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Thursday, 19 December, 2002, 09:41 GMT
Eyewitness: Nigeria's Sharia amputees
Zamfara state sign
Zamfara was the first state to introduce Sharia

The introduction of Islamic or Sharia law in northern Nigeria has been hugely controversial.

New forms of punishment have been introduced, such as the amputation of the limbs of thieves.

I thank God for the amputation

Buba Jangebe
In 2000, Buba Jangebe made history as the first person in Nigeria to have an amputation carried out under Islamic law after being found guilty of stealing a cow.

He says he is not upset about losing his hand because it led to the end of his 12-year career as a thief.

This is why, he says, he refused to appeal against the verdict and says he is happy that his new life as an honest man is paying off.

He is now employed as a messenger in a secondary school in his home village of Jangebe.

Transformed

In addition, Mr Jangebe's relatives who had ostracised him for being a thief, have re-integrated him into the family.

"When I was a thief, there were lots of problems, there was no money, I had no peace. At that time, my relatives deserted me. They were all afraid of me.

Lawali Isa
Lawali Isa's right hand was cut off for stealing three bicycles

"But things have now changed. I now visit my relatives and they also visit me. For this, I thank God for the amputation," he said.

Lawali Isa has also had his right hand cut off, after being convicted of stealing three bicycles.

He says the amputation has transformed him from a notorious thief into a religious person.

God's will

But human rights lawyers say that amputees such as Mr Jangebe and Mr Isa are often not aware of their right to appeal against Sharia judgements, believing them to be God's will.

The lawyers say that many of those convicted in Islamic courts are illiterate and that they must be educated about Sharia law.

Amina Lawal, who was sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery, initially accepted the judgement until lawyers took up her case.

After an international outcry, the federal government has promised that the death-by-stoning sentence will not be carried out on Ms Lawal or anyone else.

But amputations are still being performed.

The Nigerian Medical Association, the umbrella body of Nigerian doctors, is very bitter that some of its members carried out the amputations.

The body, which described amputation as "unethical and inhuman", has threatened to expel any of its members who perform the operation.

But it is business as usual for those doctors who support Sharia punishments.

In Sokoto State, as many as 12 people are in jail awaiting amputation.


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