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Nigeria Police And The Hisbah Challenge



Recently, there were media reports that a Nigeria Police officer, Sergeant Adamu Garba, attached to Dawakin Kudu Divisional Police Station, Kano State narrowly escaped death when a driver of the State owned private security outfit, otherwise known as Hisbah, driving on a one way only road hit him. Garba who was said to be on duty at his post along Zaria road when the incident occurred, had his two legs, an arm and part of his head bruised.

Hisbah Service Board that oversees the Kano State Hisbah Corps was established by the state government in 2003 with the institutionalization of formerly local and privately maintained hisbah security units. Hisbah, which is an Arabic word meaning an act performed for the good of the society, is an Islamic religious concept that calls for enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong on every Muslim. The Hisbah Corps is composed of government officials, secular police officers, and religious leaders and is highly decentralized with local units supervised by committees composed of officials and citizens in the communities in which they operate.

Before now, the relationship between the Hisbah Corps and civil police has been sometimes acrimonious. The Nigeria Police to whom the Hisbah must report crimes, frequently refuse to cooperate in enforcement of religious law. On multiple occasions, police officers have had to arrest Hisbah members for trespassing when the latter have attempted to enter private property to enforce Sharia. The Hisbah Corps, by the law setting it up, does not have authority to execute arrests and its operatives are armed only with non-lethal weapons for self-defence, such as batons. Hisbah officers who observe violations of Sharia are expected to alert the Nigeria Police.

The group has, over the years, carried out its mandate smoothly especially in the area of community policing. However, the story is changing. The organization is alleged to be deviating from shaping people’s life with the fear and worship of God to personal antagonism orchestrated by overzealous officers. That, in our view, is what happens to such laudable projects designed to ease governance when zealotry comes into play.

Acting against laid down directives, a few unscrupulous elements among them carry on as if they are law unto themselves, blocking highways including federal government roads at very odd hours of the night in other to arrest people believed to be contravening the law as they see and understand it. The effect of this is that some indigenous and non-indigenous business men and women have had their means of livelihood disrupted.  There have been reports from residents of Kano expressing concern over the activities of Hisbah which they argue is a deviation from the noble intentions of government. Residents of the commercial city have been trying to reconcile the core values of Hisbah and why it was established with the pervasive impunity that is the order of the day presently.

Prior to this incident involving a police man, there have been allegations that Hisbah members disobey traffic rules, indulge in reckless driving just to intimidate not only hapless road users but other security agents of the federal government. It was during one such displays that Garba was nearly sent to his early grave. The Hisbah Service Board has expressed worry over this unfortunate development that is threatening to scuttle the semblance of peace that once existed between its operatives and other security agencies.

Some senior Police officers at the Dawakin Kudu Police Divisional Station who witnessed the incident are concerned about the activities of the Hisbah operatives. Despite media reports and other futile efforts by well-meaning people in Kano state to reach the Hisbah Service Board, the only response by the organization was an unfulfilled promise to take up Garba’s medical bills.

Just like other Kano residents who have suffered maltreatment from Hisbah, Garba is likely to be incapacitated and may not be able to walk again. We know that Hisbah was not established for night patrols. It was not established to undermine other security agencies neither was it created to violate traffic rules or antagonise the reputation of the Nigerian Police.

In this current realities, Hisbah may be unwittingly destroying businesses in a manner that is capable of depleting internally generated revenue of the Kano state government. The operations of Hisbah, in our opinion, if not checked, is likely to provide strong argument for those against community and state police.

We, therefore, urge the Kano state government to rise to the challenge of Hisbah, check its excesses and restore it to its pristine goal of providing security cover at the grassroots for effective leadership and economic transformation.




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