Sharia police, motorcyclists clash in Nigeria over ban on womenSharia police, motorcyclists clash in Nigeria over ban on women
A clash between Sharia police (hisbah) and commercial taxi moped operators called 'Achaba' in northern Nigeria's Kano city on Wednesday left 11 people injured and scores of vehicles vandalized. Fighting broke out on the frenetic streets of this commercial city when the hisbah began to enforce the state's ban on women riding on taxi mopeds, a common and speedy means of transportation in Nigerian cities. Hundreds of hisbah took positions at strategic locations in the city, forcing women passengers to get off mopeds. This angered the moped operators who mobilized and launched attacks on the hisbah. Armed with clubs and stones, the achaba attacked the green-uniformed hisbah and public tricycles, leaving at least 11 people injured and two dozen tricycles damaged. An AFP reporter who visited the hisbah headquarters saw 10 young men with various degrees of injuries arrested in the clashes being interrogated by hisbah officials. "We have received reports that one of our men was injured in the attacks while 24 tricycles were vandalized" Mohammed Yahaya, a hisbah commander said in the hisbah headquarters in the metropolis. "We have made several arrests but I can't give you figures at the moment", Yahaya said.
Kano, one of a dozen mainly Muslim northern states to readopt the Sharia legal system since 1999, passed a legislation banning women riding on taxi mopeds in May 2004. Tagged the Traffic Amendment Law 2004, the law provides for six months imprisonment for defaulting motorcyclists with a fine of 5,000 naira ($36). He also risks to forfeit permit for six months. A month later, a 9,000-man hisbah outfit was formed by the state government to enforce the Sharia, including the new traffic law. "This is just the beginning of our resolve to enforce the ban on women riding on achaba", Yahaya Farouk Chedi, head of the hisbah, told a press conference. "We have begun by asking the women to get off the bikes and soon we will start arresting defaulters and taking them to court for prosecution", he added. "The government ought to ban more grievous offenses than carrying women on motorbikes", said Sahabi Idris, a taxi moped operator, after he was forced by the hisbah to drop his female passenger. "There are beer parlors, night clubs and brothels close to the governor's residence and nobody is saying anything about them. The government is just playing politics with the Sharia," he said.