On the Current Censorship Crisis in Kano, Nigeria

By Carmen McCain, Director, Hausa Home Video Resource Center, Bayero University; Nazir Ahmed Hausawa, Manager, Golden Goose Studio; and Ahmed Alkanawy, Director, Center for Hausa Cultural Studies

Nigeria’s northern city of Kano was until last year the home of a thriving film industry in the Hausa language. Hausa language “video-films” are similar to the larger “Nollywood” Nigerian film industry but are stylistically different from their southern cousins, with most films including song and dance sequences influenced by Indian films and hiphop music videos. In August 2007, a sex scandal involving a leaked cell phone video of a Hausa film actress Maryam “Hiyana” Usman having sex with her boyfriend Usman Bobo instigated a change in the leadership of the Kano State Censorship Board.

The board had been instituted in 2001 after the implementation of Islamic shari’a law as a compromise measure between the filmmakers and the government. The censorship board enabled the films to continue being made but with some restrictions on dress and interaction between male and female actors. (The Kano State Censorship Board is a separate entity from the National Film and Video Censor’s Board which files and gives ratings to all films made in Nigeria. Hausa filmmakers are required to submit their films to both bodies if they want to sell their films in Kano State.) The scandal exploded onto an already tense atmosphere. Earlier in the year, four actresses had gone into hiding after hisbah, shari’a police, had interpreted a party in their honor as a “polygamous lesbian wedding,” and in June before the “Hiyana” scandal broke, A Daidaita Sahu, a Kano state agency for the “reorientation” of society, organized several book and film burnings. (1)

Following the sex scandal, a new director general of the Kano State Censorship Board 4. Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, formerly commandant of the hisbah, was appointed in August 2007. Since the administrative change, there have been multiple arrests and acts of intimidation against the film industry and related entertainment businesses in Kano.  Actor, musician, and director Adam Zango (2) was arrested and sentenced to three months imprisonment and a fine of N100,000 in September 2007 for releasing a music video cd Bahaushiya without first submitting it to the Kano State censorship board. (3) In October 2008, wildly popular Hausa comedian Rabilu Musa (‘dan Ibro) and his colleague Lawal Alhassan Kaura were arrested and sentenced to two months in prison by a mobile court for 1) “indecent dancing” in a film Ibro Aloko and film Ibro K’auran Mata that had been released before the change in administration of the Censorship Board and had a certificate of approval from the Censorship board and 2) for supposedly operating a production company without registering with the board. They denied the charges but were convicted and sentenced to two months in prison with no option of fine, in less than an hour after they had been arrested and brought into the mobile court. (4) The November 2008 Fim Magazine points to speculations that the arrests were political as the satirical song “Mamar Mamar” in Ibro Aloko, which made fun of a striped cloth often worn by Governor Shekarau of Kano State, was being used by critics to mock the governor.

In another rumoured political move, Hamisu Lamido Iyan-Tama, one of the pioneers of the Hausa film industry, was arrested in May 2008 after his film Tsintisya, sponsored by the U.S. embassy, won an award for best “Social Issue” film at the Zuma Film Festival in Abuja. The actor, director, producer, and 2007 gubanatorial candidate was accused of not registering his company with the Kano State censorship board and for releasing the film Tsintsiya in Kano without passing it through the state censorship board. Iyan-Tama has receipts for his registration with the board (now uploaded to http://freeiyantama.blogspot.com) and had publically stated that the film was not for sale in Kano State, although a copy of the film, which an actor claimed was a personal copy, was confiscated from a desk drawer in a video shop during a police raid. Although on bail while the court case was ongoing, he was again arrested for a week in August. Most recently, on January 1, after a police witness who had been subpoenaed did not show up in court, the judge refused to reschedule the court date as the defense and prosecution had agreed and went ahead and to sentence Iyan-Tama to 15 months in prison and a fine of N300,000, saying, according to Leadership reporter Abdulaziz Ahmad Abdulaziz, that “justice delayed is justice denied. Justice is three way traffic; justice to the accused, justice to the state and justice to the prosecution.” (5) On January 12 an appeal was struck down because the court was not satisfied with the way it was prepared. Iyan-Tama is currently serving his sentence in the Gwauron Dutse Prison, Kano.

In addition to these prison sentences, there have been many other acts of intimidation against studios and lower profile film industry workers, including a requirement that each participant in the film industry, from actor to editor to video seller, register individually with the censorship board. So far, according to Ahmed Alkanawy, director of the Centre for Hausa Cultural Studies, over 1000 youths involved in the film industry and related entertainment industries “have been arrested in the name of shari’a and sanitization.” Among those arrested are “download and transfer business” workers who have been convicted for using cell phones for transferring Hausa music, audio and video, those who sell traditional medicine for advertising their wares over a loudspeaker and displaying of graphic photographs or drawings to illustrate their cures, those who run video gaming centres and football viewing centers without registering with the censorship board. (6) However, although shari’a law is invoked, most “censorship”-related cases are being tried in a state magistrate court, a mobile court on Airport Road presided over by magistrate Mukhtar Ahmed. Defendants are often arrested and convicted within an hour, without the benefit of legal representation. Some are given prison sentences while others are given the option of paying a fine.

One case, which did not make it to court involved a hisbah raid on the home of Hausa film actress Zainab Umar and her sisters in March 2008. According to witnesses interviewed by reporter Nasir Gwangwazo, they were accused of living “in a house without suitable relation,” detained without food and water overnight in a cell with other men, propositioned by police, and warned not to speak with media. (7) More recently, in November 2008, there was a sweep of arrests of industry workers. Following a mass protest by film actresses who publically changed political affiliation from the party of the governor ANPP to the majority political party PDP, police raided studios along Zoo Road, where most studios are located, closing studios and arresting 21 studio managers and other studio workers. (8) Those who could not produce certificates of registration with the censorship board in the mobile court were given large fines. The November edition of Fim Magazine reported that Rabo had said there were specific film practitioners the court particularly wanted to catch and the magazine printed a list of 32 practitioners “in danger” of being arrested. (On the list were two of the co-authors of this report: Ahmad Alkanawy and Naziru Hausawa). (9)  In December 2008, according to Fim Magazine with additional information from Ahmed Alkanawy, Director Rabi’u Ibrahim of HRB studio, whose name was on the list printed by Fim, was arrested and fined N80,000 for selling in his shop a DVD compilation with an “indecent cover” of the American television series  Desperate Housewives. His shop was closed and sealed for three days. When the authorities came to re-open the shop three days later, they saw the remaining copies of Desperate Housewives and the recently banned film Ibro Aloko, and he was taken back to court and given another N60,000 fine. He has not been allowed to re-open his shop since that time. (10)

13 January 2009

For more information about these ongoing events, see the following selected articles available on the internet:

No Justice: Iyan-Tama Jailed by Corrupt Officials” On the Free Iyan-Tama blog.

Kano Bans Film on Jos Crisis.” By Mansur Sani Malam in  Leadership. 12 January 2009.

The travails of Kano entertainer, Iyantama” by Weekly Trust reporter Jaafar Jaafar
Weekly Trust, Sunday, 4 January 2009.

Iyan-Tama: Another Case of Injustice: An Open Letter to Governor Ibrahim Shekarau” by Ibrahim Sheme, editor of Leadership Newspaper and publisher of Fim Magazine

Court jails CNPP chief over illegal films”  by Guardian reporter Adamu Abuh. 31 December 2008.

Filmmaker, Iyantama Sentenced to 15-month Imprisonment,” by Leadership reporter Abdulaziz Ahmad Abdulaziz, 31 December 2008.

Nigeria: Hausa Actor, Ibro Sentenced to Two Month Imprisonment” by Mansur Sani Malam in Leadership Newspaper.

Writers, Film-makers Defy Censors” by Amina Koki Gizo on IPS News, 12 September 2008.

The War Against Film-making” by Nasir Gwangwazo, Leadership, March 2008.

Press Release: Brief report on the state of film industry in Kano State, Nigeria” by Ahmad M. Sarari (National Vice President MOPPAN) , 28 February 2008.

Taking on Nigeria’s Islamic Censors” by Andrew Walker, BBC. October 2007.

Censoring movies and books in Kano: text of press release by Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim” 25 September, 2007

 

FOOTNOTES

 

1. The information in this report comes from oral testimonies and the following news articles: Al-Amin Ciroma, “Hiyana’s Sex Scandal,” 19 August 2007, and Mansur Sani Malam, “Kano Reels out New Censorship Laws,” 24 September 2007, Leadership  ; “Nigeria ‘lesbian wedding’ denied,” BBC News, 28 April 2007, http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/africa/6603853.stm; the following articles from Fim Magazine publisher Ibrahim Sheme’s blog: “Hiyana – Tsiraici a fagen shirin fim,” 12 August 2007; “Nude Video Causes a Stir,” 13 August 2007; “Censoring Movies and Books in Kano,” 25 September; “Film Burning in Kano,” 26 September .;Ahmad M. Sarari. “Press Release: Brief report on the state of film industry in Kano State, Nigeria”, 28 February 2008, ; Lamara Garba Azare. “Rabo is our problem—Sani Mu’azu” New Nigerian. 20 April 2008, ;Sani Maikatanga. “Shekara 1 da Mallam Rabo a Industiri: Ci Gaba ko Koma Baya?” Fim. January 2009. pp. 33-42.
2. In 2008, the censorship board began a campaign against Hausa novelists as well. For an overview see the following articles: Maryam Ali Ali. “Kano Government is Using Religion to Kill Literature. Daily Trust. 2 August 2008. ; Sumaila Umaisha. “Kano censorship crisis: Far from over (report) Everything Literature Blogspot ; Amina Koki Gizo. “We Will Write About Them”
Interview with Hausa novelist Sa’adatu Baba.” IPS News. 6 September 2008. < http://ipsnews.net/africa/nota.asp?idnews=43816>; Amina Koki Gizo. “Writers, Film-makers Defy Censors” IPS News, 12 September 2008,; Muhammad K. Muhammad. “Kano Writers Call off Strike.” Daily Trust. 24 August 2008.
3. Yusha’u Adamu Ibrahim, “How Adam A. Zango Ended up in Prison,”Weekly Trust, 1 October 2007,
4. Mansur Sani Malam. “Hausa Actor, Ibro Sentenced to Two Month Imprisonment” Leadership 7 October 2008. http://allafrica.com/stories/200810070348.html;  Nasiru Muhammad. “Dan Ibro goes to prison for 2 months” Daily Triumph. 8 October 2008. http://www.triumphnewspapers.com/dan8102008.html; Nasiru Muhammed. “Prison controller refutes Ibro’s release rumour.” Daily Triumph. 16 October 2008. < http://www.triumphnewspapers.com/prion16102008.html>; Sani Maikatanga and Ibrahim Musa Giginyu. “Rabo Ya binne Ibro a gidan yari” Fim. November 2008. pp. 10-14.
5. Jaafar Jaafar. “The travails of Kano entertainer, Iyantama” Sunday Trust. 4 January 2009.;  “Alk’ali Ya D’aure Iyan-Tama Kafin Kammala Sauraron Shaida” Leadership Hausa. 2-8 January 2009. p. 14;
Adamu Abuh. “Court jails CNPP chief over illegal films.”  Guardian. 31 December 2008. ;”No Justice: Iyan-Tama Jailed by Corrupt Officials” Free Iyan-Tama blog, 31 December 2008. http://freeiyantama.blogspot.com/200…y-corrupt.html; Ibrahim Sheme. “Iyan-Tama: Another Case of Injustice: An Open Letter to Governor Ibrahim Shekarau” http://ibrahim-sheme.blogspot.com/20…injustice.html; Abdulaziz Ahmad Abdulaziz.”Filmmaker, Iyantama Sentenced to 15-month Imprisonment,” The Musings of a Young Journalists. 31 December 2008. http://abdulazizfagge.blogspot.com/2…ced-to-15.html; Sani Mai Katanga “Iyan-Tama a Kejin Rabo” Fim. June 2008. pp. 49-55.
6. Muhammad A. Muhammad. “Kano Censorship Board and contemporary challenges.” Daily Trust. 5 December 2008. < http://www.dailytrust.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=432&Itemid=14>; Sani Maikatanga . “Shekara 1 da Mallam Rabo a Industiri: Ci Gaba ko Koma Baya?” Fim. January 2009. 33-42. Nasiru Muhammad. “KNSG bans sale of film on Jos crisis.” Daily Triumph. 12 January 2009.; Mansur Sani Malam. “Kano Bans Film on Jos Crisis.” Leadership. 12 January 2009. < http://leadershipnigeria.com/news/149/ARTICLE/5330/2009-01-12.html>.
7. Nasir Gwangwazo. “The War Against Film-making.” Leadership. March 2008, http://www.leadershipnigeria.com/product_info.php?products_id=25209
8. Please note that while the Leadership article cited below says that 10 studios were raided and 9 people were arraigned. Baba Karami in a personal communication on 9 January 2009 stated that 21 people were taken before the mobile court. Mansur Sani Malam. “Nigeria: Emir Bayero Donates N2 Million to Qur’anic School.” Leadership. 22 October 2008.
9. “Wad’anda Rabo ‘zai kama’” Fim. November 2008. p. 13.
10. “Abin da yasa aka kama Rabi’u H.R.B.” Fim. January 2009. p. 53

The authors may be contacted at hausahomevideoresource@gmail.com

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3 Responses to “On the Current Censorship Crisis in Kano, Nigeria”

  1. [...] and conceits for each issue.  The writing, however, tends to be more non-fiction: hard-hitting journalism; book and art criticism; interviews; and a variety of other forms. Beyond the magazine itself, [...]

  2. [...] after the scandal  but since then several actors, actresses and comedians have been arrested for trumped up charges of indecency. Meanwhile the Director of the Kano State Censorship Board was himself caught in a sex scandal [...]

  3. [...] after the scandal  but since then several actors, actresses and comedians have been arrested for trumped up charges of indecency. Meanwhile the Director of the Kano State Censorship Board was himself caught in a sex scandal [...]

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