No evidence southern Nigerian state passed Sharia bill to secure votes in the north

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.
   

A state in southwest Nigeria has been drawn into the controversy surrounding a decision by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to field two Muslim candidates in next year’s presidential elections. Two news blogs have claimed that Lagos state, where APC presidential candidate Bola Ahmed Tinubu was a governor for eight years, passed a bill introducing Sharia law in return for votes in Nigeria’s Muslim majority north. This is false. The state senate denied the existence of the purported bill which does not appear in any public legislative record – a prerequisite for the passage of any new laws. 

“Lagos State House Of Assembly Secretly Passes Sharia Law In A Deal To Get Northern Support For Tinubu,” reads the title of a report published on July 13, 2022, by Fabulous International, a Nigerian news blog. 

Screenshot of the false article published by Fabulous, taken on July 18, 2022

 

The thrust of the report is that Lagos, where Tinubu was the governor of between 1999 and 2007, secretly introduced a bill permitting Sharia law as a political carrot for gaining votes from the Muslim-majority northern states in next year’s presidential elections. 

The claims emerged days after the APC named Tinubu and Kashim Shettima – both Muslims – as their candidates for president and vice president next year. 

To win a presidential election in Nigeria, a candidate must secure a majority and also garner 25 percent of the votes in at least two-thirds of the country’s 36 states and capital city Abuja. 

The claim, however, is false.

Bill does not exist

One of the blogs which reproduced the controversial report has now changed tack.

Jane Omamor, publisher of “Fabulous”, conceded to AFP Fact Check that the report was “unfounded” and failed to establish evidence proving the existence of the purported bill.

 Omamor’s publication has since published two rebuttals from officials (here and here). A second blog carried the same false report word for word here

Screenshots of the rebuttals published by Fabulous, taken on July 18, 2022.

AFP Fact Check traced the source of the report to Nairaland, an online forum that publishes user-generated content. It appeared for the first time at 9:27 am on July 13, 2022, under the username “MagicBishop”. 

‘Hate Speech’

Lagos officials shot down the claims.

In a statement sent to the media, the spokesman for the state assembly Setonji David described the report as “hate speech” and “lies”.

“The process of law making is universal and very open. You cannot pass a law without subjecting it to a public hearing in Lagos state,” he wrote.

AFP Fact Check found no trace of a public participation process related to the claimed bill.

The assembly also issued a statement on Twitter deriding the false report, pointing out Lagos is the only state legislature that live-streams all its plenaries, meaning any discussions about a Sharia bill would have been recorded.

AFP Fact Check scoured all the existing plenary videos from 2022. None of them include debates about a Sharia bill.

The state assembly also said Lagos operates according to the Criminal Code, which does not permit the enactment of Sharia law, unlike northern Nigeria where a Sharia-friendly Penal Code is in effect. 

Jubril Gawat, senior special assistant to the Lagos state governor on digital communication, called the report “dumb FAKE NEWS”.  

On October 27, 1999, Zamfara in northwest Nigeria was the first state to start practising Sharia, a legal system based on Islamic teachings. Since then, 11 other states in northern Nigeria have followed suit.