Sokoto State House of Assembly recently passed a bill for the establishment of the State Hizbah Commission in a bid to strengthen the security of the state and promote social harmony by curbing moral vices in society. Mohammed Aminu examines the essence of the bill
The bill for a law to establish Hizbah commission in the state was sponsored by the majority leader of the Assembly, Hon. Abubakar Buda Amanawa, representing Dange/Shuni state constituency. The bill is meant to set up a Hizbah Commission in order to tackle the social vices in the society such running of brothels, indecent behaviour during festivities, and extravagance in marriage celebrations. It is also meant to complement the efforts of security agencies in the fight against crime.
Historically, Hizbah (religious police) was established during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad. Many Islamic scholars have written extensively on Hizbah for the understanding of the people. Hizbah works for the sake of helping people by directing them to do good things and shun what is wrong. The purpose is to safeguard the religion and the Muslim community by promoting peace, stability and social harmony.
Hizbah plays a very important role in the day to day activities of the people in order to help in reducing their sufferings, alleviate poverty, tackle insecurity as well as moderate the way people run their businesses to ensure that it is in accordance with the teachings of Islam. The idea of establishing Hizbah is widely seen as timely considering the spate of anti-social vices among the youth of the state.
Section 9 of the bill for the establishment of Hizbsh Commission stipulates some functions of the commission, which includes the arrest of suspects who committed offences. Section 4 (a) 1 stipulates the qualifications of the Commander of Hizbah and Director of Hizbah. It says their appointment shall put into consideration the age limit, qualification, character, tenureship and knowlegde of Islamic jurispundence.
Section 7 (a) (b) of the bill indicates that the power to appoint and remove the Hizbah Commander is vested with the Commissioner or Governor, while section 8 contains provisions on the establishment of Hizbah corps that will carry out the activities of the Hizbah commission. Thus, members of the corps act as Islamic police and can arrest offenders.
The bill passed through First Reading and subsequently got Second Reading on July 17 last year. It was referred to the House Committee on Religious Affairs in order to scrutinise it and come up with recommendations for the consideration of the house. The committee swung into action by convening meetings of stakeholders and also visited similar Hizbah implementation states, such as Zamfara and Kano, in order to share ideas with them. The aim is to come up with a comprehensive Hizbah law in the state.
At the stakeholders meeting convened by the House Committee on Religious Affairs, several groups made observations regarding the bill. The Sokoto State Police Command observed that the bill was silent on situations where a Muslim and non-Muslim were involved in a mischievous act and how the two individuals would be treated. The police command also advised that whenever the Hizbah corps was going out on operations that require firearms they should apply through the security outfit that possess the arms while there should be channel of communication between the Hizbah corps and the police at a strategic level.
Similarly, the police said that an acceptable and unique uniform should be selected for the Hizbah corps to avoid confusion with other security outfits.
The State Security Service in its submission advised that vetting of the Hizbah corps recruits was necessary in order to exclude those who have negative records from gaining access into the commission. The SSS also noted that there was the need to clearly define the limit of the powers of the Hizbah corps in terms of arrest, detention and prosecution of suspected offenders. The essence is to forestall overlapping responsibilities with other security agencies in the course of discharging its duties. For instance, the SSS said in the areas of sale and intake of prohibited drugs and promiscuous affairs, among others, the law should be specific on the role of Hizbah in handling these offences so as to avoid clash with other security agencies that are already saddled with these responsibilities.
The Department of Islamic Studies, Usmanu Danfodio University, Sokoto, observed that under section 4 (5) of the bill, the qualifications of the Hizbah Commander were not specified. It advised that the commander should be highly knowledgeable in Islamic jurisprudence. The department also advised that since the issue of Hizbah revolved around Islamic jurisprudence, Islamic scholars should be included in the composition of the membership of Hizbah.
The Jama’atul Izalatul Bidi’a Waikamatul Sunnah (JIBWIS) in its submission observed that the appointment and removal of the Commandant of the Hizbah should not be under the office of the commissioner but under the office of the governor, with two-thirds majority of the legislature. Jama’atul Nasril Islam advised that Hizbah, if established in the state, should not be partisan, but should be a collective responsibility by the public and government.
On April 29, the Sokoto State House of Assembly approved the establishment of the State Hizbah Commission after a presentation made by the chairman, House Committee on Religious Affairs, Alhaji Muhammad Ruwa-Wuri, who represents Tangaza constituency. He had led the debate on the bill, saying that his committee had consulted stakeholders on the matter before releasing the final report to the assembly. Ruwa-Wuri further disclosed that the committee had conducted a pubic hearing and embarked on study tour of similar commissions in Kano and Zamfara states. The lawmaker stated that the commission would be an autonomous and independent body, but the power to appoint and remove its commandant would rest solely with the state governor. He further said that there should be a unique and acceptable uniform of the Hizbah corps.
Ruwa-wuri also spoke on the need for a comprehensive sensitisation through the media before the take off of Hizbah operation in the state. He said the committee had recommended a comprehensive training and orientation of the Hizbah corps to be established.
“We also recommended Islamic knowledge and jurisprudence as criteria for appointment into the various positions at all levels of administrative hierarchy. There should be direct channel of communication between the Hizbah Corps and other security agencies in the state,” Ruwa-wuri said.
In his contribution to the debate, Majority Leader of the House, Alhaji Abubakar Amanawa, representing Dange/Shuni constituency, said the commission, if established, would reduce the level of unemployment in the state. Amanawa stated that the commission would also help to enhance security and discipline among the people.
After the deliberation, the Speaker, Alhaji Lawal Zayyana, said the bill was registered, debated and passed, and directed the Clerk of the Assembly to forward a clean copy of the bill to the executive for assent.