Kano Hisbah: A Clear and Present Danger?



“First they came because of the socialists, and I didn’t say anything –
Because I wasn’t a socialist.

Then they came about the trade unionists and I didn’t say anything –
Because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came to fetch the Jews and I did not speak –
Because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me. “
Martin Niemöller, 1946

This poem by Martin Niemöller pretty much embodies the attitude of Nigerians to many things – we feel completely unconcerned about things that do not concern us directly, without realizing that we too might face a similar situation one day. “Boko Haram is in the northeast, far from me in Benin or Lagos, so I don’t care whether the military annihilates the insurgents or not; Maiduguri is also thousands of kilometers from Owerri ”. As the uncertainty gradually spread across the country in various forms – be it through kidnappings, a pastoral crisis or something else, everyone suddenly began to worry about the uncertainty. As for religion, “Sharia is applied in the northern states, I’m in Abeokuta, that’s none of my business”. But it does! Because that’s how it gradually begins, and then it spreads like wildfire. If you give the enemy an inch (in this context, by enemy I mean those who disregard the Constitution), it not only takes a meter, it takes countless miles. After all, there are many Muslim believers (both northerners and southerners) in the southwest, even in Edo state. Inspired by the declaration of Sharia law by the state of Zamfara in 1999, there was a push to establish Sharia courts in Lagos in the early 2000s. And in 2002, a private arbitration tribunal, the Independent Sharia Panel of Lagos State (ISP), was set up to allow Muslims to settle their disputes (there is nothing wrong with that as long as it is lawful).

The moral of Martin Niemöller’s poem is that we should be our brother’s keeper and love our neighbors as ourselves; therefore we must raise our voices, even if the injustice is not inflicted directly on us, so that those directly affected are not consumed by the injustice; and in the event that injustice finally reaches us, there will be others left to speak up and support us. I would go one step further and add that we have to take our neighbors into account when making certain decisions. It appears that the Kano State / Kano State Hisbah Board (KSHB) did not take into account the non-Muslims living in Kano and their fundamental rights and constitutional requirements in some of their policies.

1999 Constitution: The Basic Standard

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 (as amended) (the Constitution) is the supreme law of our country and is binding on all persons and authorities in Nigeria, including the KSHB (paragraph 1 (1)). In addition, any other right that contradicts this basic norm is null and void to the extent that it is contradictory (Section 1 (3)). See AGF v Abubakar 2007 8 NWLR Part 1035 page 117. I claim that several lawsuits by the KSHB and the Sharia court are inconsistent with the constitution and are therefore null and void from the outset. For example, sentencing Yusuf Sharif Aminu to death for blasphemy when the Sharia court has no criminal jurisdiction at all (and the Holy Quran doesn’t even prescribe the death penalty for blasphemy).

Section 6 (6) (b) of the Constitution gives the courts jurisdiction to rule on all matters (except those excluded by Section 6 (6) (c)). It is the duty of the courts to interpret the constitution upon request and to rule against any law that contradicts the constitution. See also AG Ondo State versus AGF 2002 9 NWLR Part 772, page 222; Balonwu versus Governor, State of Anambra SC233 / 2008 2009 18 NWLR part 1172 page 13 at 39-40. I think it is time for constitutional and human rights defenders to go to court for the interpretation of Sections 10, 38 (1), (2) and (3), 262 (1) and (2) (a) . – (e) and 277 (1) & (2) (a) – (e) of the Constitution once and for all and so that the courts fulfill their constitutional mandate, laws, guidelines and acts that comply with the basic norm before the subject of religion becomes becomes an additional catalyst that completely divides us as a country.

The constitutional provisions on the jurisdiction of the courts are crystal clear and unambiguous for me. However, as controversy has arisen over compliance with the Constitution when it is violated, particularly over the question of Sharia law and the scope of its jurisdiction, questions such as whether Sections 262, 277, 282 of the Constitution support Sharia and common courts with criminal jurisdiction arise equip, must be answered. I have thoroughly searched the Constitution and have not found any provision in this document that gives Sharia and common courts criminal jurisdiction; because they are simply not endowed with criminal justice. My dear colleagues, I have to be corrected.

“A Nigeria”

This is my country, Nigeria, and I firmly believe in “One Nigeria” based on respect for fundamental rights and the rule of law, justice, equality, equal opportunities and justice. I don’t want to wake up one day and become the last victim in Martin Niemöller’s poem. So forgive me for being tiresome, or repetitive, or sounding like a broken record, but I have to be brutally honest when I say that this problem of religion seems to be escalating in Nigeria and when the government is unwilling to indulge in illegality To put an end to it, we, the people, should raise our voices and insist that it is unacceptable for religion to be anywhere other than the constitution, the basic norm, allows; if not, the consequences of non-compliance can be dire for all of us. Religious disagreement and intolerance can lead to the destruction of any being. And in a multiethnic, multireligious country like ours, it is dangerous for the government to give one religion precedence over others if the constitution does not provide for such rights and claims that neither our nation nor any state can adopt them State religion.

A state religion is simply a religion that is supported or preferred by the state. Needless to say, I don’t need to bother to say the obvious – that the northern states that practice Sharia have advocated Islam and preferred that belief over everything else. Here lies the problem – Islamic law does not separate the state from religion and can therefore only function in a country in which everyone has Muslim faith and there is a “consensus ad idem” (meeting of the spirit).

Common law and Islamic law are different. According to Section 2 of the Native Courts Ordinance of 1914, it was the British who grouped Islamic law as indigenous law and customs. In Alkamawa v Hassan Bello & Anor 1998 6 SCNJ 127 the Supreme Court ruled that “Islamic law is not the same as common law because it does not belong to any particular tribe. While common law differs from tribe to tribe and community to community, Islamic law has a more uniform system. ”Common law is not uniform, it is flexible and elastic, derived from the customs of a particular people. Islamic law is religious law. It doesn’t change. It is based on the teachings of the Holy Quran and Hadith.

Kano State Hisbah Board

When it comes to some of the activities of the KSHB, you can see that the KSHB tries to apply Sharia law to most aspects of their life as there is no separation between state and religion in the Muslim faith as Islam is a way of life. But some of the activities of the KSHB are clearly unconstitutional and we must speak out against them – first as Nigerians, whether Muslims or Christians; Second, as lawyers who, in order to qualify as legal practitioners, have all studied Nigerian Constitutional Law and are therefore familiar with Section 10 of our Constitution, which prohibits Nigeria or any other state therein from being a national or state religion. The drafters of the constitution were smart enough to see that adopting a religion, whether state or national, would not only be problematic, but also lead to the violation of the fundamental rights of citizens, especially those who are not religious . They went a step further and incorporated Section 42 into the constitution, which forbids discrimination against anyone based on religion.

Recently, the KSHB banned the use of mannequins “to display clothing by tailors, supermarkets and boutique owners” in shops and even in private homes of the state on the grounds that it violates Islamic regulations and is fertile ground for immoral thought could . Aside from the fact that Section 37 of the Constitution guarantees the privacy of citizens, their home, correspondence, telephone and telegraphic communications and therefore makes it unconstitutional for Hezbah to rule that people are not allowed to have mannequins in their homes, if such a statement violates Sections 16 and 41 of the Constitution, as such a policy will adversely affect the clothing store in Kano; and with the draconian guidelines issued today, southerners and non-Muslims who enjoy freedom of movement and who have lived in Kano and other Sharia states for generations may be forced to move to more conducive environments as their fundamental rights are becoming ever more beneficial more hurt.

I have relatives who live in Kano; Eighty year old Christians who have lived in Kano for over 50 years. This is her home. As Hezbah’s policies tighten, family members urge them to move south. Are they expected to leave their lifelong home in Kano and go to unfamiliar places like Lagos or Ibadan to start a new life at this age? What about the clothes sellers in Kano, whose stores have been cut with the crackdown on the cosmopolitan clothes they sell, and now the ban on mannequins, which is the world’s tool for promoting clothes for sale? What about those arrested by Hisbah on the street for non-compliant hairstyles, hairstyles, and clothing?


The bottom line is that just as true federalism is possibly the most suitable system for a heterogeneous country like Nigeria as opposed to the unitary system we operate, political secularism (“separation of the state from religious institutions”) is also the best in a multi-religious society like ours to introduce. That doesn’t prevent anyone from practicing their religion. In fact, this is the whole point of Section 38 of the Constitution – that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion (as long as it is legally permissible) and to spread them in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

Tribalism destroyed Rwanda in the 1990s. The incessant conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is not only political and territorial, but also religious. By the time the other Sharia states decide to follow Kano and implement these guidelines, more non-Muslims and southerners may be forced to relocate south. When this happens, it can in turn make the cries for secession louder. We should learn from the mistakes of others rather than taking active steps down a path that we have observed from their own experiences will only lead to destruction.


About Author

Leave A Reply