Untangling the excesses of Gov. Ibrahim Shekarau’s Islamic police
“Note that there are attempts at controlling the consumption of local gin, “ogogoro”, in the states of Benue, Plateau and Taraba, all of them Christian dominated, with no much rancor, which makes many to believe that it is Islamphobia that is causing all the rancor against Kano's similar attempt. In Benue State, it is NAFDAC that helps them police the compliance to the law banning ogogoro. In Kano, it is Hisbah that oversees compliance to law banning alcohol. What's wrong with that? Should some people decide to be lawless because they carry the label Christians? Or can a State have not right to make its own laws because it is Muslim” – stated the Director General of the Hisbah Board in the person of Dr. Dukawa in response to 247ureport.com over the attempt to Islamize the non Muslims in Kano via the paramilitary outfit of Hisbah under the guise of alcohol ban enforcement.
On February 19, 2011, the Kano State Islamic police [Shariah police or Hisbah] descended on Mingles Exclusive Nigeria Limited located at 108 Maganda Road in Bompai, Kano to enforce the mandate given to them by the Shekarau government of ensuring that the entire Kano is policed according to the Islamic doctrine. The 1000 Hisbah men who descended on Mingles Exclusive on the early morning hours of Saturday February 19, 2011, were reported to have injured four of the top managers along with confiscation of their non alcoholic goods estimated at N3.5million.
To this effect, the foremost activist and leader of non Muslim residents of Kano State, Chief Idika, in crying out to 247ureports.com charged that “the militants has resorted to invading peoples business premises and destroying their properties, inflicting serious injuries on the people and carting away their goods [non alcoholic].
The latest of the attacks by the Shariah police instituted by the present Governor of Kano, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, comes on the heels of his efforts to present/rebrand himself and his candidacy for the presidency of Nigeria under the banner of One Nigeria and of religious tolerance across the various religious divides in Nigeria. But closer examination of the activities of the Hisbah in Kano State shows a picture that depicts what many non-Muslims term an acute intolerance and indiscriminate violence against non-Muslims since its formation a little over 7years ago.
The Hisbah was primarily charged with the enforcement of the ban on all alcoholic beverages in Kano State in line with the dictates of Shariah.
According to the Kano State Government, Hisbah Board was established by law No 4 of 2003 among the body of laws of Kano State Government which was published in the Kano State of Nigeria Gazette No 6 vol. 35 of 20th November 2003. The law assigned thirteen responsibilities to the board, foremost of which is rendering assistance to the Police and other security agencies in the areas of prevention, detection and reporting of offences. The other responsibilities were largely religious in nature. As of May 30, 2010, the Hisbah police numbered 9,000. This is according to the Director of the Hisbah board, Dr. Dukawa.
The Kano State Government official statement of purpose for the formation of Hisbah states, “The Hisbah is a religious institution under the authority of the state that appoints people to carry out the responsibilities of enjoining what is right, whenever people start to neglect it, and forbidding what is wrong, whenever people start to engage in it. The purpose of this is to safeguard society from deviance, protect the faith, and ensure the welfare of the people in both religious and worldly manners according to the Law of Allah. However, the Hisbah relates to enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong. Allah has made it obligatory upon all Muslims to enjoin good and forbid wrongdoing to the extent of their knowledge and abilities.”
Hisbah's execution of the assigned task however has not been easy. Many of the residence of Kano State have raised their voices against the manner the Government has gone about enforcing Islamic law upon non Muslims. This is as they have complained against the denial of the freedom of religion as enshrined in the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria. In a letter dated October 3, 2008 written to the then Inspector General of Police [IGP] and signed by Chief O. A. Adeaga, it complained that the Hisbah men have begun to engage in activities that poses to threaten the peace in Kano State between non Muslims and the government backed Hisbah. In particular, the letter cited a September 2008 incident along a federal highway [leading into Kano]. The incident occurred when the Islamic police of Kano pounced on a vehicle [trailer] carrying non alcoholic beverages from Kaduna into Kano. The driver of the vehicle was severely injured and the entirety of the trailer content destroyed.
Chief O. A. Adeaga's letter to the IGP on face value appeared to not have made a difference. This was as Mr. Sunday Ehindero [IGP] on February 2009 characterized the activities of Hisbah “as illegal and contravenes the 1999 constitution.” The Hisbah police did not halt their activities. On a bright sunny day of March 2010, an assembled Hisbah crowd of 2500 in Dambatta Local Government Area [LGA] were chanting in Arabic “Allah is Great” as one of the leaders of Hisbah, Alhaji Sunusi Aliyu Salisu ordered the crowd to commence the destruction of 34,000 bottles of alcoholic beverages they had seized from non Muslim merchants. Alhaji Salisu told the crowd as the bottles were being destroyed, “Shariah is here to stay.”
On March 30, 2009, Hisbah struck again. This time they hit a trailer conveying alcoholic drinks to Maiduguri. The driver who was South East Nigerian in origin was beaten and taken to a magistrate court where he was tried and discharged. But Hisbah, not satisfied with the court ruling, rearrested the driver. This action by Hisbah led to the then Kano State Commissioner Aminu Yesefu to angrily state that “Hisbah was disobeying the law”.
Hisbah's activity continued undeterred. On June 2009, a truck driver of South Eastern origin was struck by Hisbah boys in the heart of Sabon Gari. Sabon Gari is predominantly occupied non Muslims settlers. The driver lost four  of his fingers in the attack. The Hisbah men who were numbered at over 1,500 and armed with machetes and other dangerous weapons continued to attack other drivers in Sabon Gari until sympathizers took matters into their hands and confronted the Hisbah boys. The boys made a retreat.
From June to December 2009, the activities of the Hisbah boys continued. On December 2009, the government of Kano went on a retreat to Sokoto. Following the retreat, the Shekarau administration returned to Kano vowing “to continue with the principles of Shariah”. The administration mandated all ministries, agencies, parastatals and schools in the State to append Islamic calendar dates. The 44 LGAs were directed to print 1000 copies of the Islamic Almanac for distribution
As December 2010 rolled by, the State Governor of Kano, while unveiling the State 2011 budget, announced the increase in pay for the Hisbah police equivalent to an increase of 160%. The Hisbah police who normally receives N6,000 now receives N15,000. This gesture by the governor was to mark the 6th anniversary of Hisbah. Also the total budget for Shariah activities was pegged at N1.77billion of which N204milion was earmarked for the Hisbah police. Justifying the increase in Hisbah budget by the governor, the Board Director of Hisbah, Dr. Dukawa told 247ureports.com that “the increase is in line with realities of wages nationwide, and in recognition of their various inputs into making Kano a relatively peaceful place for all”.
The increase in pay opened the flood gates to more mischief and harassment. On December 18, 2010, on Saturday [2am], Hisbah men ran down two [Iveco] vehicles carrying soft drinks. The Islamic police drew [stole] diesel out of the vehicle using 50 liter jerry cans. They also destroyed the tyres. The Hisbah operation occurred in the presence of police at the Zaria road/Eastern bypass near Naibawa area. The police was afraid to stop the attack. Victor Onyebuenu, the manager of the company that ordered the drinks estimates that the drinks were worth N2million. According to the Police Sergeant, Sunday Jankanwa of Naibawa police station, the two Iveco trailers were carrying 400 crates of Fayronz soft drink and 400 crates of Maltina. The Kano State police commissioner, Tambari Yabo Mohammed reacted to the incident by pleading with the Hisbah board to work with the police and be law abiding. He warned of the excess use of force. The police did not apprehend the Hisbah culprits.
In Kano, under the present Shekarau's administration, the police appear handicapped on the matter of Hisbah. This is because the mandate given to the Hisbah board by the State government lines up in parallel with the mandate given to the Nigerian Police Force [NPF]. And on the issue of alcohol ban and the Islamization of non Muslim by force, the two mandates collide. The State government of Kano, in their take, believe that the State mandate [Shariah] should supersede that of the federal government. According to Dr. Dukawa, “my understanding of the federal system we are operating is that it empowers state assembles to make laws to control their immediate societies. Similar things are happening in USA, even with regards to alcohol control. I refer you to the State of Utah and some counties in the State of Texas”.
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