Category Archives: Law in Northern Nigeria

Riots in Jos as okada ban is enforced

I’m in Jos for a few days to rest my (once again) worn down mura-filled head and to do a little research in the Unijos library. Unfortunately, Jos, whose license plates are still inscribed with the now ironic “Home of Peace and Tourism,” yesterday experienced more tension, as commercial motorcyclists protested when a special task force attempted to enforce a ban on their activities. Back in April the Plateau State government passed a ban on okadas, motorcycle taxis, but apparently the ban was not enforced until yesterday.

According to Daily Trust,

Jos — At least four persons were killed while two others were seriously injured in Jos yesterday when commercial motorcycle riders known as okada clashed with men of the task force to enforce the ban on commercial motorcycle operations. The task force had tried to enforce the ban earlier imposed by the Plateau State Government.

State governor Jonah Jang had in April signed into law the bill banning commercial motorcycle operations in Jos-Bukuru metropolis, but the law was not enforced until yesterday.

The special task force drafted to ensure compliance with the ban comprises the police, its mobile unit, men of the federal road safety corps, and the Nigeria Civil Defense Corps.

Men of the task force moved to the Terminus area around 11o’clock in the morning and started apprehending the cyclists. When news got round the city that the security agencies were clamping down on them, the cyclists mobilized and put up resistance.

The okada operators threw stones at men of the task force, who in turn responded by shooting into the air, which added to the commotion as people all around took to their heels while shops and offices around Terminus and Massalacin Juma’a Street were closed down.

Tension mounted as the police used tear gas to disperse the rioting Okada riders, who retreated but later regrouped at different junctions and set up bonfires. Four corpses all with bullet wounds were brought to the Jos Central Mosque around 4 pm yesterday.

Leadership identifies the civilians killed:

The deceased are Hamisu Awwal of Yandoka Street Jos, Sulaiman Usaini of Masallacin Jumma’a Street, Salisu Tela from Toro Local Government, Bauchi State, and Abdullahi Danladi of Audi Line, Jos, a tailor, who was reportedly killed at his home.

Those injured were Muhammad Kabir Abdullahi Gwandu of Kosai Uku. A bullet pierced his chest and came out through his back.One Abdullahi Muhammad sustained a fracture on his upper lap.

The Punch further reports that two policemen were also killed and the palace of the Gbong Gwong, the traditional ruler of Jos, was burnt.

By the time the violence was over, two policemen had been killed, many others wounded and a part of the palace of the Gbong Gwom Jos, Da Buba Gyang, was burnt by hoodlums who hijacked a protest by the motorcyclists.

The policemen were said to have been killed along Bauchi Road while trying to enforce the law during the incident that occurred hours after one person died in a clash between herdsmen and farmers in Lapai Local Government Area of Niger State on Sunday.

The Nigerian Tribune gives more information about the burning of the palace:

Nigerian Tribune learnt that the rampaging youth, protesting the ban of commercial motorcycle in Jos and Bukuru, gained access to the palace through the back fence and threw tyres soaked with petroleum and petroleum bomb on the roof, which exploded on landing.

A source close to the palace told the Nigerian Tribune that the youth, numbering about 50, surrounded the palace and the adjacent old secretariat of Jos North Local Government Area, but were repelled by the police from ‘C’ Division, whose station  was close to the palace.

It was learnt that the prompt intervention of the fire service nearby, coupled with mobilisation from other fire service stations within the state capital subsided the inferno and restricted it from engulfing the entire edifice and the old secretariat of the council.

NAN in Next reports:

The Media Officer of the military Special Task Force (STF) on Jos crisis, Kingsley Umoh, also told journalists that the military was not involved.

“But I am sure that the police are capable of enforcing the ban,” he said.

Mr. Umoh, however, said the Army “will watch the situation and we will respond appropriately if there is breakdown of law and order.

“I am sure you know that Okada is a very popular means of transportation, so you should expect some tension when you are trying to enforce that ban. But I know we will get over it,” he said.

Leadership reports that.

The national chairman of Almalgamated Commercial Motorcycle Riders of Nigeria (ACOMORAN), Alhaji Babangida Shehu Maihula, revealed in a telephone interview with LEADERSHIP that the Plateau State government had turned deaf ears to the association’s effort to engage in dialogue .

“We advised the government to create jobs for our members which it refused to do up to this moment. These youths have no other business,” Babangida explained.

The ACOMORAN chairman further disclosed that the effect of the ban will push thousands of its members into unemployment, and that the association wanted something that will cushion the effect of the sudden unemployment or at least engage them in something temporary.

Babangida also said that the government came out yesterday without consultation with its own committee to arrest motorcyclists an action that escalated into violence because of resistance from the motorcyclists, and the general public. He explained that the hardship commuters will face will not augur well for all and sundry as it will be unbearable.

He also said that the case was before a court of law for hearing and that it was unfortunate that the government of Plateau State did not respect a case that it is in court.

This Day challenges Babangida’s perspective:

The President of the Okada Riders Association Mallam Babangida Shehu who spoke with THISDAY said government did not call them for consultation and dialogue before taking action.

But it was gathered that his claim may not be true. The state government and the state House of Assembly it was learnt, had severally warned against breaking the ban.

Temporary peace has been restored. However, residents disappeared from the streets for fear of another crisis. Military men are patrolling the streets.

For more information, see the following articles. The difference in tone between Northern and Southern-based papers is striking:

Daily Sun: 2 Cops killed as task force, motorcyclists clash in Jos

Daily Trust: “Four Killed in New Jos Trouble”

Leadership: Post-okada ban- Four die in Jos Protest

Nation: Tension in Jos over ban on commercial motorcycles

NEXT: Stampede in Jos over Okada ban

Nigerian Tribune: Jos crisis: Gbong Gwong’s palace burnt

Punch: Jos: Two Policemen killed, monarch’s palace torched

This Day: Fresh Riots erupt in Jos

As a regular patronizer of okadas (or acabas, as they are usually called in the North), which I find invaluable forms of transport since I don’t have a car, I am generally vocally against such bans.While I understand the concern over the danger of this form of transport and certain laws requiring helmets, I feel flat out bans unduly burden those who cannot afford cars or who live far from other forms of public transport. Many people who depend on okadas to reach school or their place of work will now be reduced to trekking for hours to places where they can find taxis. That said, there are certainly legitimate concerns about commercial motorcycles: ranging from the danger to okada drivers and their customers, to pollution, and the impact on traffic flow and car drivers. Bans have successfully been enforced in Port Harcourt and Abuja. And on the comments thread of the This Day article I read a comment in support of the ban from a resident of Port Harcourt, Ben Goro:

Ben Goru 06.08.2010 15:33
I thank all those who have made their comments. If there is any good thing that will happen to this Country is to ban Motor-bike (Okada) in all ramifications. When able Governor Chibuike Amaechi did it in PortHarcourt and its environs, I was then in PH and we all cried foul. But today everybody is praising him. Including the former Okada riders who are now taxi owners and others doing some other dignifying jobs. Until Okada is banned, many victims of Okada riding will not know how much potential they have in going beyond \’Poor masses\’ mentality and doing something spectacular and more honourable. There were no alternatives in PH before the ban was effected on 1st January 2009, although promises were made. You may not know what good intentions Gov Jonah Jang has for all Jos dwellers until the ban is fully effected. The initial pains may be excruciating and difficult, but the long run gains are surely worth it. I am writing from experience. Please join the Plateau Government to stop Okada. Note that Rivers was in a more delicate situation than Jos when the ban was effected. Long live Plateau, long live all residents in Jos.

From my observations of Abuja, the ban somewhat successfully protects all the car owners/drivers from having to be bothered by seeing the “less privileged” zoom past them on motorbikes.  (And, for those who can afford it, the N200-300 Abuja flat rate for a taxi drop is much more comfortable than getting on an acaba. Apparently, there are other less expensive taxi routes in Abuja, although I have not been able to figure them out.) In Abuja, you no longer have to fear the dangerous driving of okadas, just the mad speeding SUVs and drunk drivers, and the wierd dance of cars at intersections where the red lights aren’t working.

In the case of the okada ban in Jos, I am doubly perplexed by the thinking of those who passed this law. In a place, which has so recently suffered from so much violence, and where tension remains very high, I fail to understand the thought behind the passing of and enforcing such a controversial law, which will take away both jobs and transport from an already under-employed population. Unlike Abuja, which has pushed it’s “talakawa” (poor) population to the outskirts of the city, there are still quite a few people who can’t afford cars or taxi drops in Jos, although if one is willing to walk for 20-30 minutes to a main road and then take 4 different connections, maybe one might be able to get where one is going in an hour or two. But beyond this concern, there is also the worry of the impact on the hundreds, if not thousands, of young men who find employment by driving okadas. Vivien, who left a comment on one of my posts about the Jos crisis yesterday, expresses it better than I could:

Could someone find a way to commuinicate to the Plateau State Government that, the last thing we need now is a high rate of unemployed, idle able bodied individuals. this is exactly what the ban on motorcycles will create. For a state in need of peace, we have to get as many people as, is, possile busy with productive activity. Some cities have imposed the ban succesfully, there are many arguements in favour of the ban, true! however Plateau State needs to weigh its options and decide on the lesser evil-Okada-free streets or idle minds/hands coupled with reduced source of livelihood on the Plateau. Thank you.

11am Press Conference for Sani Danja’s new organization NIGERIAN ARTISTES IN SUPPORT OF DEMOCRACY, Bolingo Hotel, Abuja, TODAY

I’ve been travelling and I’m backlogged on posts for about a month (including posts on the Savannah International Movie Awards and the Zuma Film Festival), so I’m going to start with the latest first and work my way back:

Kannywood star and founder of NAISOD Sani Danja at the NAISOD Press Conference, 10 May 2010 (c) Carmen McCain

11am Press Conference for Sani Danja’s new organization NIGERIAN ARTISTES IN SUPPORT OF DEMOCRACY, Bolingo Hotel, Abuja, TODAY

Last week while hanging out with Kannywood artistes who had come to Abuja for the Zuma film festival, I went with some of them to meet up with Kannywood superstar Sani Danja. While there, he told me about an initiative I’ve heard rumours of for some time but which I had heard no details on until this point. Sani Danja told me that the political conflict in Kano between the film industry and the government has instigated him and other artistes from Kannywood and other parts of Nigeria to become more politically involved, resulting in the formation of an organization, Nigerian Artistes in Support of Democracy (NAISOD). His vision is to create a platform under which artistes from all over the country, not just the north, can 1) advocate for themselves and protest the sort of arrests etc going on in Kano, 2) more generally support democracy a) through non-partisan support of candidates (from any party) they think will support democracy in the upcoming elections, b) through creating awareness, internally (rather than externally through NGO’s etc) motivated, about other social issues such as HIV awareness or peace building. Danja felt that with the influence artistes have through their large fan base, that it was their duty to become involved in more creating social awareness. For more information on the organization, see their website: www.naisop.org

Sani Danja and other artistes in the organization are holding a press conference today, Monday, 10 May, at 11am at the Bolingo Hotel, Abuja, close to the Ship House/U.S. Embassy. I am not involved with the organization, but, as researcher/freelance journalist thought that the idea of artistes forming organizations to be vocal about political and social issues both an interesting and a potentially quite positive development. Of course, there are concerns here: How will the organization keep itself accountable from supporting the highest bidder? Is it possible/positive for an organization made up of many artists to speak with one voice in support of political figures? What criteria will they use for support of their candidates? Must every artiste involved in the organization be in support of a single candidate? There is a certain amount of fuzziness in the goals, which could make it difficult for them to take bold action.  However, democracy in general is a work in progress, as is any fledgling organization. I am generally quite skeptical and cynical about celebrities and their social causes, especially as regards Hollywood celebrity’s obsessions with Africa. But in the case of Nollywood and Kannywood, I think such indications of social awareness and feelings of social responsibility from within is actually a positive development. NAISOD may not end up being the most influential organization, and there may be others that come up, but artistes, whether we as critics like it or not, actually have a huge fan base and a great amount of power to speak to that fan base. More than anyone else, filmmakers and musicians probably have the power to propel the “masses” into action. As such, I think that it is useful to publicize ventures like this, as well as to give constructive criticism that will help artistes become more precise and effective in their goals.

I will try to put up more information after the press conference today.

Arresting the Music. Arresting Hope. Arrested for playing at a wedding “without permission”

Last night I wrote a post about a story my friend told me about some musicians being arrested for playing at a wedding “without permission.” However, since the case is still ongoing, I have decided to take down the post until things are a bit more settled.

[UPDATE: 16 March 2010: Abdulaziz A. Abdulaziz has just published a story in Leadership on the Alliance Francaise episode  that mentions the incident I am referring to here:

Meanwhile a six-man band known as Police Band who perform at weddings in the state was equally smashed by agents of the board on allegation that they were performing without a permit of the board. The band is led by one Solomon alias Solo, an emerging entertainer.

Members of the band were mopped up and taken to a court which subsequently sentenced them to six months with an option of fine of N20, 000. The group was thrown behind bars but was later released after paying the fine.]]

When I first heard about this story, my friend told me that the Police Band was registered with the Kano State History and Culture Bureau….

Readers may remember that two weeks ago, the Kano State Censorship Board also shut down a 23,000 euro international concert organized by the French embassy and the Kano State History and Culture Bureau, being hosted at the Alliance Francaise, for not “seeking permission” to hold the event.

French Ambassador rejects the conditions of KS Censorship board for lifting ban on music festival, Punch Reports

Today’s Punch carries an update on the recent cancellation by the Kano State Censorship Board of KAMFEST, the annual music festival hosted at the Alliance Francaise. [It took my browser a long time to open the Punch link. If you can’t get it to open, you can also find the article by Oluwole Josiah at Online Nigeria, unfortunately not credited…]:

The French Embassy has said it would not accept the conditions given by the Kano State Film Censor Board for lifting the ban on the annual music festival known as KANIFEST.

It also said it was unsure of staging the annual festival this year or next year, as the position of the Kano State Government would determine the fate of the festival.

French Ambassador to Nigeria, Jean-Michel Dumond, told our correspondent in an exclusive chat on Monday that discussions with the officials of the censorship board revealed that they were targeting one of the participating singers who was said to have criticised the board for banning music within the state.

He said the board wanted the singer to be withdrawn from the concert, but that condition was not acceptable to the embassy.

“We don’t want to be involved in that kind of situation where it has to do with this person or that person. Ours is to ensure that we promote culture and get the festival to benefit the people.

“If it is reduced to an individual or dealing with one person or the other, we are not interested in that. We have been discussing with the officials of the government, and we do not really have anything to do with the censorship board,” Dumond said.

He noted that the Kano State Governor was not aware of the decision of the censorship board and would be seriously disappointed at the turn of events.

To keep reading the Punch article, follow this link.

When I heard about the closure of the event on Saturday, I was told by filmmakers the rumour that the reason the event had been shut down was because popular Hausa singer Maryam Fantimoti, called the “the box of songs” by Hausa comedian Ari Baba (as cited in FIM Magazine, July 2009, p.41)  was slated to perform. (Maryam was also one of the finalists in Partners in Transforming Health in Nigeria in 2009). In a July 2009 interview with Fim Magazine, Fantimoti responded to a question about registering with the Kano State censorship board (my translation in italics):

Ana ta zuwa ana rijista da Hukumar Tace Finafinai ta Jihar Kano. Ke kin je kin yi kuwa?

People are going to be registered with the Kano State Film Censor’s Board. Have you gone?

Ban je ba, kuma ban yi ba, domin ni dai ba kamfani ne da ni ba, koyaushe ina gidan mu; in ka ga na fita an bugo waya ne ana nema na sannan in fita.

I haven’t gone, and I haven’t registered, because I am not with a company. I’m always at home. If you see me go out, it’s because I have been called [to work], that’s when I go out.

Ai ba kamfani ba, wai a matsayin ki na mawakiya tunda mawaka ma duk su na zuwa suna yi.

Not that you are a company, supposedly it’s supposed to be done because you are a musician, since all the other musicians are going to do it.

Ni ban sani ba, domin ban ga takarda a rubuce ba, kuma ni komai nawa cikin tsari na ke yi. Kai, ni tun da na ke jin mawak’a, na ke jin labarin su, ban tab’a jin an ce Shata ko Garba Supa ko D’ank’wairo ko Hassan Wayam da Barbani Choge sun yi ko suna da rijista ba. Shi kenan kuma don mu aka raina sai a ce sai mun yi wata rijista?

Me, I don’t know, because I haven’t seen anything written on it; everything I do is done properly and in order [NOTE: the translation of this last sentence could be off.] Kai, ever since I have listened to singers and heard news about them, I’ve never heard that [a list of older “traditional” Hausa musicians] Shata or Garba Supa or  D’ank’wairo or Hassan Wayam or Barbani Choge were registered. So, now we are held in contempt unless we go and do some registration?

[Note, that on the question of individual registrations for musicians, writers, or filmmakers, Director of the Kano State History and Culture Bureau (a Kano state government agency which helped plan the music festival), Ali Bature opined, when I asked him, a few days ago, that there was no such specification in the Kano State censorship law. The entire censorship law can be found in the library of the Kano State History and Culture Bureau for those interested in looking through it. If this interpretation of the law is correct, Maryam’s understanding that it was only companies that were supposed to register with the censorship board would be correct.)

Although Maryam Fantimoti was not able to perform at the music festival that was shut down by the Kano State Censorship Board, you can hear her singing along with DJ Yaks on his song “Rukky,” one of the songs featured (timecode 12:09) during the recent 26 February interview VOA did with DJ Yaks. ” (The link to the sound file is here–the written interview here.) “Rukky” can also be found on DJ Yak’s myspace page. (Please note that DJ Yak’s music is not for sale in Kano.) I will link to any other of Maryam Fantimoti’s music I can find online, as I find it.

She is also the female voice in the songs featured in the Hausa film Zo Mu Zauna

Update: 3-day international music festival cancelled by Kano State Censor’s Board

Daily Trust, 1 March 2010, p. 7

In an update to my last post, I spoke briefly today with Alain Service, the director of the Alliance Francaise in Kano, and he confirmed that the Kano State Censor’s Board sent a letter to the Alliance Francaise about two hours before the three-day KAMFEST music festival, an annual event that has taken place at the Alliance Francaise for the last 6 years, was to begin. Service said the letter told them to stop the festival. He claimed that the letter gave no other reason for cancelling the event other than saying that they had no right to hold the event without informing the Censor’s Board.

There were also brief articles in the Daily Trust and by AFP about the cancellation of the three-day event, which was to feature artists from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and France.

The AFP news report says:

Sharia police ordered the closure of an annual music festival funded and organised by the French embassy in northern Nigeria at the weekend, local officials and diplomats said on Monday.

“We have banned the music festival for the reason that we were not notified and our permission was not sought,” Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, head of the film censorship board in the northern Kanoregion, told AFP.

The French embassy said they had been told they could not stage the event at the local French cultural centre as they did not have prior authorisation.

“Following a notification by the Kano state censorship board, the Kano festival of music is cancelled” the French embassy said in a statement emailed to AFP.

The embassy has organised the three-night KANFEST music festival for the past six years through its cultural centre in Kano, featuring performances from Nigeria and other African countries as well as French musicians.

It seems strange to me that the Kano State Censor’s Board had the power to halt the event, when another Kano State agency, the History and Culture Bureau had helped in planning the event. One person I spoke to at the Alliance Francaise said that she thought the Censor’s board was limited to censoring films, but that since the event was cancelled at the Alliance Francaise she had heard that the censor’s board is saying that even performances at weddings have to gain permission from the censorship board ahead of time. When I asked the director of the History and Culture Bureau, Ali Bature about the relationship between the two state agencies, he said that the History and Culture Bureau had a “cordial relationship” with the Kano State Censor’s Board and had in fact been instrumental in helping to found the board in 2000 as a way to protect filmmakers and allow them to continue making films after the establishment of shari’a law in Kano State. He did, however, note, when I asked him, that there was no legal basis in the Kano state censorship law, for the individual registration of artists. He said the expectation was that guilds would be registered with the censor’s board but that individual artists were the guild’s responsibility. A copy of the entire Kano State Censorship law can be found in the Kano State History and Culture Bureau, for anyone who would like to peruse it. According to film industry practitioners I have spoken to, censor’s board workers on multiple occasions(one such occasion is described in one of my March blog posts) have visited locations of films being made in Kano to check whether each member of the cast and crew is individually registered with the board. Although I was not able to confirm this with Mr. Service, the rumour I have heard from multiple sources is that part of the reason the Censor’s Board shut down the event was because Maryam Fantimoti, who is not registered with the Censor’s Board, was slated to perform at the event.

[[UPDATE 3 March 2009. In an article in today’s Punch, “France Rejects condition for lifting ban on Music Festival,” [If you have trouble getting the link to open, you can also find the article copied here] Oluwole Josiah reports:

French Ambassador to Nigeria, Jean-Michel Dumond, told our correspondent in an exclusive chat on Monday that discussions with the officials of the censorship board revealed that they were targeting one of the participating singers who was said to have criticised the board for banning music within the state.

He said the board wanted the singer to be withdrawn from the concert, but that condition was not acceptable to the embassy.

“We don’t want to be involved in that kind of situation where it has to do with this person or that person. Ours is to ensure that we promote culture and get the festival to benefit the people.

“If it is reduced to an individual or dealing with one person or the other, we are not interested in that. We have been discussing with the officials of the government, and we do not really have anything to do with the censorship board,” Dumond said.

He noted that the Kano State Governor was not aware of the decision of the censorship board and would be seriously disappointed at the turn of events.

Josiah also reports that:

The French Embassy has said it would not accept the conditions given by the Kano State Film Censor Board for lifting the ban on the annual music festival known as KANIFEST.

It also said it was unsure of staging the annual festival this year or next year, as the position of the Kano State Government would determine the fate of the festival.]]]

Today, I passed by a roundabout near the government house several times, and the banner advertising KAMFEST was still there, flapping abandoned in the breeze.

Kano State Censorship Board shuts down Kano Music Festival hosted at Alliance Francaise, Kano

I was told the following information by several people I will not name. I cannot, at this moment, verify the details of this report, only that it is oral testimony (over the phone) from several people who were involved in the event. I hope to talk to someone in the administration of the Alliance Francaise tomorrow to get more concrete details.

Apparently, yesterday, 26 February 2010, the three day Kano Music Festival, being hosted at the Alliance Francaise in Kano was shut down on the first day of the event by representatives of the Kano State Censorship Board and not allowed to continue with the rest of it’s scheduled events. According to one person I talked to, the festival was closed down because Hausa musician Maryam Fantimoti was to perform and she was not registered with the Kano State Censorship Board.

The organizers of the event had brought musicians from other parts of Africa and Europe to perform at the music festival. According to one press release on the Guide 2 Nigeria website:

There will be performances from several musical groups from across the globe including the famous Soubyana Music from Chad, the Dangana group from Niger, the Nassiru Garba group from Nigeria and the Trio Belhumeur from Upper Brittain.

Another source told me that over 20,000 euros had been spent on the cultural event, which did not end up holding, as it was closed by representatives of the Kano state government.

The Alliance Francaise has hosted the Kano Music Festival (Kamfest) for six years in a row.  The event had the support of the Kano State History and Culture Bureau.

Readers may recall that this is coming on the heels of a recent closure of 15 shops by the Kano State Censorship Board for selling films on the history of Islam. The Kano State Censorship Board has also been responsible for multiple arrests and business closures of those working in entertainment related fields. In a related closure of a cultural event, the hisbah closed down a fashion show organized in honour of designer Zainab Hamza in May 2009.

Kano State Censors Board bans films on the history of Islam and the prophets and shuts down 15 shops

"Kano films censors board shuts 15 shops," Sunday Trust, 14 February 2010, p. 33

Two days ago (my internet has been down for a day and a half–thus the delay in posting this), I read in the Sunday Trust and the Hausa language weekly Aminiya a story I had heard from filmmakers a week and a half ago before my trip to Abuja. I hadn’t blogged about it because I had only heard ji-ta-ji-ta (rumours) about it, but the newspapers confirm the story.

Apparently, according to Ruqayyah Yusuf Aliyu in the Sunday Trust, 14 February 2010, page 33, “Kano films censors board shuts 15 shops,” the Kano State Censorship Board closed 15 video shops over “selling tapes of the history of Prophet Yusuf.” (Unfortunately, I have not been able to find the link to the article online. If I find it, I will link to it here. In the meantime, here is a photograph of the article.)

The Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board, Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, “said in an interview in Kano that

“banning the sales of such films has become necessary as it is against the teachings of Islam and therefore will not be allowed in the state.”

Rabo also mentions that

“under aged children who can easily be influenced are also involved in hawking such films along the streets without knowing the implications. He also said the ban was as well in the interest of potential customers who might not get to these children even if they found the films were bad.”

In response,

[S]ecretary of the Kano film sellers association, Malam Isa, described shutting down the shops by the censorship board as unfortunate as the director general of the board did not keep to the promise of briefing them on what stand it is taking on the sales of the film before acting.

“I can recall that the DG sometimes in October last year invited us for a meeting at A Dai Daita Sahu and during the meeting, one Islamic scholar, Malam Aminu Daurawa, mentioned that watching the film was not appropriate and after the meeting, we met the DG at his office on the matter and he told us that was just a dialogue among scholars which does not involve us. He then promised that he was going to inform us on any development thereafter but unfortunately he didn’t. The next thing we saw was the closure of the shops” he said.

Malam Isa said that the film sellers:

“have reported the case to the Emir of Kano and as Muslims we are ready to comply with the ban so long as it is Islamic scholars that will come together to prove that the film is contrary to the teachings of Islam.”

He also lamented the loss of business this was causing to the shop owners saying:

“business has been their major source of livelihood and now that the board has closed the shops, these people are finding it hard to survive.”

The Hausa weekly Aminiya, 12 February 2010, provides more details. I will provide a summary of the article in English here—please note that this is NOT a direct translation but a summary in my own words.

Bashir Yahuza Malumfashi writes in “Hukuma ta haramta sayar da fina-finan tarihin Musulunci a Kano” (p. 21) (“The [Censor’s ]Board bans selling films on the history of Islam in Kano”) that the director of the censors Board Malam Abubakar Rabo went to the Kofar Wambai market and closed four shops where they were selling films on the history of Islam, specifically the film on the history of the Prophet Yusuf [Joseph] and the film The Message.

In a radio program on Radio Kano, DG Abubakar Rabo said that “the censors board had closed 15 shops in Kano and he warned others who were selling the films.”

Aminiya reporters went to the Kofar Wambai market to see the shops that had been closed, and one of the film marketers, Musa Abdullahi Sanka who started selling film cassettes in 1976, said that the story was true. The Censors board had come and closed shops selling films on the history of the Prophet Yusuf and the history of Islam, The Message.

When Aminya asked Abdullahi Sanka what reason the Censors Board had given for closing the shops, he said that the censors said that they should stop selling the film because apparently there were some Islamic scholars who had issued a fatwa on selling films on the history of the prophets, saying such films were not appropriate.

The marketer responded saying that the businessmen wanted the well-respected Islamic scholars in Kano to come together and say whether the films were appropriate or not. If they said they were not appropriate, then how could they correct them? If they gave very strong reasons for banning the films, then the marketers would stop selling them.

The marketer told Aminiya that four shops in Kofar Wambai had been closed: that of Alhaji Salisu, that of Ahmadu Hussaini, that of Anas, and another Igbo marketer whose name he did not give.

He said that the film sellers got the films from Misira, others from Lagos, others were brought from Arab countries. He said that he had heard that the film on the Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) was made by Shi’a in Iran, and that is why the Censorship Board had cooperated with the fatwa of an Izala scholar against the film.

When he was asked if he had seen the film and if it seemed to be appropriate, he said that he hadn’t seen the entire film but that he remembered how when he had been fifteen years old, the late Islamic Scholar Sheikh Nasiru Kabara had told the history of the Prophet Yusuf, and what he had seen of the film followed exactly what the scholar had told them.

The Secretary of the Film sellers association of Kofar Wambai Market, Malam L. Isa said that the discussion with the Censors board had started last year. The Censors Board had invited them to a meeting organized by A Dai Daita Sahu (the government sponsored Societal Reorientation Directorate) on 24 October, where it was said that Sheikh Aminu Daurawa had preached a sermon in which he said that it was not right to watch this type of film on the history of the Prophet Yusuf. “When we heard this, we asked the director of the Kano State Censorship board about this. He told us we shouldn’t worry that it would not affect us. But we were surprised that day, without notice, without letting us know, people came to the market and closed shops belonging to those in our association.”

He said that after the shops were closed, they complained to Malam Rabo who did not listen patiently to them. This is why they went with their complaint to the Emir of Kano. “What is happening with us right now. We went to Director Malam Rabo, but he didn’t listen to us or give us any good answer. He even kicked us out, so we got up and we went to our father, the emir of Kano, and carried our complaint to him. Since there are big men in power, we should let them know what is going on with us—If they don’t know what has been happening, they will now know.”

The Secretary continued,” We called on the emir to negotiate between us and Malam Rabo because we have been obeying the government and the censors board, but now there is no understanding between us. People were sent from the board to us without anyone letting us know there was  such a law.”

Another marketer Alhaji Nasiru Ibrahim K’ok’i, better known as Palasd’inawa, also expressed his unhappiness at the actions of the Censor’s Board. He said that they had been watching films on the lives of the prophets since they had been children. On Muslim holidays, the Kano state television station used to play them.

“It shouldn’t be that the judgment of a single Islamic scholar becomes the basis of the entire Muslim culture. Now Malam Rabo should tell us what kinds of films that we should be watching, because they have banned Hausa films saying that they are spoiling women and children. So now why are they banning films on Islamic history, since no one can say they are spoiling culture?’

The director of the Kano State Censors Board, Malam Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim explained the reason for the ban. He said that it is in accordance with the culture and the findings of Islamic scholars who said that such films were not fitting as they were not respectful to the prophets.

The gist of Malam Rabo’s statement was that the Kano State Censors Board was created keeping in mind Islam and the judgments of Islamic scholars who guide the community. The board had heard from the association of Islamic scholars and other religious organizations that people were trying to make money on offensive films made about the lives of the messengers of God. He also noted that they had called a meeting through a Dai Daita Sahu (Societal Reorientation Directorate) where one of the Islamic scholars had shown the danger of these types of films that were insulting to the Messengers of God and culture.

Malam Rabo said that this is the reason the Censor’s board said that the selling of these types of films must stop because it was not fitting to show another man in the film claiming to be the Messenger of God. He further said that the Board would continue to hunt down those who brokered and spread films in Kano state, especially, he emphasized, those who were selling films on the sides of the roads because this is illegal.

To read the article in Hausa, see the photo of the article here:

Board bans selling films on the history of Islam in Kano”], Aminiya, 12 February 2010, p. 21″]

“No One Can Tell Us How to Live”:Interview with Sani Danja in Sunday’s Leadership

There is a great interview that Solomon Nda-Isaiah and Kucha E. Jeremiah did with Hausa film and music star Sani Danja in this week’s Sunday Leadership. Since I can’t find the online version of the article, I will post a photo of the hard copy here and a few excerpts from the interview. This article comes from Leadership Sunday, November 29, 2009. Pages 46-47. (Unfortunately, after posting I realized that the text is not big enough to read. To read, you might have to download the photo and read in a photo viewing program.)

In the article Sani Danja talks about his music and film career, his activites as a Glo ambassador, and his opinions on the recent actions of the Kano State government on Hausa filmmakers.

Here are a few excerpts. To read fully, you may have to download the photo:

When being asked about the reasons he decided to relocate to Abuja, although having offices in both Abuja and Kano, Danja says

“The thing is, there are so many rules and regulations guiding the industry in Kano. They are numerous; we have been stopped from doing any shooting or film-related activities in Kano for like six months and now they are telling us that you’ll have to get an office, have a minimum capital of N2.5m, employ a secretary, and the rest. There are so many things. If you sum up everything, it would be close to N8 or N10m. Somebody that has been stopped from work for like six months, where do you expect him to get such money? Even if we were allowed to do the movie, how much do we get out of it? It is but chicken change, yet we pay taxes. We pay government tax, yet they have never built anything to support us. They have never contributed anything to the filming business.

In response to the management of two offices in Abuja and Kano, he replies:

There’s always division of labour in a company. You have other people who look after different aspects of a company but most of my operations are directed from Kano. My parents have taught me obedience. I don’t want to fight the government. If the government says it doesn’t want this, I’ll have to stay aside. There are other states ready to welcome us. They want us to come and are always ready to open their doors to us. We don’t sell our products alone in Kano, we sell it all over the world. Everywhere you go, you see our products. Not only in Kano, Kaduna, Abuja, or Niger, they are everywhere, so for us to be stopped in one place is not a problem. You have to boost your own image. Because we want to live peacefully with everybody, that is why we had to acquire two offices, to broaden our horizons.

When asked if he had any advice for the government on disciplinary measures against filmmakers, Danja says:

First of all, they’ll have to look at it from this angle; filming is a business, and in every business, when you invest your money, you’ll think of better ways to get your money back. They should have it at the back of their minds that moviemakers have invested in their movies. One cannot be an investor while another comes to forcefully direct him on what to do. It is very impossible. If you want to direct somebody or tell him what to do in his own business, invest in the business.

As the government, they have the money and they can invest to boost the industry, they can afford to spend on every producer (at least twenty to thirty million) then tell the producer: “this is the type of film we want you to produce and we would pay you”. But in a situation where the government does not do that and you take pains to invest in the business, and they come tell you: “remove this, do this and that,” that would be impossible to obey. You have spent a lot of money, running into millions of naira, and at the end of the day, someone sits somewhere to tell you to: “Remove this. We don’t want this and that.” Those could be interesting parts that make your movie sell. How do you think that would work? I would advise the government to think again. They should know that these are people who acquire the resources invested in the business independently. They didn’t go to bother anybody or steal. They do this to keep their soul and body going, and they pay taxes to the government at the end of the day. I think the government needs to support us so that we would bring more money to them. We can be made role models for others who have already engaged or wish to engage themselves in one dubious act or the other to know that it is not only by engaging in criminal acts that you can make it in life. There are legitimate ways to better one’s life.

The government should not just sit down, creating rules and laws that would cripple our activities at the end of the day, without minding the effect it would have on us. If the son to any of the government officials were involved in something like this, they would have thought of better ways to handle it. The worst part of it is that any of our members who happens to make any mistake would be sentenced to jail. For example, if you record an album they don’t like, they won’t even try you. All they would do is to jail you or frustrate you by refusing to renew your revenue. They take you to jail without trial in the end. It is inhuman. We are not criminals. Even in armed robbery cases, they grant them bail. Here we are, honourably engaging in legitimate business. […]

The latest on the Iyan-Tama case from Nigerian News Service, plus new fees from the National Film and Video Censor’s Board

In a 29 September 2009 article “Iyan Tama: Matters Arising” on the Nigerian News Service, Bolaji Oluwaseun reports that when Iyan-Tama’s counsel went to the Federal High Court of Appeal in Kaduna “to file a motion to stop the retrial”:

The judge assigned to the case ordered Iyan-tama’s counsel to go back to Kano to the magistrate that was assigned the case initially to file the motion to stop the retrial (the same court that sent him to jail for over 3months over false allegations), and that if they refuse to grant the motion then they should then come back to Federal High Court of Appeal in Kaduna to re-file the motion to stop the re-trial.

For those not familiar with the case Oluwaseun gives a summary of the case, pointing out:

After spending over 3 months in jail, Iyan-Tama was granted bail  and a retrial was ordered following a review of the case by the Kano State Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice. According to the Attorney-General, Barrister Aliyu Umar, the first trial was besmirched by irregularities. Due process was not followed in the trial that led to the conviction, he said. He used very uncomplimentary terms to describe the trial conducted by a senior magistrate, Alhaji Mukhtari Ahmed, such as “improper,” “incomplete,” “a mistake,” summing up by insisting that a “more competent magistrate” should be given the case to try again.

But yet after having committed an injustice that can be successfully argued even by a baby lawyer to be a travesty of justice, the said senior magistrate, Alhaji Mukhtari Ahmed still works in the court houses of Kano State.

And after all Iyan-Tama went through he was not compensated for his illegal imprisonment by the Kano State Government.

Olawuseun continues with more opinions about the case and provides about 6 scanned in copies of documentation that allegedly support Iyan-Tama’s case at the end of the article. To read the entire article, see this link. [UPDATE 13 Oct 09. For more recent news about how Iyan-Tama was invited to the Toronto Film festival, and a clip from his banned film Tsintsiya, see this 23 September article from the Nigerian News Service.]

In more general news concerning the National Film and Video Censor’s Board of Nigeria (not the same body as the Kano State Censorship Board), Al-Amin Ciroma in today’s Leadership (“Censor’s Board increases Fees”) writes that the NFVCB is increasing their fees for previewing a film by 30%:

The review, the board said in a release signed by the corporations Assistant Director, Corporate Affairs, Yunusa Mohammed Tanko, is in line with its efforts to offer premium service to its stakeholders.

With the acquisition and installation of modern cinema style preview theatres at our Lagos office, which is capable of handling 35mm celluloid video, as well as a digital lounge for clients, the present fees charged for preview of films and movies, musical videos and others are no more realistic. The sustainability of this heavy resource base is a prerequisite in the effort to offer global best practices in the Nigerian movie industry.

He said the new equipment would enhance and facilitate online preview of films and movies within the minimum time possible. It will also afford owners of the movies the opportunity to follow and track the progress of the preview in a seamless manner without being present physically.

New costs will be as follows:

The review, The corporation’s Assistant Director, Corporate Affairs, Yunusa Mohammed Tanko, said for local films made in Nigerian languages (of 0-15 minutes) will be N10,000, while a Nigerian film in foreign language such as English language will be charged N20,00, while a film meant for exhibition will be charged N25,000.00. In a general perspective, NFVCB has made 30% increment of the applicable fees.

To read the rest of the article, see Al-Amin Ciroma’s blog.

Image of the letter from the NFVCB to Iyan Tama from Nigerian News Service:

Iyan Tamas letter from the National Film and Video Censors Board--see link for more images

Iyan Tama’s letter from the National Film and Video Censor’s Board–see link for more images

DG of Kano Censor’s Board taken before shari’a court

In a fascinating turn of events, Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, the Director-General of the Kano State Censorship Board, has been arrested by the police and taken before the shari’a court by the Kano State Filmmaker’s association.

Here is the article “Police Arrest DG Kano Censors Board” by Nasir Gwangwazo published yesterday, 4 August, in Leadership. Ibrahim Sheme has also republished the article on his blog.

Director-General of the Kano State Censorship Board, Malam Abubakar Rabo Abdulkareem, was yesterday arrested by the police over a complaint filed against him by the Kano State Filmmakers Association.

A reliable source told LEADERSHIP last night that Rabo had been dragged to a Sharia Court in Sabon Gari, Kano, by members of the association over an allegation credited to him, in which he was said to have described movie makers as a bunch of homosexuals and lesbians during an interview he granted Radio Kano recently.In the interview, a copy of which was made available to LEADERSHIP, Rabo stated that he had proof that many of the filmmakers were gay, saying his intervention in the industry had helped sanitise the situation.

The statement incensed the filmmakers, and they wrote him a letter demanding a retraction and an apology within 48 hours.But at a follow-up press conference recently in Kano, the director-general repeated his claim, warning that he would publish more damning reports about the alleged immorality in the industry if pressed further.The association went ahead with its threat, suing him before the Sharia court, which was said to have advised the association to report the matter to the police first. >p>According to a member of the association and the immediate former chairman of the state chapter of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Malam Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino, Rabo was picked up yesterday by two plain-clothes policemen at about 4pm and taken to the Metro police station located on Bank Road in the city, following a complaint by the filmmakers.At the police station, three leaders of the moviemaking association – Nura Hussain, Ahmad Alkanawy and Isma’ila Afakalla – endorsed the association’s formal complaint, which Rabo reportedly denied. According to Gidan Dabino, the case is due for hearing at the Sharia Court, Fagge, today. When our correspondent contacted Rabo on phone last night, however, he denied knowledge of the issue, saying he was in a meeting and promptly switched off.

Following the arrest, there has been much discussion, on the Finafinan Hausa yahoo group. Ibrahim Sheme has posted one of his responses on the internet group on his blog, saying that Rabo’s intention has never had the interests of the filmmaking in Kano at heart.

According to people who have written me about this (this is unverified rumour), Rabo was given bail, but apparently left his car and driver and went away on an acaba.  He is being charged in a shari’a court for “kazafi (invented lies to assinate character).” If convicted, the punishment is 80 lashes with a whip.

Readers will remember that this latest event was precipitated by accusations Rabo made on the radio, saying that filmmakers were homosexuals and lesbians. The filmmaker’s association responded with a letter asking him to withdraw and apologize for the remarks in the next 48 hours or face legal action in a shari’a court.  Rabo responded several days later with a press release, threatening to release more evidence saying, among other things:

This address is a by product of the pressing need of the media to balance their stories and the board to have a fair right to reply on the ‘empty threat’ of those practitioners who’s future is endangered or eroded due to our sustainable sanitization exercises. These miscreants are enemies to the present peaceful atmosphere and the cotemporary achievements of the Board because they are the beneficiaries of the old age. The age of un coordinated and un-professionalized Kannywood industry.

Hitherto, this nasty development will not in any way deter the Board on its commitment to safeguard the Kano State ideals in addition to societal values because our statutory legal undertakings are not only the promulgation of state legislation but also constitutional above all holy and sacred.

[…]

Moreso, additional doziers at our disposal will not in any way help the film stakeholders when released to public especially in this period where some further negative developments are continuously unveiling and circulating.

[…]

Furthermore, let me use this opportunities to re-iterate one of the fundamentals of this administration which is the rule of law where equality before law is necessary. Therefore, the Board is happy that constituted measures like threat to sue organisation or person(s) is welcome by our style of leadership. Even though the Board will not hesitate to table publically at the right time and at the right place all at its possession out of social responsibilities and trust but with no meaning to join issues or make filmmakers vulnerable. Let me at this juncture warn that: “Kada Dan Akuya yaje Barbara ya dawo da ciki”. [MY TRANSLATION—CM: A male goat should not go to a female goat and return pregnant…]

For the post on this blog that includes a transcript of Rabo’s statements on the radio, the  letter and press release from MOPPAN and the subsequent entire press release from Rabo, see this link.