There is a sense in which the recent destruction of 30 trailer loads of beer by the Kano State Hisbah Board, obviously on the prodding of the state government, reinforces the argument namely, that the fiscal architecture of Nigeria needs a total overhaul.
And hastily too. On Wednesday, December 26, 2018, news went to town that the Kano State Hisbah Board, citing a certain local legislation, destroyed over 30 trucks laden with alcoholic beverages running into billions of naira, and largely owned by southerners, particularly the Igbo of the South East, who reside in the Sabon Gari area of the state where a substantial percentage of the alcoholics are consumed.
This is not the first time that businessmen of southern extraction have been at the receiving end of this obnoxious state legislation at the instance of the Kano State Government with a well-documented history of religious extremism. Ever since the promulgation of the Shariah law in the state, the religious police, Hisbah, have continued on a rampage, confiscating and destroying consignments of alcoholic beverages making their way into the state.
While it may be contested in favour of Kano State that it reserves the right to enact legislation proscribing the manufacturing and/or dealing in alcoholic beverages within its territory, such argument would fly in the face of the spirit of the 1999 Constitution which consecrates Nigeria as a secular state, the operation of which must trickle down to the socio-economic relationship between the citizens irrespective of where they are resident, and their host-state. Thus, Section 4 of the Kano State Law bandied about by the state government to perpetrate its economic sabotage citing Shariah runs afoul of the constitution to the extent that the entire provisions of the 1999 Constitution and its schedules do not proscribe the manufacturing, distribution and sale of alcoholic beverages.
But beyond the legality or otherwise of this repulsive legislation, there is also a sense in which the hypocritical and somewhat “convenient righteousness” of the Kano State Government’s attitude to the sale of alcoholics within its territory begs the question. It is in the manner in which it readily accepts allocations accruing to it from the federal purse flowing from the VAT generated from the sale and consumption of the same alcoholic beverages elsewhere.
This much was highlighted by The PUNCH Newspapers in a well-written editorial piece entitled, “Redressing the injustice in VAT sharing”, published on August 21, 2017, thus: “Added to this brazen injustice is the inclusion of the 12 Shariah practising Northern states in the sharing of VAT on alcoholic beverages. Hisbah, the Shariah law enforcement agency in the state, regularly confiscate and destroy alcoholic drinks. In 2001, a group that called itself the Independent Shariah Implementation Committee destroyed more than 600 crates of assorted beer. On November 27, 2013, the Hisbah destroyed over 240,000 bottles of beer in Kano. In January, 2015, the Kano State Hisbah Board said it destroyed 326, 151 bottles of beer. This is outrageous…”.
This well-considered editorial rendering puts in sharp focus the hypocrisy of the so-called Sharia states including Kano, and further resonates the restructuring question.
Which brings me to the timely reaction of Afenifere, the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, which described the destruction as “hypocritical” arguing that a state (Kano) which collects one of the highest amounts from VAT generated from other states where such beverages are sold should not be enjoying the benefits from goods it has prohibited contrary to Nigerian laws.
Having said that, this writer observes with trepidation that at a time of dwindling revenues where state governments are unable to pay a miserly N30,000 minimum wage, the Kano State Government is rather pre-occupied with the drinking habits of residents of the state, rather than devising ingenuous means of boosting its revenue through soft regulatory taxes on the manufacturing, distributorship and sale of alcoholics in the state. Add that to the fact that this state accounts for one of the highest population of out-of-school children roaming the streets as Almajiris and constituting a potent threat to national security.
Let us not forget also that this is the Kano of Governor Umar Ganduje of the alleged $5m contract scandal. But in a rather disquieting public reaction, while the indigenes of Kano hailed and chanted “Allahu Akbar” at the destruction of the alcoholic beverages, they have betrayed a disturbing silence at the crass appropriation of their collective wealth. In essence therefore, while it is haram for non-Muslims to engage in their legitimate business in a federal republic that thrives on religious tolerance, it is halal for a state governor to do whatever he likes with the resources of the state without a scintilla of remorse.
Perhaps, it is this contradiction that however helps to unmask the ultimate objective of the abhorrent local legislation: the socio-economic irritation of the Igbo and other minority tribes resident in the state whose economic survival revolves around dealing in alcoholic beverages at stalls, pubs and hotels scattered in and about the state capital.
Raymond Nkannebe,Lekki, Lagos State, firstname.lastname@example.org
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