; and a Christian whose three-year prison sentence from a Sharia court for blasphemy against Muhammad was overturned by an appeals court.
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