Noah Ebije, Kaduna
A war is currently brewing in Zaria, Kaduna State, between hoteliers and authorities of Sabon Gari Local Government area, Zaria.
The two parties are at loggerheads over a proposed bill seeking to ban the sale and consumption of beer and burukutu, a popular local alcoholic beverage in Sabon Gari Local Government area.
The proposed bill also seeks to prohibit the operation of brothels in the area.
The planned ban has created anxiety among various stakeholders in Zaria.
At a public hearing organised by the legislative arm of the local government on the proposed edict on October 24, hotel and beer parlour owners objected to the proposed ban. They said the local government authorities do not have such powers but were only authorised to regulate the sale of alcohol.
The Sabon Gari Local Government area, with the proposed edict, seeks to totally ban prostitution as well as abolish the sale and consumption of alcohol in all the communities that make up the local government. This is being resisted by the operators of hotels and beer parlours , most of whom are non-Muslims.
On October 21, in a letter signed by the legislative clerk, Mohammed Othman, the legislative council had invited members of the Hotel and Beer Parlour Proprietors Association, otherwise known as Liquor Association, to a public hearing on October 24 for their inputs into the planned edict.
The letter, entitled: ‘Executive bill’ read in part: “This is a bill to provide for the control and prohibition of the sale or consumption of alcohol, prostitution, indecent dressing and local wrestling (Dambe) in Sabon Gari Local Government area of Kaduna State.
“The alcohol includes liquor, local burukutu or other intoxicating drinks or substances. Brothels include any premises, building or structure held out to the public as a place for prostitution or selling or consumption of alcohol.
“All existing liquor licences issued by the council prior to the commencement of this bill are hereby revoked and rendered null and void.
“A liquor licence shall not be issued to any person (s) for the purpose of sale or consumption of alcohol throughout the local government area.
“It shall be unlawful to operate any beer parlour, brothel or premises for the purpose of selling or consumption of alcohol or liquor throughout the local government area.
“For the first offender, and in the case of a seller of alcohol, or operator of a brothel or wrestling premises, a fine not exceeding N50, 000.00 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or both shall be imposed; and in the case of a consumer of alcohol or prostitute or local wrestler, there shall be a fine or imprisonment not exceeding three months.
“For a second or subsequent offender, and in the case of a seller of alcohol, or operator of a brothel or wrestling premises, a fine not exceeding N100, 000.00 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or both. And in the case of a consumer of alcohol, prostitute or local wrestler, there shall be a fine not exceeding N50, 000.00 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months or both.”
At the public hearing, which was anchored by the legislative clerk, the hoteliers in their submission through their legal counsel, Mr. Daniel Peter, noted that local governments in Nigeria have the power to license, regulate and control the sale of liquor, but they do not have the power to prohibit the sale or consumption of alcohol.
The association noted that Sections 5 and 6 of the proposed edict clearly prohibit the sale and consumption of alcohol, insisting that such was outside the legislative powers of local governments.
The hoteliers further pointed out that Section 7 of the proposed law, which talked about prostitution, had been legislated on by the Kaduna State Assembly in Section 169 of the Kaduna State Penal code which is applicable and enforceable in Sabon Gari Local Government.
The hoteliers recommended instead that “the proposed bill should in fact be on licensing, regulation and control of the sale of liquor as clearly stated in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and not to prohibit sale and consumption of alcohol in Sabon Gari. The council should be guided by its legislative powers conferred by the Constitution and not arrogate unto itself extra powers outside the provisions of the law.
“That in exercising its constitutional powers of control in this regards, the sale of alcohol can be exempted in open places; that all persons who sell alcohol within the local government must belong to the Liquor Association within the local government for easy identification, regulation and control; that the local government should only give licence for the sale of alcohol or liquor to persons approved by Liquor Association within the local government so as to ensure easy and proper regulation and control.”
Also pushing for the suspension of the bill at the hearing, the representative of the local liquor sellers, burukutu, Mr. Richard Sankai said outlawing the sale of alcohol in the local government area would affect the livelihood of the sellers. since most of them are widows who depend on the business to take care of their families.
Meanwhile, the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Zaria, said no religious body advocated or preached the sale and consumption of liquor, but urged the council to tread with caution in handling the proposed bill in accordance with the constitution of the country.
The JNI and CAN were respectively represented by Alhaji Aminu Abdullahi and Pastor Moses Haruna.
Sabon Gari is usually a section of a town or city in the northern states of Nigeria that is mostly populated by strangers. It translates to New Town in Hausa language.
Most parts of the Sabon Gari are traditionally inhabited by people from Southern Nigeria. Over the past decades, ethnic tensions between groups from southern and northern Nigeria have led to frequent riots in the Sabon Gari sections in a number of cities in Northern Nigeria.
The introduction of Sharia law in many Northern states have added to the tension between most indigenous people of the North, who are predominantly Muslim, and people from other parts of the country, most of who are Christians.
Wikipedia gives further explanation on the establishment of Sabon Gari across the North. Said the platform:
“Permanent communities of strangers segregated from the indigenous population had existed in Northern Nigeria and other parts of West Africa long before the arrival of the British at around 1900. Although living segregated from the Hausa population, residents of these communities were ultimately subject to the authority of the local emir. This has changed over the years as apart from Kano in northern Nigeria, the Sabon Garis are of mixed habitation.
“The establishment of British colonial rule under Frederick Lugard and the construction of new railway lines led to a large influx of laborers and traders from Southern Nigeria. The immigrants, which were mostly Igbo and Yoruba people, settled in new towns or Sabon Garuruwa, as these new towns were called by the local Hausa people.
“The Cantonments Proclamation of 1914 institutionalized this system of residential segregation. The Sabon Garuruwa became Native Reservations, officially reserved for employees of the government and commercial firms, and in practice inhabited by residents not indigenous to Northern Nigeria.
“British colonial rule in Northern Nigeria was indirect, leaving the emirs in power, albeit as part of the colonial administration. In the beginning the Sabon Garuruwa were administrated by the emirs. This changed with the Township Ordinance of 1917, which placed the Sabon Garuruwa and their residents under direct British rule. Sabon Gari residents were granted more rights than those under the administration of the local emir. For example, residents of a Sabon Gari could send representatives to the advisory board responsible for a township, or could choose between courts administering Muslim law or British law.
“Sabon Garuruwa were established in all major cities of Northern Nigeria, most notably in Kano, Kaduna and Zaria. One exception was Maiduguri, which never had a Sabon Gari. A typical city or town in Northern Nigeria would consist of the old city within fortified walls and inhabited by indigenous Hausa or Fulani people.
“The Sabon Gari would house immigrants mostly from Southern Nigeria. The Tudun Wada would house people from Northern Nigeria that were not indigenous to the local area. Europeans would live in the European Reservation Areas.
“Over time the initially strict residential segregation would partially break down. Eventually a typical Sabon Gari would house a diversity of people from all parts of Nigeria and to a lesser extent from other parts of West Africa.
“Even today Sabon Garuruwa are predominantly inhabited by people from Southern Nigeria. Ethnic tensions between groups from southern and northern Nigeria lead to frequent riots in the Sabon Garuruwa of northern cities.
“With the introduction of Sharia law in the northern states of Nigeria some Sabon Garuruwa with its predominantly Christian population have become the place of officially forbidden activities like alcohol consumption, gambling and prostitution”.