The Hisbah has powers to wield the big stick against any individual termed an offender in any of the northern states it operates.
The primary function of Kano Hisbah Guards, a commission created by law, is chiefly to ensure compliance with Islamic injuctions
Hisbah Guards, with head office in Sharada quarters of the state, among numerous other functions, also ensure that Muslims in Kano are Sharia-comp
While fasting is in progress, Hisbah Guards mandatorily embark on a motorised patrol of the city in their Toyota Hilux vans provided by the state government, particularly to areas, predominantly occupied by Muslims, to enforce Sharia law.
Besides counselling married couples on the need to live peacefully, Hisbah Guards give succour to women estranged from their husbands. They temporary accommodate the ones either chased out of their matrimonial homes by their husbands or unjustly divorced.
Hisbah marriage counselling and reconciliation departments, as part of its responsibilities interven in broken marriages, summon and counsel couples to ensure dispute resolution.
If the counselling department establishes that the couples’ differences are irreconcilable, they officially divorce them to allow for peaceful separation.
To avoid promiscuity, Hisbah periodically organises mass weddings for divorcees and bachelors. For proper documentation, the Hisbah unit charged with the responsibility invites prospective couples to obtain forms to indicate their intention to participate in the mass wedding.
At the end of compilation of marriage registration forms and screening, the prospective couples are mandated to proceed for medical examination to confirm their status before endorsing their participation in the mass wedding, often sponsored by the state government.
Any prospective couple discovered to be HIV/AIDS positive is disqualified from participating in the wedding.
The Hisbah Guards occasionally carry out raids, particularly on trucks on transit to deliver alcoholic drinks to buyers in Sabon Gari at the outskirts of Kano, seize and convey the products to their head office on Sharada road.
They usually destroy impounded alcoholic drinks on the strength that they would pollute Muslims in the state if allowed to be distributed. The Hisbah guards do not bear any arms.
Hisbah has over 21 units saddled with the responsibilities of ending different disputes. The units include Guidance Counselling for married couples, DAWAN designed for re-orientation of drugs addicts.
Others are Monitoring and Evaluation, Operational Department, General compliant, training Unit for Hisbah Corps, Tailoring, as well as the Reconciliation unit.
Hisbah, established 2003, during the administration of Ibrahim Shekarau, also partners with the police to rid the state of criminal acts. The commander General, Kano State Hisbah Board is Muhammad Sani.
Hisbah in Sokoto
In Sokoto, there are two Hisbah groups operating in the state. Significantly, the Sokoto State Hisbah Commission, established by law in recent times, has stopped receiving patronage and funding from the state government.
Whereas, Sokoto Hisbah Association, not recognised by law but operating independently as a voluntary organisation, Saturday PUNCH gathered, is enjoying subtle benefits from the state government.
The commandant of the state Hisbah commission, Dr. Adamu Bello Kasarawa, said, “The state government efforts through an agreement to ‘harmonise’ the leadership of the two factions have yet to be realised.
“For the records, the Ministry of Religious Affairs held a meeting with the leadership of the two factions claiming authority over Hisbah Commission in the state. An agreement was reached to harmonise our operations for the benefit of the citizenry but the harmonisation seems to be an exercise in futility.”
A reliable source hinted that the Sokoto Hisbah Commission got into the government bad books when in early 2017 men of the commission allegedly stormed the state governor, Aminu Tambuwal’s daughter wedding party and seized the disc jockey’s musical instruments for an alleged violation of the Sharia law.
The state government in fury disbanded the commission especially as there had earlier been complaints from members of the public about alleged overzealousness of the commission’s operatives.
It later reverted it decision and clarified that the operations of the state Hisbah Commission were a creation of the law.
At present, operations of the two groups are funded by members’ contributions and donations from concerned individuals. They also generate funds from membership registration fees and uniform payment.
Saturday PUNCH gathered that some activities of Hisbah Commission in recent past include settlement of marriage disputes between couples, enforcement of rapists to marry victims and arrangement of marriages for those without suitors. The commission also raid commercial sex workers/drinking joints. Suspects arrested are however, handed over to the police, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in persons and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps for prosecution.
While men of the Sokoto Hisbah Commission operate in green uniform, their counterparts in the Sokoto Hisbah Association wear yellow shirt on top black trouser as uniform.
Hisbah thrives in Gombe
In Gombe, Hisbah group is under the Dawaah Relief Organisation; the arm overseeing its activities.
The group’s activities include sweeping and cutting of grasses in the Muslim graveyard in the state.
A visitor in the state will easily observe their presence specifically from Fridays through the weekend. Most often than not, their activities are usually felt in the control of vehicular movement and protection of property especially during Muslim programmes. Around Sabon line area of the Gombe metropolis during an evening event, members of the group were seen at strategic points where vehicles, motor bikes were packed ensuring their safety.
A member of the group, Mohammed Mohammed, who spoke to one of our correspondents, said overtime, the state government had not given the group enough bite so its mode of operations was rather calm.
He said, “We are not as recognised as the Kano Hisbah. We help to maintain law and order especially during worship and programme areas.”
Mohammed said importance of the group cannot be underestimated going by its overwhelming effects in the life of a Muslim youth. He added, “The group teaches young Muslims discipline, perseverance and obedience to rules and order.”
Another member of the group, Yusuf Karofi, said for anyone to be admitted into the organisation, the person must first obtain a N300 registration form and thereafter invited for training and camping usually around Ramadan period.
He said, “After purchasing form, the person will attend an interview. Then, a day will be fixed for training. Training takes about two weeks. We do camping around Ramadan to train new recruits. We use to go to graveyard to sweep the place and cut the grass every Saturdays and Sundays. On Fridays we go to the mosque to control traffic. We often go to the villages to preach to people about Islam.”
Karofi noted that unlike Kano Hisbah which is part of the government, “Gombe Hisbah is not part of government. We don’t arrest and has no functions like police.”
He further said the uniform of members comprising a white top, green beret, a pair of trousers and canvass cost N8, 000. Some of the residents who spoke on condition of anonymity said with or without government backing, members of the group sometimes take laws into their hands. One of them said, “Sometimes, they stop vehicles without recourse just because they want to make way for their members to pass.”
Another resident said, “Wait until you have trouble with any of them, you will know what you are in for. They can be lawless. One day I was coming out from a specialist hospital and I saw them in a large number. All of a sudden, someone wearing white blocked us for over 15 minutes. We had to wait for them to pass.’’
Face of Borno CJTF
The Civilian Joint Task Force was created under the last administration in Borno State as a reactionary force.
It was created to respond to the threat of Boko Haram insurgents who had taken over Maiduguri, the state capital, killing people at will and particularly shooting uniformed men on the streets of Maiduguri.
The insurgents apart from killing uniformed men also turned against the residents. Houses were not spared.
As many areas were made desolate, the youth of the town gathered to do something to halt the killing of innocent people. They subsequently cooperated with the soldiers and started fishing out insurgents in their midst.
This situation made the town hot for the insurgents and they started fleeing. They subsequently fled into Sambisa Forest where they went after many towns and villages which they captured. They attempted many times to come into Maiduguri but were repelled by the soldiers in collaboration with the CJTF members.
To make the task force work at optimal level, the state government under Kashim Shettima administration, created Borno Youth Empowerment Scheme.
Members of the BOYES have uniform but CJTF do not. The majority of BOYES members were recruited from the CJTF and get monthly allowance from the state government. The CJTF members only receive stipend. Many believe both BOYES and CJTF are one based on their common activities and goals.
CJTF and BOYES members carry Dane guns, pump action, rifles, swords, cudgels and machetes.
There are females among the CJTF who had undergone trainings in self-defence tactics and decoy.
They can sneak in and out of dangerous spots with ease and have robust intelligence on how to identify threats especially suicide bombers. These women have many times smoked out suicide bombers before they could do damage.
The CJTF volunteers mount roadblocks and go after insurgents. Some of them have even been employed by the military and are now soldiers.
They have patrol vehicles and like the army, the CJTF have various sectors and mini offices all over the state.
Recently, the governor of the state, Prof. Babagana Umara, employed the services of hunters from across the North and neighbouring countries to boost the efforts at fighting insurgency and criminality.
When CJTF came on board, the first activity they were involved in was going from house to house to pick Boko Haram members from among the communities. Arrested persons were handed over to the military.
They sometimes go with the military to communities to fish out insurgents from the neighbourhoods. They equally give intelligence to the military and security agencies.
In the days of suicide bombers, the females among them thoroughly searched women and girls and arrested those with improvised explosive devices before detonating them.
They act as security during public ceremonies, frisk crowds during Sallah celebrations and Friday prayers.
They patrol streets in vehicles and nip crime in the bud. Currently, they are attached to many public buildings.
At various times, the military and security agencies have lauded their efforts towards crime prevention in the state. The CJTF members are equally seen in soldiers’ convoy during clampdowns on insurgents.
They know the terrain well and often lead soldiers to many hideouts of the insurgents. At a point during the height of the crisis, they were more feared than soldiers and were even identified for attacks by insurgents.
However, it’s safe to say they are the unsung heroes of the reactionary move against insurgency.
This is because though they do a lot, the soldiers most times take the glory. But that has in no way reduced collaboration between them and the soldiers to tackle insecurity in the state.
The Head, sector commanders of the CJTF in Borno State, Baba Shehu AbdulGaniu, earlier told one of our correspondents that the contributions of the group had been effective in tackling insurgency in the state.
He had said, “They are important to our operations in the state. They are mostly used for intelligence gathering. They give information which we report to the military and security agencies and this has been useful in arresting many of the insurgents.’’