Is Tinubu's Government Going to Address Issues with Islamic Police (Hisbah)?

By Prof John Egbeazien Oshodi
Prof John Egbeazien Oshodi
Prof John Egbeazien Oshodi

Tinubu's Government: Confronting the Menace of Islamic Police (Hisbah). Do Not Remain Indifferent or Unconcerned like the Previous Administration. Urgent Call for Bold Action: Transforming to State Police for a Secure, Lawful, and Prosperous Future in Nigeria

In recent times, the actions of the Hisbah Police in northern Nigeria have raised serious concerns about human rights violations. Despite widespread reports of abuses, the recently departed Buhari government showed reluctance to address these issues. The question remains: is the government indifferent or afraid of the Hisbah? The unauthorized entries into private spaces and violations of personal liberties, especially among female students, have sparked outrage. It is crucial for the government to address these issues promptly, ensuring that no group operates above the law and that the rights of all citizens are protected, regardless of their religion or region.

The Hisbah Corps is apparently operating under the jurisdiction of a board comprising government officials, secular police officers, and religious leaders, has raised concerns due to its actions in northern Nigeria. Despite its limited authority to execute arrests and armed only with non-lethal weapons, Hisbah's activities, especially the unauthorized entry into private spaces, have led to human rights violations and public outcry.

The Hisbah's actions, including entering students' rooms without consent and enforcing dress codes, have been met with criticism for potential human rights violations. The Kano State Government and the Kano State Hisbah Board, while recognized, must respect established procedures for search and arrest, ensuring citizens' privacy rights are upheld.

The debate around regional security outfits like Hisbah and the unsuccessful declaration of the South-West security outfit, Amotekun, as illegal by the former Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, and the recent times, in the Southeast region, the Ebubeagu Security Outfit has encountered court and police interference for suspected human rights violations; raises questions about the selective enforcement of legality. Addressing these issues requires careful consideration of legal, political, and constitutional factors.

The incidents involving Hisbah emphasize the urgent need for comprehensive legal reforms and strict adherence to the rule of law. President Tinubu's administration must actively engage with the national assembly, legal experts, law enforcement specialists, religious leaders, and human rights organizations to develop guidelines that protect individual freedoms while respecting cultural and religious beliefs. Additionally, stringent oversight mechanisms should be established to ensure that security outfits and law enforcement agencies operate within the confines of the law and adhere to constitutional principles.

President Tinubu's administration faces a critical challenge in preserving the secular fabric of Nigeria's democracy while respecting the religious diversity of its citizens. Upholding individual rights and preventing overreach by any law enforcement agency or regional security outfit, including Hisbah, is paramount. The administration must reaffirm the constitutional principles that guarantee citizens' freedom of religion, expression, and privacy irrespective of their location in Nigeria. In a nation as diverse as Nigeria, it is essential to create an environment where every citizen feels secure, regardless of their religious background.

President Tinubu's administration has a unique opportunity to address the concerns related to Hisbah and similar organizations. By enacting comprehensive legislation, establishing robust oversight mechanisms, promoting open dialogue, and engaging internationally, the government can protect citizens' rights and privacy, fostering a society where everyone feels secure and respected. Amidst the unfolding events concerning Hisbah's actions in Kano State, a pressing concern emerges regarding the need for a unified approach to law enforcement in Nigeria. Simultaneously, establishing a robust oversight mechanism is paramount. This oversight body should comprise legal experts, human rights advocates, religious leaders, and representatives from diverse communities. Its purpose would be to monitor the activities of religious/secular/regional security forces across the country. This body would serve as an independent watchdog, investigating complaints, ensuring accountability, and reporting any violations to the appropriate authorities. By implementing a strong oversight mechanism, the government can hold organizations like Hisbah accountable for their actions and prevent potential abuses of power.

Furthermore, open dialogue and education are essential tools in this process. President Tinubu's administration should facilitate transparent discussions with religious leaders, civil society organizations, and the general public. These dialogues can promote understanding, tolerance, and respect among different religious and cultural communities. Educational initiatives should be undertaken to inform citizens about their rights and legal protections. By raising awareness and fostering dialogue, the government can bridge gaps between communities and create an atmosphere of mutual respect and acceptance.

Moreover, international engagement is crucial in upholding human rights standards. President Tinubu's administration should actively collaborate with international human rights organizations and legal experts. By participating in these global conversations, Nigeria can benefit from best practices and ensure that its laws and policies align with international human rights standards. This collaboration can also provide valuable insights into effective oversight mechanisms and accountability measures implemented in other countries facing similar challenges.

There is a pressing need for state police implementation in Nigeria. The existing centralized police system falls short in addressing local security challenges effectively. State police, operating within specific regions, would offer a nuanced understanding of local dynamics and swift responses to security concerns. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, having expressed support for state police as a presidential candidate, must now champion this cause as president. His advocacy can significantly enhance the well-being of all Nigerians. By transforming non-state armed security outfits into state police systems and instituting rigorous oversight measures, Nigeria can establish a more secure and harmonious future. This approach not only emphasizes effective law enforcement but also upholds the rights and dignity of all citizens, regardless of their religious or cultural backgrounds. President Tinubu, let state police become a part of your legacy in Nigeria.

Nigeria, as a constitutional democracy, upholds the principles of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. The incidents involving Hisbah, a religious police force, infringing upon the privacy and rights of individuals, stand in stark contrast to these democratic values. The notion that citizens, regardless of their religious beliefs, could be subjected to unwarranted intrusion within places like hotels, stores and residences is a clear violation of their constitutional rights. The situation in Kano State emphasizes the broader challenge of defining the roles and limits of entities like Hisbah within Nigeria's centralized law enforcement structure.

With the absence of a state police system, localized religious police forces operating outside the jurisdiction of the Nigeria Police Force raise complex legal, social, and political questions. President Tinubu's administration faces the pivotal task of establishing a clear framework that defines the scope of Hisbah's authority while respecting religious and cultural diversity. Striking a delicate balance between upholding the rule of law and accommodating cultural differences is essential to ensure a harmonious society.

President Tinubu's administration has a historic chance to safeguard the democratic ideals that Nigeria stands for. By ensuring the protection of individual rights, upholding the rule of law, and fostering an inclusive society, Nigeria can continue its journey as a vibrant and diverse democracy. It is imperative that President Tinubu's administration takes decisive action, sending a clear message that individual freedoms will always be respected and protected in the country's constitutional democracy. However, amidst the transition towards state police systems, it is crucial to address existing concerns related to entities like Hisbah. While recognizing the importance of respecting cultural and religious diversity, there must be stringent checks and balances to prevent abuses. This involves: Providing comprehensive training to various security outfits personnel regarding human rights, cultural diversity, and appropriate conduct when dealing with citizens. Sensitization programs can promote understanding and tolerance among diverse religious and ethnic communities.

Amidst the ongoing saga of unchecked actions by Hisbah, one cannot help but contemplate the need for diverse religious groups to establish their own police forces. If Muslim police can operate independently, why not Christian police, Ifá police, Olokun police, Agwu police, Eshu police, too? It's as if we're transforming into a nation of cultural law enforcement agencies! Jokes aside, recent developments in Kano State's Hisbah Board underscore the urgent requirement for a unified approach to law enforcement in Nigeria, particularly in the context of state policing.

To address the challenges posed by Hisbah and protect citizens' rights and privacy, President Tinubu's administration must prioritize key areas. First and foremost, there is a pressing need for comprehensive legislative reforms. Working closely with the National Assembly, the administration should draft clear and specific laws governing the activities of religious police forces like Hisbah. These laws must precisely define the limits of their authority, ensuring their actions align with the constitutional rights of Nigerian citizens. This proactive approach is vital for fostering a balanced and respectful coexistence of diverse cultural and religious practices within the framework of the law.

By enacting stringent legislation, the government can establish a legal framework that protects citizens from unwarranted intrusions into their privacy. Clearly defining the scope of Hisbah's authority within the bounds of the law, ensuring that their actions align with constitutional provisions and international human rights standards. In the face of Hisbah's actions, the Tinubu administration's response becomes a litmus test for its commitment to preserving the secular fabric of Nigeria's democracy. Upholding individual rights and preventing overreach by any law enforcement agency, including religious police forces, is paramount. The administration must reaffirm the constitutional principles that guarantee citizens' freedom of religion, expression, and privacy. The looming question on the minds of many Nigerians is whether the Tinubu government will confront the challenges posed by the Hisbah, a controllingreligious police force operating in northern Nigeria.

Professor John Egbeazien Oshodi, who was born in Uromi, Edo State, Nigeria, to a father who served in the Nigeria police for 37 years, is an American-based police and prison scientist and forensic, clinical, and legal psychologist. A sex offender assessment and treatment psychologist. A government consultant on matters of forensic-clinical psychological services in the USA; and a former interim associate dean and assistant professor at Broward College, Florida. The Founder of the Dr. John Egbeazien Oshodi Foundation, Center for Psychological Health and Behavioral Change in African Settings. In 2011, he introduced state-of-the-art forensic psychology into Nigeria through N.U.C. and Nasarawa State University, where he served in the Department of Psychology as an Associate Professor. He has taught at various universities and colleges including Florida memorial University, Florida International University, Broward college, Lynn University, and a contributing faculty member at the Weldios university in Benin Republic, Nexus International University, Uganda, Nova Southeastern University and Walden University in USA. He is a Human Rights Psychologist with a focus on African related environments. [email protected]

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