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Community Vigilantes in Metropolitan Kano 1985-2005

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Rasheed Olaniyi

5. Hisba and crime control in Metropolitan Kano

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5.1: Hisba and Crime Control

1The establishment of Hisba-religious vigilante was part of government’s effort to implement Sharia law and a response to curb the pervasive insecurity and rapidly growing social anomie among youths. In a broader political vision, the enforcement of Sharia law was perceived as a return to Islamic values (divinely ordained laws) to foster societal re-orientation and redress moral decadence in the society.

2Its introduction, however, poses a paradox. Proponents of the Sharia law argued that the inauguration of Hisba denotes democracy at work that would drive social transformation, economic ethics, redistributive justice and reduce crime. It has further raised the fundamental concern about the intricacies of security and redefines crime and criminality in metropolitan Kano. There are apprehensions that Hisba may worsen the precarious security situation and the tenuous peace in Kano. It also raised the question of who protects what and what constitute crime? In this context, growing specter of uncertainty becomes imminent in Sabongari where trade in alcoholic and prostitution thrive. There are incipient agitations that the introduction of Hisba to enforce Sharia law would reduce tolerance for trading activities, which contradict the tenets of Islam. In this way, collective security remains elusive in Kano metropolis.

3In its contemporary history, Kano has witnessed both intra and inter-religious violence as exemplified by the Maitatsine riot of 1980 and the Reinhard Bonke riot of 1991. It has been alleged that Hisba could stoke religious fervour and intolerance. This has implications on policing that can ensure the processes of crime control without sliding into sectarian intolerance and violence. Therefore, the litmus test for Hisba in the implementation of Sharia law would be how it could reconcile the social diversity in a multicultural society such as Kano to ensure security and social harmony.

4Following the reticence of the police to enforce the Shari’a legal regime re-introduced in many parts of northern and central Nigeria from 1999, Hisba-muhtasif, religious vigilante (derived from the Quran and Hadith which encourage all Muslims to “enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong”) was set up for the proper implementation of Shari’a (Baker, 2004: 175). Hisba is integral to the Islamic socio-economic scheme. Its functions consists of,

Maintaining public law and order and supervising and supervising the behaviour of the buyers and sellers in the market with a view to ensure right conduct an protect people from dishonesty and malpractices. The purpose was to regulate public life in such a way that a high degree of public morality is attained and the society is protected from bad workmanship, fraud, extortion, exploitation and charlatanism (Ahmad, 1983:7).

5According to the Supreme Council for Shari’a in Nigeria,

The Hisbah groups are an indispensable vehicle for the proper implementation of Shari’a as its indomitable vanguard. The Hisbah groups already established are meant to complement the police in their statutory duties and are not its rivals. But this can only be achieved if the mentality and orientation of the police force is refocused to one of service away from extortion and tyranny... we are fully aware of our fundamental constitutional rights in a free democratic society to pursue our activities as Muslims in the attainment of our rights as free citizens of this country(Baker,2003:175).

6Khan (1983) classified the functions of Hisba into three categories:

  1. Those relating to (rights of) God
  2. Those relating to (rights of) people, and
  3. Those relating to both.

7The first category include religious obligations such as punctuality of prayers, organisation of Jum’a and ‘Id congregations and maintenance of mosques. The second category involve community affairs and economic ethics in the market, such as accuracy of weights and measures and honesty in dealings, minimise possibilities of exploitation, inspection of quality of food products, supplies and production as well as checking monopolistic collusions and any other form of inter-sectoral inequality. This implies that Hisba has to intervene whenever the economic flows were manipulated by the economically powerful individual or groups to their selfish ends. This function requires reformulation to suit the present day realities of mode of production, distribution and exchange. The third is covered the affairs relating to municipal administration such as safety in traveling on the public highways, keeping the roads and streets clean, and ensure hygienic conditions (Khan, 1983: 138-141 and Qadri, 1986: 308-309). The state-sanctioned Hisba became imperative as the Nigerian police lacked the prerequisite training and also included non-Muslims who were not keen to enforce the new legal codes (Peters and Barends, 2001).

  • 1 Abba Anwar, “Kano Hisbah Board: Prospects and Problems,” in Daily Triumph November 4, 2004, p. 16.

8Between 2000 and 2003, Hisba hardly provided any security services. Under Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, inconsistencies and policy discrepancies affected the operations of Hisba, which led to the emergence of two factions.1 The government used one faction for political purposes while the Independent Hisba Committee led by the Ulama controlled the other faction. The Independent Hisba Committee accused the govmrnment of using Hisba to gain popularity by prohibiting alcohol, gambling and prostitution while they treated begging, hoarding and black-marketing, which are also proscribed in Islam with flippancy.

  • 2 “Islamic Vigilantes Attack Hotels in Northern City,” in UN Integrated Regional Information Network(...)

9Indeed, in April 2001, a high-powered delegation under the former Deputy Governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje led the government faction of the Hisba corps and policemen to invade and shut down hotels where they destroyed stocks of alcoholic drinks.2 According to Ganduje,

  • 3 “Their Beer is Supposed to be Destroyed,” Interview with former Kano State Deputy Governor, Abdull (...)

First of all, the sale of beer has been totally banned in Kano. But as a result of our visit (to hotels including Hensino Hotel Badawa, which was destroyed; Durbar and Daula Hotels in Nassarawa GRA) we found that most of the places (hotels) were not abiding by the law. Two, prostitution has been banned by the Sharia legal system. My visitation has shown me that there are so many prostitutes in Hotels, and along the streets. And that is not good enough for the society. Personally, I was very much disappointed and disturbed especially with the level of youth hooliganism in Kano because of intoxicants. I am sure you know of these Area boys, the Kano Yandabas. Also, the level of HIV/AIDS among our youths. And still we allow free prostitution. I think it is not healthy enough for society.3

10The hotel raids carried out by the highly placed government officials and the police provoked youth’s fundamentalist tendencies. They carried out their own raid on hotels and brazenly infringe of the rights of those who were caught drinking alcohol without charging them to court for trial. An army truck conveying cartons of beer to Kano from Zaria was attacked and the whole consignment burnt.

11Under Governor Ibrahim Shekarau, Hisba witnessed its institutionalised phase. In 2003, Governor Shekarau reconciled the Hisba factions and legalised their activities. According to the Governor Shekarau, Section 38, subsection 1 of the 1999 Constitution empowers Kano State to promulgate a law establishing the Hisba Board. The Kano State Hisba board is responsible for general policy making and coordination of activities between state, zonal and local government Hisba committee. The Hisba board has been given power to establish Kano State Hisba corps who is eligible for appointment as justice of the peace under the commander. The State Governor appoints the General Commander of the Hisba Corps.

12The Board is charged with the responsibility of enlightening and guiding the general public on the correct understanding of Shari’a. Hisba personnel do not have the power to arrest or prosecute culprits; rather, they are expected to hand over people found to have violated the Shari’a law to the police.

13The Hisba Law of 2003 established the Kano State Hisba Board. The Board started operation on the 7th November, 2003 and was composed of:

  1. A representative of the State Shari’ah Commission;
  2. A representative of State Zakkah and Hubusi Commission;
  3. A representative of the State Emirate Council;
  4. A representative of State Civil Defense Corps;
  5. a representative of Ministry of Justice;
  6. The State Hisba Commander;
  7. A representative of police;
  8. A representative of the office of the Secretary to the State Government; and
  9. Four other members who are part-time members.4

14Each of the 44 local governments in the state was recommended to establish an advisory and management Hisba committee. The advisory committee should consist of fifteen members with the district head as chairman while members include imam, Islamic scholars, representatives of the security service, the police and four people of proven integrity. The local government Hisba management committee included the commander who is also in charge of security, the head of Daawa and head of administration and finance. All villages in the 44 local government areas also require the establishment of a Hisba committee.

15The functions of the Hisba Board includes:

  1. Assisting police and other security agencies in the areas of prevention, detention and reporting of offences;
  2. Encouraging charitable deeds (for example payment of Zakkah);
  3. Advising against acquiring interest, usury, hoirding and speculations;
  4. Ensuring orderliness at religious gatherings (for example in Mosques during Salat, distribution of iftar meals provided by the state government during Ramadan, Hajj operations and public functions);
  5. Encouraging general cleanness and environmental sanitation;
  6. Reconciliation of civil disputes between people and organisations where parties are willing;
  7. Assisting in traffic control; and
  8. Providing emergency relief operations and assistance in any other situation that requires the involvement of Hisba, be it preventive or detective and may handle non-firearms for self-defense like batons and other non-lethal civil defence instruments.5
  • 6 Nasir A. Tahir, “We’re Determined to Reinvigorate Hisbah Activities- Interview with Malam Muhammad (...)

16According to the Shari’a law which Hisba implements, any person convicted for prostitution is liable to a term of imprisonment for one year or a fine of N10,000.00 or both. Hisba Board is empowered to discourage, or report anybody found, manufacturing, distilling, distributing, disposing, consuming and possessing of all brands of intoxicating substances prohibited in Kano State. Prostitution and homosexuality are punishable with one year imprisonment or a fine of N 10,000.00 or both.6

  • 7 Nasir A. Tahir, “We’re Determined to Reinvigorate Hisbah Activities” interview with Malam Muhammad (...)
  • 8 Garba Wada Waziri, “Dala Hisbah C’ttee Shuts 48 Houses,” in Daily Triumph, 19th November, 2004, p. (...)

17Between 1999 and 2003, there were 250 Hisba Corps. In 2003, the Board was given power to recruit 1,000 corps out of which 700 corps: 600 males and 100 females were recruited at the state level. For a period of one month, 251 Hisba Corps received intensive training to enable them to work effectively and according to the law establishing the Board.7 Hisba made efforts towards curbing anti-Islamic behaviours such as alcoholic consumption, pornography, drug abuse, gambling and prostitution, which aided the upsurge of crime in Kano metropolis. In order to forestall crime and to ensure compliance with the Shari’a legal code and Social Re-orientation Programme, forty-eight viewing centres were closed down by the Hisba Committee of Dala Local Government Area in connection with criminal activities and pornography in November, 2004.8 In one of the Viewing Centres in Kano, both males and females were arrested and arraigned before court, which reprimanded them at Kurnawa Central Prison, Kano. Shari’a legal code banned the sale and consumption of alcohol and prostitution in Kano.

  • 9 “Rape Suspect Bags 18 Months Jail Term,” in Daily Trust, 21st August, 2003, p. 23.
  • 10 Mustapha Isah Kwaru. “Sharia Court Sentences Man to Amputation,” in Daily Trust, November 16th, 20 (...)

18The Hisba Board has compliment law enforcement agents in the crackdown on criminal gangs that engage in rape, burglary, sales and consumption of hard drugs and sexual assaults. In August 2003, the Kano State Sharia Court convicted Hamisu Sule of rape. He was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment or payment of N15,000.00 since his crime was a breach of section 260 of the Sharia Act.9 In October 2003, a Shari’a court in Kano sentenced a prostitute, who dumped her infant baby in a well to 720 days imprisonment. In November 2004, the Kano State Sharia Court convicted Ghali Sadiq Yakasai of breaking, entering and theft.10 He was sentenced to amputation of right hand since his crime was a violation of section 134 of the Kano State 2000 Islamic Penal Code. By April 2005, sixteen cases of prostitution were prosecuted before a Kano law court.

19Fifty corps exercise surveillance at Audu Bako Secretariat that served as the meeting place for criminals at night. Hisba carry out night patrols along city streets. A beauty contest was aborted at the Bayero University Kano due to its un-Islamic nature and to avoid the violence caused by a similar event in Kaduna in 2002 and at the University of Maiduguri in 2003. In order to implement the prohibition of alcohol in Kano State, truckloads of liquor were intercepted along Kano-Zaria highway and kept in the custody of the Hisba. Hisba corps offers counseling to women on marriage issues and to youths on the dangers of drug abuse and gambling.

20The Hisba corps of Kano Municipal Local Government achieved the followings:

  1. Settlement of (marital and civil) disputes of about 200 people between 2003 and 2004;
  2. Settlement of 10 inheritance cases;
  3. Assisted refugees of Yelwa/Shendam and Kano crises;
  4. Assisted pilgrims to Mecca by providing logistic advice.
  5. Assisted in taking yguno women to their parmnt who absconded from parents and marital homes;
  6. In 2003, Beauty contest organised by the Bayero University Kano students was stopped;
  7. Garaya/goge (traditional music) and its related activities (traditional magic, entertainment by prostitutes and homosexuals) were stopped;
  8. Tiga dam picnic which often involve nudity, betting and car racing among youths was stopped;
  9. Conducted operation in conjunction with National Drug Law and Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) at Gadar Tamburawa and many drug dealers and drug addicts were arrested and handed over to the Police and NDLEA for further investigation and prosecutions; and
  10. About 600 cartons of beer (alcohol) were seized. On 3rd July, 2005, the operation of Hisba was further strengthened with the massive recruitment 9,000 trained guards which includes 900 women. Each of the Kano’s 484 wards has 20 Hisba corps. Hisba is on the prowl on major roads assisting traffic wardens.
  • 11 Ahmed Abubakar, “Wudil Hisbah/ Sharia Committee Get N200,000.00 boost,” in Daily Trust, February 1 (...)

21Hisba is funded by the state and local governments; receives donations from individuals, organisations, and generate income from subscription fees and sales of publications. The Kano State government provided thirteen vehicles for the Hisba corps and constructed the headquarters of Hisba Board that served as ofnice accommodation. Wudil Local Government donated the sum of N200,000.00 to the Hisba and Shari’a Committees.11 As a result of the massive recruitment, Hisba is estimated to cost the state government N54 million per month.

22The inauguration of Hisba was premised on the fact that despite the soaring rate of crimes, Kano is under-policed and state police is outlawed by the constitution. The state government reviewed the laws affecting the operation of the Sharia law, which prohibit the sale, and consumption of alcohol, prostitution and road traffic regulation. It further revoked and proscribed the issuance of certificate of occupancy to any plot owner who plans to build accommodation for prostitution. All liquor licenses in the state were revoked.

5.2: Police and Hisba Relations

  • 12 Kola Olalere, “Police, Sharia Vigilante Clash in Kano,” in Nigerian Tribune, 5th June, 2004, pp. 1 (...)
  • 13 Musa Umar Kazaure, “Hisba members invade Kano police station,” in Daily Trust, June 4, 2003, pp. 1 (...)

23There was incipient Police and Hisba clash over the enforcement of Shari’a law in Kano. The tension was accentuated by the gradual shift in the power base of policing which threatened the police authority and status quo in dealing with public order. In June 2003, Hisba members invaded a residence where marriage was taking place at Hotoro quarters in Kano due to its un-Islamic nature. The marriage ceremony was celebrated with the playing of the local drum “Kalangu” which was seized by the Hisba.12 The Hisba members chased away all the celebrants including married women, the couple and the drummers. The case was reported at the Hotoro Divisional Police Station, which led to the arrest of some of the Hisba members. Police argued that Hisba does not have the power to act like state police and that they trespassed into a private residence to disrupt a peaceful wedding ceremony.13 As a result of the arrest, Hisba members made attempts to secure the bail of their members, which were turned down by the Hotoro Division Police Officer, on the basis that the police must arrest those responsible for the disruption of the marriage before it could consider their bail. A clash ensued between the police and Hisba, which further led to the arrest of twenty of Hisba members.

24The police in Kano warned the Hisba Committee not to overstep its mandate in the implementation of the Shari’a legal code. The Assistant Inspector General of Police, Zone 1, Sir Kerrian Dudari observed that,

  • 14 Kola Olalere, “You Have No Power of Prosecution, Police Tell Hisba,” in Nigerian Tribune, 8th Nove (...)

Hisba is not in the Nigerian constitution, although they have the right to do their state functions, they must not contradict police function because, police are not ready to delegate any power to any organisation.14

25Mr. Dudari, who was in command of Kano, Katsina and Jigawa States, acknowledged the right of the civil populace including Hisba to complement the efforts of the police. Indeed, the police emphasised on the right of the Hisba to arrest an offender and hand him or her over to the police for proper prosecution.

  • 15 Augustine Madu-West, “Police Resist Pressure to Release Sharia Enforcers,” in Daily Independent, N (...)
  • 16 “Balogun Lauds Shekarau on Security Measures,” in The Guardian, 28th December, 2004, p. 7.

26In November 2004, police arrested 25 Hisba members after they had attacked the Kano Central Hotel and a fun spot at the railway station in order to implement Shari’a laws against alcohol and prostitution. However, the Hisba attacks on the Hotel and fun spot was considered illegal and constituted a security risk. The police arrested about 25 members of the Hisba.15 The Kano state government intervened in the brewing tension between the police and the Hisba. The Kano state government offered donations to the police command including thirty-three patrol vehicles, twenty motorcycles, twenty horses and 100 search-lights. There was rehabilitation of police stations and clinics.16 This support to the police was estimated to have cost N500 million. According to Governor Shekarau, Hisba has no immunity to violate the constitution.

  • 17 Abdullahi D. Abdullahi and Gambo Kanno, ‘Dudari Recounts Achievements: Says Hisbah Serves Purpose, (...)

27According to the Kano Municipal Commander of Hisba, criminals arrested by Hisba and handed over to the police, are released without trial in a Shari’a court. The Kano State Ministry of Justice has equally alleged that the police have been an impediment in the implementation of Shari’a since those arrested were not prosecuted. Despite the simmering tension, the police have profoundly acknowledged the role of the Hisba in minimising the menace of the Yandaba.17

Notes

1 Abba Anwar, “Kano Hisbah Board: Prospects and Problems,” in Daily Triumph November 4, 2004, p. 16.

2 “Islamic Vigilantes Attack Hotels in Northern City,” in UN Integrated Regional Information Network, April 18th, 2001.

3 “Their Beer is Supposed to be Destroyed,” Interview with former Kano State Deputy Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje by Desmond Mgboh, Insider Weekly, June 11th, 2001, p. 36.

4 Nasir A. Tahir, “We’re Determined to Reinvigorate Hisbah Activities-Interview with Malam Muhammad Sunusi Kani, DG Hisbah Board,” in Weekend Triumph, December 18th, 2004, pp. 10 and 15.

5 Nasir A. Tahir, “We’re Determined to Reinvigorate Hisbah Activities-Interview with Malam Muhammad Sunusi Kani, DG Hisbah Board,” in Weekend Triumph, December 18th, 2004, p. 10 and 5.

6 Nasir A. Tahir, “We’re Determined to Reinvigorate Hisbah Activities- Interview with Malam Muhammad Sunusi Kani, DG Hisbah Board,” in Weekend Triumph, December 18th, 2004, p. 10 and 5.

7 Nasir A. Tahir, “We’re Determined to Reinvigorate Hisbah Activities” interview with Malam Muhammadu Sunusi Kani, Director General of Hisbah Board, Kano State in Weekend Triumph, December, 2004, p. 10 and 15.

8 Garba Wada Waziri, “Dala Hisbah C’ttee Shuts 48 Houses,” in Daily Triumph, 19th November, 2004, p. 8 and Mustapha Isah Kwaru, “Hisbah C’ttee Closes 48 Viewing Centres,” in Daily Trust, November 22nd, 2004, p. 20.

9 “Rape Suspect Bags 18 Months Jail Term,” in Daily Trust, 21st August, 2003, p. 23.

10 Mustapha Isah Kwaru. “Sharia Court Sentences Man to Amputation,” in Daily Trust, November 16th, 2004, p. 30.

11 Ahmed Abubakar, “Wudil Hisbah/ Sharia Committee Get N200,000.00 boost,” in Daily Trust, February 14th, 2005. p. 34.

12 Kola Olalere, “Police, Sharia Vigilante Clash in Kano,” in Nigerian Tribune, 5th June, 2004, pp. 1 and 2.

13 Musa Umar Kazaure, “Hisba members invade Kano police station,” in Daily Trust, June 4, 2003, pp. 1 and 2.

14 Kola Olalere, “You Have No Power of Prosecution, Police Tell Hisba,” in Nigerian Tribune, 8th November, 2004; Jamilah Nuhu, “Hisbah: Police Will Not Abdicate Role-AIG,” in Daily Trust, 9th November, 2004, p. 30; “Sharia: Police Reads Riot Act to Hisbamen,” in Civil Society, December, 2004, p. 8; “Sharia: Police Tames Hisba,” in Civil Society-Community Newsletter/ NGOs, No. 33, January 2005, p. 8 and Adamu Abuh, “Police in Kano Warn Hisba Outfit on Sharia Implementation,” in The Guardian, November 6th, 2004, p. 3.

15 Augustine Madu-West, “Police Resist Pressure to Release Sharia Enforcers,” in Daily Independent, November 22nd, 2004, p. Al and A2.

16 “Balogun Lauds Shekarau on Security Measures,” in The Guardian, 28th December, 2004, p. 7.

17 Abdullahi D. Abdullahi and Gambo Kanno, ‘Dudari Recounts Achievements: Says Hisbah Serves Purpose,’ in Daily Triumph April 4th, 2005, p. 1. and “Hisbah, “Police Partners in Progress,” Special Adviser to the State Governor on Special Duties(Women’s Wing of the State Hisbah Committee) Hajiya Mariya Sunusi Mahdi, interviewed by Maryam Hassan and Halima M. Kamilu in Sunday Triumph, May 15th, 2005, p. 8.

© Institut français de recherche en Afrique, 2005

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