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Community Vigilantes in Metropolitan Kano 1985-2005

Rasheed Olaniyi


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1The findings from this research suggest that the prevalence of vigilante groups was precipitated by the collapse of urban security, decadence in the police, and a reduction by the state in social provisioning in the midst of ever-increasing armed banditry and crime. In Kano, vigilante groups were offshoot of Yanfarauta and Yantauri (hunters). Vigilante groups are coordinated through the institution of Zauren Sulhu (the Settlement of Disputes Centre) (Yaqub and Glaniyi, 2004). Zauren Sulhu served as a security committee and was composed of ward heads, community elders, religious leaders, wealthy individuals and heads of households who, together set up Kai-da-kai (community self-help). There were three main types of vigilante groups: Yan’Kato dagora (traditional vigilante groups); Yan’ sintiri nafarin kaya (neighbourhood watch); and Yan’ kwamitin unguwa (neighbourhood security committee). There was also Karnikan Farauta (Police Dogs), which are maily youths recruited from rehabilitated ex-criminals who knew criminals and their hideouts. They are armed with clubs and sticks and serve as police informants and collaborate with vigilante groups arresting criminals. Since 1985, vigilante groups became more involved in confronting the menace of Yandaba (youth gangs) that use drug and commit crimes including the abduction of young girls (Yan Daukar Amarya). Community vigilante groups assisted the police in suppressing Yandaba. Vigilante groups in Kano are fully registered with government and worked closely with the police in combating crime as well as criminal networks. Vigilante groups were established in almost all the neighbourhoods of Kano with the support of the traditional authority and community leaders. However, government interference, political instrumentalisation and inadequate support undermined its critical role.

2In Sabongari, the Police Community Relations Committee (PCRC) was organised by the immigrant communities. Part of the rationale for the PCRC in Sabongari lies not in the efficacy of such initiative in reducing the incidence of crime but to confer a sense of identity, control of crime and security on a community dominated by immigrants within the wider context of the Kano society. This is to dispel the sense of fear, insecurity and concern about crime. The contradiction in PCRC could, however, be located in the pathological fixation of police on corruption, which alienated and depressed the public from providing valuable information for crime control. It could not control crime effectively as armed bandits attacked residents of Sabongari periodically. Neighbourhood residents who knew security loopholes committed crimes such as burglary and robbery. In spite of these imperfections, the success of the Sabongari PCRC stimulated the Kano State police command to establish the Kano State PCRC to coordinate the activities at local government levels.

3In 2000, the Sharia police (Hisba) was established by the state government to curb crimes denounced by Islam such as prostitution, alcoholic consumption, pornography and gambling. The establishment 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.

4The activities of vigilante groups and Hisba have reduced the high rate of juvenile delinquency in metropolitan Kano. 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. In its first phase (2000-2003) Hisba was politicised and divided between pro-government and ulama led factions. Its institutionalised phase was witnessed in 2003 and by 2005 it was over 9,000 strgng. In the bid to enforce Sharia law, government has shifted support from the vigilante groups to the Hisba guards. Since the introduction of Sharia law, what constitute crime in Kano today is not limited to property crime and violent disorderly behaviours but to offences that contravene Islam. The prosecution of those who violate the Sharia law has remained contentious between the police, the Hisba and the Kano State Ministry of Justice.

5The exchange of information among the informal security networks is seemingly lacking. While some areas are “over-policed” some areas lack security provisions. Indeed, areas that could not finance their security are highly vulnerable to crime.

6How does this trend affect policing and crime control in metropolitan Kano? The study concludes that the gap between different forms of vigilante groups, conflicting political motivations and the near discordant relations with the police, produced a dysfunctional mechanism for crime control. Organised crime and armed banditry, especially car theft and bur-

© IFRA-Nigeria, 2005

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