MARRIAGE TO A MINOR: SHARIA AMPUTEES MOBLISE AGAINST YERIMA

IF the court finds him guilty, then he should be beheaded.” Those were the words of fiery Malam Lawali Isa, a Zamfara State resident whose right hand was amputated on May 3, 2001 for allegedly

stealing nine bicycles. His case had closely followed that of another Zamfara State resident, Malam Buba Bello Jangebe.

Isa made the call during an exclusive interview with our Reporter while reviewing the controversy surrounding the recent marriage of the former Governor of the State, Alhaji Sani Ahmed Yerima to an Egyptian minor.

The amputee’s reaction was, however, not in relation to the controversial marriage, but about the fact that the former Governor has a corruption charge that is yet to be discharged, about three years after.

Yerima, who is now a Senator of the Federal Republic, introduced criminal jurisdiction to the Islamic legal code on assuming office in 1999. That law caught Jangebe, a cow thief, and thereafter, Isa. The hands of the duo were amputated in exercises that were supervised by the administration of Yerima.

Isa, who noted that graft charges against Yerima since 2006 had not been disposed of in the court, pleaded that the former Governor be severely sanctioned if the allegations were found to be true.

He said: “Those who cut my hand for stealing bicycles, should be beheaded if they are found to have stolen public funds. If they said that I used my hand to steal the bicycles, then those of them who used their heads to concoct how to steal public funds should be beheaded. Simple.”

Yerima is being tried under the common law, which does not make the kind of prescription that the amputee, in anger, in advocating.

Back in 2001 when he meekly submitted to the amputation, Isa was a simple-minded person who saw the punishment as his due and as prescribed by his revered religion. Not any more. He is currently asking hard, probing questions.

Isa is demanding answers to why the Governor, who superintended over his punishment, was linked to a N2.2 billion and another N750 million fraud by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The resident of Gummi Village in the state also wants to know why, in spite of the prosecution, Yerima is so enjoying freedom that he recently took the fourth wife after divorcing one.

The EFCC had on August 28, 2006 arraigned the former Governor and seven others, including the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Alhaji Abubakar Moriki at a Federal High Court, Abuja on a 36-count charge of laundering about N750 million and for alleged conspiracy.

Charged with Moriki, were Yerima’s Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Alhaji Idris Mohammed Keta and the Secretary to the State Finance and General Purpose Committee, Alhaji Bala Wakili.

The three-some pleaded not guilty to the charges filed before Justice Babs Kuewumi.

The three officials had been detained by the EFCC since July 7 of that year over alleged financial mismanagement which allegedly bordered on “gross misappropriation of about N750 million local government funds, award of contracts, Ecological funds, Education Tax Funds, and illegal bank loans”.

The then Governor Sani, whose name appeared on the charge sheet, could not be arraigned by the EFCC because of the immunity clause of Section 308 of the constitution, which protected him from civil and criminal proceedings while in office. He has since been arraigned by the anti-graft commission after he left office

In the same suit, an automobile company, IAA Motors was also charged to court, while some other Zamfara officials including the Accountant General, Kasimu Mohammed Anka, the state Commissioner for Finance, Bello Makau and Abdulaziz Abubakar Yari were said to be at large.

Also in the same court but on separate two-count charge, Moriki and Yerima were alleged to have conspired to commit money laundering involving N2.2 billion.

Like many other cases against well-heeled citizens, the trial has continued to drag in the court and Isa is very worried at the delay.

 The 30-something-year-old man who, like Buba Jangebe, had seen the amputation as a just punishment for his crime, was filled with rage.

He shot at the reporter: “Why have they not amputated the hands of more thieves, especially the big ones in government? Why is the trial of the former Governor dragging in court? I am not jumping to conclusions yet, or saying that the former Governor is guilty. No. My question is: why are they dragging the matter in court? What will they do to him and the others if the allegation turn out to be true?”

He submitted that the introduction of the Islamic law by Yerima was to score “political points, pure and simple.”

Isa said that the amputation was in the former Governor’s bid to receive the support of Saudi authorities and the Islamic world. The amputee insisted that many people did not know there was a lot to the Governor’s ambition than religion.

The Gummi resident recalled that he had considered the Sharia matter as a joke until May 3, 2001 when his hand was amputated at the General Hospital, Gummi under the watchful eyes of Yerima’s Commissioner for Religious Affairs, Alhaji Ibrahim Wakala after the Shariah courts had found him guilty of stealing nine bicycles.

Isa said that he was first taken to the Gummi prisons where human rights groups mounted pressure for his freedom but noted that Yerima stood his ground and declared that he wanted to sanitise Zamfara.

According to Isa, the then Commissioner for Religious Affairs and the then head of anti-corruption commission, Alhaji Aliyu Sani Jangibe began to preach to him, telling him not to mind the human rights groups. They told me that if I did not heed the calls of the “trouble makers who called themselves rights activists, I would make heaven.”

He continued: “They said to me, ‘if you allow your hand to be amputated, Allah will grant you a place in heaven.”

The amputee said that when the pressure became two much, he had to give in and allowed Dr. Bello Buzu Kaura Namoda to amputate his right hand.

Isa admitted that he broke into somebody’s shop in Gummi and stole the nine bicycles.

Very fortunately Isa was the second and, hopefully, the last victim of Shariah to be amputated in Zamfara State. He disclosed that he had since been going round Zamfara telling people that the Islamic legal code was not being implemented in good faith.

Isa noted that with the Sharia, investors were being scared away from the state and disclosed that he even carried the campaign to the then deputy Governor, Alhaji Mahmud Aliyu Shinkafi, now the Governor of the state.

Isa told the Nigerian Compass on Saturday that he currently had no means of livelihood, querying: “What can a man with one hand do for a living if not direct begging?”

Yet, he hates begging.

Isa said that he would be very glad if the state government or any wealthy individual could assist him with at least N10,000 to start the business of selling fowls which he said he could do very well, “since Yerima has rendered me useless”, he said.

He also curiously linked the amputation to political complexity because during Yerima’s time, Gummi was a stronghold of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) while the then Governor was, and still is, in the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP).

Isa said that Yerima denied Gummi Local Government many dues until 2003 when as an incumbent, the Governor used political power as to over throw the PDP in the local government.

“He knows that I am a chieftain of PDP in Gummi which resulted to the game plan of cutting my hand through amputation,” the amputee claimed.

The first Shariah amputee, Jangebe alias Baba Karegita has refused to speak publicly since his hand was amputated.

When our reporter visited Jangebe in Talata Mafara local government area of the state, it was learnt that Jangebe was at the community hospital as a messenger.

At the gate of the hospital, Jangebe is the first person to be seen. Quite jovial and easy going, he entertained the reporter, but refused to say anything about his ordeal or his experience. T directed the journalist to the District Head of the village for permission to first see the Emir of Talata Mafara, Alhaji Mohammed Bello Barmo and seek permission for the interview.

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