The Kaduna state government has commenced the process of amending a section of the recently passed penal code that prohibits drinking of alcohol. The penal code specifies crime and relevant punishment in northern Nigeria.
The governors from the 19 northern states set up a committee of state attorneys general in October 2015 to review the law to enable it meet with current realities across the region.
The code was subsequently reviewed and the Kaduna State Penal Code Law, 2017 was enacted into law on May 29, 2017. Kaduna State is the first to pass the new code. However, a section of the newly passed code, section 383, which appears to make “drinking” a crime in the state has been causing controversy.
A source at Kaduna State Government House, who declined to be named because he had no permission to speak to the media on the matter, told PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday that when the Kaduna State Executive Council approved the draft penal code to be sent to the state house of assembly, “ Section 383 retained the penalty in previous editions of the Penal Code against Muslims drinking.”
He said however, that what the lawmakers passed omitted the reference to “Muslims” and made it appear that there is a general restriction against drinking.
He said Sections 381 and 382 of the Penal Code criminalise drunkenness, not drinking.
“These two sections show that there is no intent to criminalise or prohibit drinking, and that therefore Section 383 is an anomaly.”
He also said the anomaly was brought to the attention of the state government in recent days, adding that a letter has already been sent to the assembly asking the lawmakers to correct and amend the controversial section.
The official said the government was aware that some persons were trying to take advantage of the issue to cause “unnecessary tension and controversy”.
When contacted, the spokesperson of Mr. El-Rufai, Samuel Aruwan simply said ” the Kaduna State Government upholds, protects and promotes constitutional and human rights of all. Nothing will detract from this commitment”.
A public relations officer at the Kaduna State House of Assembly, KDHA, Aisha Yusuf, however said “no such correspondent was received from the executive so far.”