By Collins Orono
Child rights agency UNICEF has condemned the sentencing of a 13-year-old boy to 10 years in prison for blasphemy in northern Nigeria.
Omar Farouq was convicted in a Sharia court in Kano State in northwest Nigeria after he was accused of using foul language toward Allah in an argument with a friend.
He was sentenced on August 10 by the same court that recently sentenced a studio assistant Yahaya Sharif-Aminu to death for blaspheming Prophet Mohammed, according to lawyers.
Farouq was tried as an adult because he has attained puberty and has full responsibility under Islamic law.
UNICEF Wednesday issued a statement “expressing deep concern” about the sentencing.
“The sentencing of this child — 13-year-old Omar Farouq — to 10 years in prison with menial labour is wrong,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF representative in Nigeria. “It also negates all core underlying principles of child rights and child justice that Nigeria — and by implication, Kano State — has signed on to.”
Kano State, like most predominantly Muslim states in Nigeria, practices Sharia law alongside secular law.
UNICEF has called on the Nigerian government and the Kano State government to urgently review the case and reverse the sentence, the organization said in a statement.
“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 — and that all children in Kano are treated in accordance with child rights standards,” Hawkins said.