Academic journal article African Studies Review

Common Law and Sharia in Nigeria: An Unresolved Problem of Coexistence

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Common Law and Sharia in Nigeria: An Unresolved Problem of Coexistence

Article excerpt

LAW AND HUMAN RIGHTS B. A. T. Balewa. Common Law and Sharia in Nigeria: An Unresolved Problem of Coexistence. Enugu, Nigeria: Fourth Dimension Publishing Co., Ltd., 2002. Distributed by African Books Collective Ltd., The Jam Factory, 27 Park End St., Oxford 0X1 1HU. vi + 104 pp. Bibliography. Tables. Appendix. $20.95. Paper.

B. A. T. Balewa, a noted Nigerian diplomat, wrote Common Law and Sharia in Nigeria after the 1988 constituent assembly in Nigeria reached an impasse. Intended for the student of comparative studies as well as the general reader, Balewa's book offers an historical explanation for the conflict plaguing the "secularized" Nigerian state. The problem was the "inability of two separate constituent Assemblies (1978 and 1988) to distinguish between the concept of law and of value judgment" (vii). To explain the source of the discrepancy between law and value judgment, Balewa focuses on the core issues paralyzing the Nigerian constituency: common law and Islamic law, or sharia. For Balewa, if Nigeria is to be recognized as a secular state, then the constitution must not possess "religious undertones" (13). Common Law and Sharia in Nigeria explains why this separation will be extremely difficult.

I read this book with the hope of gaining a different perspective on the continuing conflicts regarding the sharia in Nigeria. The brief overview of schools of Islamic law and the intensive survey regarding Christianity and common law were insightful. Chapter 5, "Common Law in Nigeria," is Balewa's strongest: he provides an excellent survey of the origins of common law and the incorporation of English law and Christianity within this particular corpus. Ironically, the chapter does not discuss common law in Nigeria, as the tide would suggest. Rather Balewa continues to use Europe and England specifically as his theater of discussion. I was disappointed that connections between common law, sharia, and the current conflicts gripping Nigeria were not discussed in detail. …

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