US embassy cable - 01ABUJA1133


Identifier: 01ABUJA1133
Wikileaks: View 01ABUJA1133 at
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2001-05-16 09:55:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 001133 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/15/2006 
REF: (A) ABUJA 762 (B) ABUJA 358 
Classified by Charge Tim Andrews for reasons 1.5 (b) and (d). 
1. (C)  Summary: In a recent crackdown, the Government of 
Kano State authorized the quasi-vigilante enforcement of the 
State's new liquor law by sending the Deputy Governor, 
accompanied by Hisbah members (Shari'a enforcers) to five 
hotels to enforce a ban on the sale or purchase of alcohol by 
Muslims.  Some of the Hisbah became aggressive and broke 
liquor bottles, then burned an Igbo hotel two nights later. 
This action appears to have been an attempt by Governor 
Kwankwaso to deflect criticism from Muslim leaders that the 
State was not serious in its efforts to enforce Shari'a. 
Over 90 percent of Kwankwaso's constituents are Muslim, and 
while many are concerned about Shari'a implementation, none 
feel free to openly criticize it.  Unfortunately, this action 
has increased insecurity among the Igbo and Yoruba 
communities in Kano, while unofficially sanctioning vigilante 
action by Muslims.  The Governor assured Poloff that the 
perpetrators of the arson have been arrested, and held 
without bail.  He claimed they could not be brought to trial 
without causing further protest by Muslims, and potential 
unrest.  Governor Kwankwaso stopped short of admitting it, 
but his control of Kano State appears to be steadily eroding. 
 End Summary. 
Enforcing Shari'a 
2. (C)  During a two-day trip to Kano May 11 and 12, Poloff 
met with law enforcement, religious, civil society and 
Government leaders to verify reports of recent Hisbah 
enforcement activities.  Nigerian media reported last month 
that Deputy Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje led a group of 
Hisbah Shari'a enforcers and Nigerian Police to five of 
Kano,s biggest hotels on April 14 to "order" them not to 
sell alcohol.  During the raids, Hisbah enforcers broke 
liquor and beer bottles and engaged in minor vanalism.  Two 
days later, some Hisbah youths came back and burned down the 
Henzino Hotel, a prominent Igbo/Yoruba social gathering 
place.  Contrary to published reports, Deputy Commissioner of 
Police Ezozue was not involved in any of these incidents.  He 
said the Deputy Governor had not informed him or the 
Commissioner prior to the raids on the hotels, and commented 
on the "dangerous" precedent set by this action. 
3. (C)  There are currently two groups of Hisbah enforcers in 
Kano.  The official group, created in November, 2000, is led 
by Sheikh Abubakar Ameen Al-Deen, reports to the Police and 
co-ordinates its activities with the State Government. 
Several months after the largely ceremonial "launching" of 
Shari'a last June, some Kano Muslims, impatient with the 
Government's inaction, created their own independent Shari'a 
enforcement organization unaffiliated with State Government. 
These groups overlap somewhat, but the Governor claims that 
the unofficial Shari'a enforcers were responsible for the 
property damage to the hotels, and for the arson.  On April 
7, Kano's Independent Shari'a Committee, a group of Ulama who 
are critical of the Governor,s handling of Shari'a, gave 
Kano authorities a one-week ultimatum to order hotels to stop 
selling alcohol.  In response, Governor Kwankwaso said that 
he ordered Deputy Governor Ganduje to make a symbolic 
demonstration against the hotels and order them to stop 
selling alcohol.  While State-sanctioned Hisbah enforcers and 
a few police from the Government House guard-force 
accompanied Ganduje, several rowdies from the independent 
Hisbah took advantage of the opportunity to wreak havoc. 
Fortunately, only liquor stocks were damaged on the 14th. 
4. (C)  Governor Kwankwaso said that a group of the 
Independent Hisbah returned on the 16th and burned the 
Henzino Hotel.  He said the Hotel was located in a Muslim 
residential neighborhood, and that there had been a long 
history of conflicts with the neighbors, largely because the 
Hotel was a large commercial establishment, surrounded by a 
Hausa residential neighborhood.  He reported that his 
intelligence on the incident indicated that some of the 
Hotel's neighbors contacted the unofficial Hisbah, and asked 
them to burn the Hotel.  The Governor said that he was 
"gravely concerned" about the hotel-burning, and that six of 
the perpetrators had been arrested.  He confided  that they 
were being held by police without bail, but could not be 
brought to trial at this time because of the potential for 
protests by other Hisbah members and Shari'a supporters. 
5. (C)  Poloff observed that the new modus operandi for 
hotels is that no liquor or beer bottles are left on the 
tables.  Most nightclubs have closed, and the beer parlors in 
Sabon Gari, the predominantly Christian/Southern neighborhood 
of roughly 500,000 inhabitants, are being more discreet. 
Kwankwaso said that the Government has no intention of 
prohibiting alcohol sale or consumption by Christians, as 
long as it is done with "discretion."  The unofficial policy 
is now that alcohol may be served as long as bottles or cans 
are not readily visible.  The Central Hotel, traditionally 
one of Kano's busiest night-club venues, was nearly deserted 
on a Friday night.  The burning of the Henzino has made other 
Kano hotelliers understandably nervous, and they are now 
reluctant to risk serving alcohol openly. 
6.  Comment: Most people in Kano view this action as a 
political move by the Deputy Governor to position himself for 
the PDP gubernatorial nomination in 2003.  Ganduje has in 
fact become much more popular than the Governor following the 
raids, and his Abubakar Rimi-led faction of the PDP may 
succeed in wresting the PDP nomination from Kwankwaso. 
Kwankwaso is accurately viewed by his constituents as 
reluctant to enforce Sharia, and his popularity has suffered. 
 It was not surprising, however, that Kwankwaso claimed to 
have organized the D.G.'s outing in order to "do something" 
to appease Shari'a supporters.  Aminu Wali, the President's 
liaison to the National Assembly and a Kano political brahmin 
with a profound knowledge of the intricacies of its politics, 
confirmed to us that both Kwankwaso and the D.G. knew in 
advance of the "raids."  In any event, Kwankwaso would not be 
able to publicly criticize or reprimand his Deputy. 
Enforcing the State's drinking laws through the Hisbah rather 
than the National Police sets the rather unfortunate 
precedent that Kano State permits vigilante Shari'a 
enforcement.  Given the fact that one hotel was burned 
immediately after the raids, this policy may be very 
difficult for civil authorities to reverse. 
7. (U)  Comment Continued:  This incident has added 
significantly to the existing tensions in Kano between 
Northern and Southern ethnic groups.  Southerners took note 
of the fact that the one hotel that was burned belonged to an 
Igbo, and served as a central social meeting-place for Igbo 
and Yoruba.  However, the fact that alcohol is still 
available under the rather transparent "cover" of cups but no 
bottles means that even ardent Shari'a enforcers still have 
their limits.  Post will follow with a broader analysis of 
Shari,a and the security situation in Kano septel. 

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