Attention: The Return of Dangerous Sectarian Politics in Sokoto State


Sokoto is renowned as the citadel of Islamic civilization in the whole of western Sudan. Thus, Islam as a religion is being held with high esteem amongst the teaming population. In recent years, however, political actors and their conspirators have been involved in dangerous politicization of Islam and its sectarian divide in the state. To be precise, in the build up to 2007 elections, the elites in the state were fiercely involved in power contestations and wrangling of dangerous sorts. Blood letting and violence of high magnitude defined this pattern of politicking. Hate speeches and violent mobilization along sectarian lines became the defining pattern of politics in the state. The Shiite minority group bear the brunt of this dangerous politics. During this period, dubious politicians, thugs, unscrupulous religious elements and bigots were at the fore front in the spread of hate and subsequent attacks on the Shia minority group in the state. The political labels attributed to parties and candidates in the myth of sectarian coloration exacerbated tension and widespread violence against the peaceful minority Shia group. Thus in the bid to wrestle power from one political party, certain group of politicians pledged to wipe out the Shia minority in the state. This has since become the strategy of electioneering campaigns in the state. This made the state, hitherto known as the most peaceful in the country to one of the most volatile and turbulent.

In the course of this precarious sectarian mobilization, dozens of Shiites were killed, hundreds gravely injured, houses in their hundreds burnt and destroyed, many properties and businesses also looted and damaged. This happened with little or no protection from the state. Indeed, an attempt by the then government to enforce the law in 2006, was greeted with outright condemnation by political opponents, who were the perpetrators. This dangerous sectarian politics even became institutionalized after the 2007 general elections. The new government, which promised to annihilate the Shia minority group soon swung into action by implementing a written script leading to gradual extinction of the Shia in the state. The conspiracy began with a false flag operation that led to the death of one of the hired preachers known for the spread of hate and violence against the shia minority. This thus marked the height of the massacre and displacement of the Shia by the combined forces of government (security agencies) and hired as well as indoctrinated thugs. As a result, additional dozens of innocent Shia were gruesomely murdered by thugs and security agents in combined operations. More than 260 houses burnt, shops and business holdings were looted and destroyed in addition to destruction of schools and religious centres. This attracted heap of praises for the government by bigots. In order to legalise its extrajudicial killings and destruction, a handful of other Shia members were arrested and arraigned, prosecuted but subsequently discharged and acquitted by the Federal Court of Appeal. The discharge and acquaintance of the oppressed shia citizens by the Court of Appeal climaxed their vindication as peaceful and law abiding citizens. Even after the acquaintance, compensations were not given to them and they remain unjustly endangered people in the state.

Partisan politics in the state has become highly sectarianised at the expense of the freedom of right to religion, conscience and human dignity, as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution (as amended). Accordingly, government popularity in the state increases with level of persecution of the Shia. A political atmosphere has therefore been created to legitimize any sort of violence against the Shiiites as a strategy for political success. This was how the Shiites in Sokoto state fared until the 2015 elections. Sadly, this dangerous trend is re-emerging and regaining its feet in the state. The recent dispositions of the state government suggest that it is bent on buying cheaply to the violent anti-shia sentiment and committed to continue bloodletting of innocent Shia minority citizens. On two occasions, for instance, the present state government made declarations, press releases and conferences usurping the religious rights of Shiites to lawfully organise and execute their programs peacefully. These press conferences by the Commissioner for Justice of the state, Barrister Suleiman Usman (SAN), like the previous political tactics, were full of insinuations, instigations and falsehood with the view to prepare grounds for eminent violent attacks. One of such falsehood spread and mentioned in one of the press releases was that Shiites had organised a continental Shia gathering in Sokoto state. The government and its agents have succeeded in demonizing and stigmatizing the Shia population through sponsored hate speeches and campaigns. The label ‘Shia’ has now become vulnerability in itself. It is thus easier for political elements to engage in unwarranted persecution and violent crackdown to gain popularity cheaply. Not even the Shiites, those who have any understanding or sympathy for the Shiites are themselves vulnerable to persecution and violence. Recently, the state government denied a prominent Qadiriyya Scholar, Sheikh Musa Qasuwini, the son of Late Sheikh Nasiru Kabara entry into the state on account of his alleged sympathy for the Shiites. This was influenced by the pressures of Wahabi and Salafi Scholars, who publically commended the government for its continued persecution of the Shia minority groups and their sympathizers. As a return to this dangerous trend, the security agencies are being alerted, and thugs mobilized and empowered to unleash violence on the Shiites.

It is on this account that we draw attention of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and all relevant agencies as copied in this plea, that the lives and properties of innocent and vulnerable Shia group are eminently at risk. This is even more pressing given that the 2019 elections are by the corner and politicians in the state are bent on a return to this dangerous sectarian bloodshed as a strategy for partisan mobilization. The need for prompt and impartial response is thus urgent and can not be contemplated.

Thank you in anticipation of your urgent response.


Prof. Shehu Ahmad Maigandi
Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Agriculture, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto
For: The Resource Forum of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria
Sokoto Chapter
Mabera Area, Sokoto
National Human Rights Commission;
Director, Human Rights Watch, Nigeria
Director, Amnesty International, Nigeria;
Senate President, National Assembly
Speaker, House Representatives, National Assembly
Director, Department of State Security, Abuja;
Director, Department of State Security, Sokoto State
Chairman, Nigerian Governors’ Forum
Chairman, Northern Governors’ Forum
Executive Governor, Sokoto State
Attorney General & Commissioner for Justice, Sokoto State
Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC)
Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (SCIA)
The Sultan of Sokoto
Nigerian Bar Association (NBA)
Public complaints Commission, Sokoto
Police Commissioner, Sokoto State
Barrister Femi Falana, SAN
Barrister Festus Okoye, SAN
Hajiya Naja’atu Bala Muhammad
The Concerned Nigerians
Centrum Initiative For Development and Fundamental Rights Advocacy