USCIRF Releases New Report on Shari’ah Criminal Law in Northern Nigeria

Dec 10, 2019

December 10, 2019


USCIRF Releases New Report on Shari’ah Criminal Law in Northern Nigeria


WASHINGTON, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released a study conducted by Bauman Global on Shari’ah Criminal Law in Northern Nigeria. The report examines the laws and institutions in three northern states in Nigeria: Kano, Sokoto, and Zamfara, which are among 12 states where Islamic penal laws and criminal procedure codes are used.

This report demonstrates the problematic implications of using one religion as the basis of law enforcement in these states. It is unnerving to learn of the latitude of authority given to hisbah groups, the lack of protection against discrimination, the prevalence of flogging as a punishment, and the great need for stronger oversight and human rights training for justice and security personnel,” said Chair Tony Perkins.

Researchers analyzed 173 cases from 2017 and conducted 147 interviews with court judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys, journalists, legal experts, religious leaders, individuals who had been tried in the courts, and others. They found that over 75% of Muslims and some Christians prefer Shari’ah courts because they are cheaper, faster, and conducted in the Hausa language. Despite the positive perceptions shared, interviews also repeatedly raised concerns about corruption, unfair trials, and confessions obtained through the use of torture.

Vice Chair Gayle Manchin noted that “This report will certainly serve as a valuable resource for policymakers and practitioners seeking to support Nigeria, to improve justice and security, and to  protect religious freedom in the country.”

In its 2019 Annual Report, USCIRF again recommended that Nigeria be designated by the State Department as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for religious freedom violations that are “systematic, ongoing and egregious.” USCIRF has recommended CPC status for Nigeria since 2009, however the State Department has never designated it as such.




The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress intended to deter religious persehcution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at or call 202-523-3240.