By Leo Igwe
The Nigerian nation-state is under assault from jihadist groups on two main fronts. First, on the non-state axis, this onslaught is embodied in the activities of Boko Haram and other extremist organizations, that are campaigning to impose their own version of sharia law and the Islamic state. Then on the state front, Islamic extremism is typified in the activities of Hisbah or the sharia police. This is the body that enforces sharia law in the Muslim majority states in Northern Nigeria.
Incidentally, there has been a lot of focus on the activities of Boko Haram and its violent campaign to turn Nigeria into an Islamic state. In fact the impression is that Islamic extremist operations are the handiwork of mainly non-state movements. Indeed the activities of Boko Haram militants have led to the vicious murder, kidnapping, and displacement so many people in Northern Nigeria. Islamic extremism also manifests as ‘state programs’.
In fact little attention has been paid to the state version of Boko Haram, the Hisbah. Hisbah and other sharia implementing formations came into being following the adoption of sharia law by Muslim majority states. The sharia police force has continued to assault Nigerians in the name of implement sharia. For instance, it has recently been reported that Hisbah in Kano destroyed over 30-trailer load of beer. These bottles of beer were not worthless goods, but business products with commercial value that belonged to Nigerians, taxpaying Nigerian citizens.
Hisbah justified its action based on a local law that bans the manufacture and use of intoxicants in the state. But how does that law compare with the federal policy that allocates value-added tax from alcohol to Kano state?
Hisbah said that it had intercepted over 12 million bottles of beer and destroyed over 7 million. In Jigawa, Hisbah have arrested some persons in connection with drinking alcohol and confiscated over 900 bottles of beer.
The government at state and federal levels should rein in, Hisbah and other the sharia policing units in the northern states. As it stands now, the sharia police are operating above the Nigerian law and in violation of the basic human rights.
Sharia implementation is no longer for muslims only as was earlier stated. In fact the enforcement of sharia law is now a pretext to selectively terrorize, harass and assault Nigerians. Hisbah is slowing becoming the state version of Boko Haram. And sharia implementation is gradually turning into a form of state -based Islamic terrorist program.