Nigeria: Kano state bans all films from carrying music

6 November 2007
Kano state recently banned all films from carrying music, wrote Elizabeth Dickinson from Kaduna on 28 October 2007.

According to an article by Elizabeth Dickinson about a theatre play which has been banned by what the calls ‘the Hisbah Commission’, this ban on the play and a following court case, as well as the ban on music in films, are just examples of what she terms ‘a new clampdown on artists in the Sharia states’ in Northern Nigeria.

Several Nigerian newspapers report that Kano State Film and Video Censors Board has suspended all film production activities in the state for six months.

At first the board imposed a three-month suspension after a sex video clip of a popular actress, Maryam Hiyana, went public. The Kano State Film and Video Censors Board then extended the suspension from three to six months, effective from 13 August 2007 to 21 February 2008, and it reeled out new restrictive measures to check the film industry which has gained a reputation for what Nigerians term as “song and dance sexuality films”. The state-owned film regulatory organ banned the actress Maryam Hiyana from appearing in any film for five years.

Artist ‘exodus’ from Kannywood
The executive secretary of the Kano State Film and Video Censors Board, Mallam Abubakar Rabo Abdulkareem, explained that the censorship board had to take certain measures, including the suspension of film activities, in order “to arrest the ugly trend brewing within the sector in Kano, which includes the indiscriminate shooting of films, and the use of offensive materials in film production, insensitivity to the culture and religion of the people.”

Kano is a busy centre for the production of films in the Hausa language which is spoken in northen Nigeria. Isma’il Muhammad Na’abba, chairman of the production company Unique Ventures, told the Nigerian Weekend Magazine that presently over 150,000 people are benefiting from the Hausa film industry in Kano which among Nigerians, for the same reason, is often referred to as ‘Kannywood’. According to him the suspension will cause a massive exodus of artists from the state.

The Executive Secretary of the Kano State Censorship board, Ustaz Abdulkarim Abubakar Rabo told Weekend Magazine that the expected mass exodus of the artistes from the state would not make government to reverse its earlier decision.
“We will not allow filmmakers in the state to tarnish the good image of our religion and culture,” said Rabo.

Singing and dancing
Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu is director of the Centre for Hausa Cultural Studies in Kano. He was interviewed by Weekly Trust in October 2007, and was quoted as saying:
“It got to a stage where unless a Hausa film has girls with tight dresses, singing and dancing suggestively, it will not sell, and filmmakers have been defending this by insisting that they are in the business to make money, not art. One of them-one of the biggest among them-even told us bluntly, “to hell with Hausa culture; I am a filmmaker and I want to make money, if you people want a cultural film, do it with your own money”. This marketing mantra led to more song and dance routines with girls dressed in tight clothes, shaking their body suggestively, even if the story does not warrant a dance!”

Sharia law
Kano is one of 12 states in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north that adopted the strict Sharia code in 2000. When Kano State, a region of Nigeria’s north, adopted Sharia law, the Islamic legal code for civil cases, it triggered a violent crisis in Nigeria where hundreds (some say thousands) lost their lives. The Christians fled south, and Muslims fled north. Kano City has a population of four million people and is the biggest city in northern Nigeria.

Women in Kano State were banned from riding in the same buses as men in July 2005, and from riding behind men on motorcycles. The Islamic Sharia law is enforced by a 9,000-strong religious police force, called ‘Hisbah’ – ‘the Islamic law enforcers’ – with the power to fine people who ignore the new rules. State governor Ibrahim Shekarau launched the implementation of the new law about separation of the sexes in buses in front of 10,000 chanting supporters at a ceremony at Kano city stadium in 2005.

“Our aim is to be at the forefront of conducting our activities decently and to protect Allah’s Sharia,” Ibrahim Shekarau said.




Read more about music censorship in Nigeria in the Freemuse report 


Sources – 28 October 2007:
‘Nigeria: Sharia Court Bans Satirical Play’

The Guardian – 12 November 2007:

‘Film corporation wades into Kano crisis’

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