A civil rights activist, Ibrahim Garba Maryam, has said that Hisbah operating in some states in northern Nigeria is being used by politicians to oppress underprivileged people.

Garba said Hisbah was primarily inaugurated to settle disputes in marriages in the region, and that it lacked the legal right to arrest and prosecute any citizen.

Garba disclosed this to SaharaReporters in an exclusive interview on Monday.

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He condemned some of the actions of Hisbah against people in the North, such as arresting people for improper dressing and destroying alcoholic beverages.

“Hisbah was created to intervene in divorce cases or marital issues in the North,” he said. “They don’t have any constitutional right to arrest and prosecute people. And if they claim they do, ask them to show you.”

“You see, illiteracy and ignorance are the main problems among our people, and the politicians are using Hisbah to oppress and suppress the underprivileged.”

Speaking on the application of Sharia law in the North, Garba pointed out that the law is not binding on non-Muslims even if they reside in the region because Nigeria is a secular country.

He said, “Nigeria is a secular nation, and anything that is not in the constitution is not superior to the constitution. Sharia is only binding on Muslims. We have some laws documented as Sharia for the North, but let me tell you, our political leaders have hijacked Hisbah for their selfish gain.

“Hisbah is an instrument used by politicians to suppress the underprivileged in the North because of the high illiteracy rate and ignorance there.”

He also described the destruction of alcoholic drinks in Kano by Hisbah as oppression by politicians.

“Who gave them approval to open their business in the first place? Was it not the government? Who do they pay their taxes to?  That’s why I talk about illiteracy and ignorance. The people have the right to ask Hisbah critical questions. It is only the Nigeria Police and courts of law that have those rights that Hisbah claim to have. They are just vigilantes,” he said.

On the recent ban on underage marriages by the Saudi Arabian government, Garba said it was a right decision.

He said, “Even the prophet (Muhammad) that we claim that we love did not marry his underaged daughters off. The other time a man from here married a white woman older than him, they were criticising him. The first wife of the prophet was also older than him by 15 years, so what is the issue all about?

“Government is using Hisbah to steal. The funds they get are not necessary. We are fighting for the people, but they (the people) don’t know their rights. That’s why we are calling on organisations like the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project to look at the cases of injustice in Kano.” 

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