For those who did not see the Nigerian Presidential Debates, between General Muhammadu Buhari, Nuhu Ribadu, and Governor Ibrahim Shekarau, you can watch the debates online, here:
I have transcribed the questions Governor Shekarau was asked regarding the hisbah, censorship, and Kannywood during the debates. Emphasis in red mine:
Moderator: Now Malam Shekarau, Nigeria is a plural society and yet in the state that you govern, Kano State, the hisbah, which is the morality police, is known to brutally enforce sharia and in the process sometimes trampling on people’s rights as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution. How do you reconcile this intolerance with your desire to be the leader of a country as diverse as Nigeria.
Shekarau: Thank you very much. In the first place, I do not agree that the hisbah was brutalizing and overriding the constitutional right of our citizens. We did not just wake up and create the hisbah without going through the legislation. We used the same constitutional provision that allowed any state to create any policy, any program, any law that will maintain law and order within the state. The hisbah is no more than what today you call community policing. We have the hisbah in virtually every community. Their duty is to ensure there is peace, there is law abiding, and this is exactly what they do. It is those who violate the rules of the land, and we did challenge anyone, whoever thinks that the hisbah has done anything to him contrary to the rules and regulations that rule the land to take his case to the law courts and challenge the creation of the hisbah. So we didn’t just by the wave of a hand create the hisbah, it went through the legislation. There was law promulgated. In fact, the first item on the law of the hisbah is that the hisbah is to assist the Nigerian police in the maintenance of law and order. (Clapping)
Moderator: Now, you say that but in practical terms the impact of the hisbah in Kano has included killing a film industry that was providing employment, what is known in Nigeria as Kannywood. So there has been an exodus of filmmakers out of Kano, who get harassed when they are on shoots, who have been asked to submit their scripts for inspection, and a total disregard of the people’s rights to express themselves through art in that particular way.
Shekarau: No, I think that is totally wrong. The hisbah has nothing to do with the censorship. We have a full fledged censorship board, created by law through the legislation. And the censorship board has created rules and regulations that govern the conduct of any film industry. We have a right to decide what is right for the community. The government has the moral responsibility to protect the right, the interest, the instant transformation (?) of the society. (Clapping). So all we did, all we did, we said, if you want to register and run a film industry, you should comply with A,B, C, D, F, and we told anybody who feels any of these rules and regulations contradicts the provision of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should challenge us in court, and nobody has done that anyhow.
Moderator: You seem to be very strong in terms of protecting the rights of the majority. What about the rights of the minority inside the state that you govern.
Shekarau: We are protecting. In fact it may interest you to know that Kano state today is the most peaceful state in Nigeria. If you ask any of the so-called minority or non-indigene, they are quite happy, they are quite peaceful. In fact, today, you will be surprised to find that those you call non-indigenes or even the non-Muslim prefer to go for settlement of disagreement within the community either to the hisbah court or to the censorship board. We don’t have any problem at all. The rules are working. The society has accepted it. The film industry is thriving very well. All we say is abide by the rules and regulations. And there is no community that will live without guiding principles, without rules and regulations and will think that there will be discipline and order in that community.
Although I thought the most impressive performance in the debate came from the moderator, Kadaria Ahmed, who had no qualms with interrupting these “big men” with hardtalk style questions (and would gladly vote her for president if I had a vote), from the feedback I saw on Facebook and Twitter, the majority opinion seemed to be that Governor Shekarau “won” the debate. He did speak eloquently and seemed well-prepared.
However, in terms of his response to the questions above, one might want to keep in mind a few things, and I will focus here only on what I know about the government’s interaction with the film industry, and leave aside the question about the hisbah, whom I’ve heard praised for their intervention in police corruption as well as railed against for alleged “abuses”.
“we told anybody who feels any of these rules and regulations contradicts the provision of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should challenge us in court, and nobody has done that anyhow.”
“We don’t have any problem at all. The rules are working. The society has accepted it. The film industry is thriving very well.
From my observations of the interaction between the Kano State Censorship Board and the Hausa film industry based in Kano (and, most recently, in Kaduna) for the past three years, these statements, especially the claim that there has been no legal challenge to censorship implementation, are a bit disingenuous. Below find copied a list of blog posts I have written since 2009 on legal challenges that have been made either to the Kano State government, the Kano State Censorship Board, the Kano State police, and or the head of the censor’s board in his personal capacity.
Here are just a few examples.
On 12 February 2009, I posted an interview with Sani Muazu, President of the Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria, about the various lawsuits against the Kano Censor’s Board that MOPPAN was involved in. He told me:
Well, you know, we started this whole process of going to court with our case on Hafsah when it was arrested in the market, and we challenged the authority of the Kano Censors Board to do so. We have since then initiated another suit against the Kano Censors Board, as a national body, that is MOPPAN, challenging the legality of the board as well as bringing out the issues to do with conflict between the National Film and Video Censors Board and the state Censor’s Board as enacted by the state assembly. It is interesting that ever since we did that, we expected the Kano State censors board to allow status quo to remain until when these issues were clearly explained by the legal authorities. But the state censor’s board has gone on to arrest our members indiscriminately without any cogent reasons.
On 16 February 2009, I posted another interview with Dr. Ahmad Sarari, the then Vice-President of MOPPAN and brother of the filmmaker Hamisu Lamido Iyan Tama. Iyan Tama was at that time in Kano’s Goron Dutse Prison after being sentenced in a mobile court for supposedly illegally selling his Zuma-film festival award winning film in Kano. (Iyan Tama has since been cleared of all charges). In addition to my questions about his brother’s case, which you can read by clicking on the link, Dr. Sarari also spoke about the court cases MOPPAN was involved in:
What principally we needed was an injunction restraining Kano State Censors Board from attacking, harassing, humiliating and imprisoning our members. We dragged four bodies to the court. One is National Film and Video Censor’s Board for issuing a license to our members which gives them the right to exhibit, to sell, and show their films throughout Nigeria, yet a particular state attacks or arrests them for doing that, and they have not come out and said anything. Is the registration they issue our members fake or does it not have jurisdiction in Kano? So here I’m saying there’s a clash between the national and the state jurisdiction of two boards. What we understand in accordance with discussion with our lawyers is that when there is a clash between state and federal law, the federal law takes precedence, so does the interpretation of that in the court. We dragged the Kano State Censors Board to court for its action. We dragged the DG of the Kano State Censor’s Board for the guidelines he issued out which we believe are quite unconstitutional. They contradict some fundamental human rights because the guidelines are too stringent and are quite unbearable. And we dragged the speaker, Kano State House of Assembly for allowing the section of the law establishing the board which contradicts national law. We need them to review the law. We have to look at the laws establishing the board because most of them contradict national laws. That’s why we dragged the four of them to the court.
The case was going fine in the court. We brought our evidence. They said we had to exclude the DG of the censor’s board out of the case. Our lawyer vehemently defended that he had to be in. They said we had to include the Kano State government. We said we sued Censor’s Board and the state house of assembly, because the state assembly are the lawmakers, so Kano State Government is automatically included in the case. He slated 26 of October for the final ruling of the case, and unfortunately [Sarari laughs]… there was this strike [of court workers]. They just resumed this month. So we are just urging our lawyer to find which date are they going to give, and we are very much hoping that the ruling is going to go in our favour.
On 27 March 2009, I sat in on a case in which the Federal High Court struck down the objections filed by the Kano State Censorship Board to MOPPAN’s lawsuit.
The last I checked, this lawsuit is still in the courts, two years later.
There have been other lawsuits, such as the one posted by Iyan Tama in a personal capacity over alleged defamation of character by Abubakar Rabo Abdulkareem, the Head of the Kano Censor’s Board on DITV, Kaduna. The case was settled out of court.
On July 21, 2010, I reported that a lawsuit was filed at a Kaduna State high court:
between the applicants 1. Ashiru Sani Bazanga, 2. Mohammed Rabiu Rikadawa, 3. Aliyu Abdullahi Gora, 4. Sulaiman Sha’ani, 5. Musa Aminu, 6. Jamilu Adamu, 7. Abubakar Sani, 8. Tahir I. Tahir, 9. Tijjani Asase, 10. Yusuf Haruna, 11. Yakubu Lere, and 12. Adam Zango and the respondents 1. Commissioner of Police, Kano State; 2. Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Kano State, 3. Chief Magistrate Court 25 Kano, Kano State; 4. Abubakar Rabo. The applicants are seeking damages of Ten Million Naira as compensation for the “violation of the applicants fundamental human rights.”
The Kaduna lawsuit was filed after Kano State Police were sent to arrest the above named filmmakers on an accusation that they had supposedly sent the DG of the Kano State Censor’s Board, Abubakar Rabo Abdulkareem, a death threat by text message. Aliyu Gora II, the editor of FIM Magazine, was the only one the police were able to find, and he spent nearly a week without trial in Kano’s Goron Dutse prison, after being transported by police from Kaduna to Kano. The suit was the latest in a series of lawsuits following Rabo’s alleged defamation of the Hausa film industry on DITV Kaduna.
Other Posts, in chronological order, that may be of interest in learning about the relationship between the Kano State Censorship Board and the Hausa film industry:
On the Current Censorship Crisis in Kano, posted13 January 2009
Kano State High Court Chief Justice Postpones Iyan-Tama’s Appeal posted 22 January 2009
2:15am Raid on Iyan-Tama’s Family posted 23 January 2009
Iyan-Tama’s Case Not Listed posted 26 January 2009
Triumph/Trust Editorial Convergences posted 29 January 2009
Interviews with Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board, and Dr. Ahmad Sarari, Vice President of the Motion Pictures Practitioners Assocation of Nigeria posted 30 January 2009
The Mysterious Asabe Murtala/Muktar Writes Again posted 10 February 2009
A Surprising Move by MOPPAN, and my friend Sulaiman Abubakar (MPEG) arrested on Tuesday posted 15 February 2009
Interview with Dr. Ahmad Sarari, Vice President of MOPPAN and brother of Iyan-Tama posted 16 February 2009
More Arrests along Zoo Road yesterday, and my article on Iyan Tama makes IPS front Page posted 17 February 2009
Update on the Iyan-Tama Case: Bail Hearing set for 5 March posted 19 February 2009
Updates on the Iyan-Tama case and other articles on the crisis in Kannywoodposted 14 March 2009
Iyan-Tama granted bail, The Judge calls for a new Trial posted 17 March 2009
Mobile Court bans listening to 11 Hausa songs posted 8 June 2009
Breaking News: Singer Ala denied bail posted 7 July 2009
Aminu Ala given bail on condition that he does not speak with media posted 10 July 2009
DG of Kano Censor’s Board taken before shari’a court posted 5 August 2009
Kano State Censorship Board shuts down Kano Music Festival hosted at Alliance Francaise, Kano posted 28 February 2010
Interview with Hiphop artist Ziriums in this week’s Aminiya posted 18 April 2010
Iyan Tama takes Rabo to Court for Defamation, and Other Lawsuits posted 18 August 2010
DG of Kano Censors Board Caught in Alleged Sex Scandal with Minor, Sunday Trust Reports, posted 29 August 2010
Iyan Tama Reaches Settlement with Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board, posted on 17 October 2010.