By Dons Eze
Nigeria is a bundle of contradictions. It is a hypocritic nation. You cannot pin the country down on any issue, because while they will be saying one thing, they will be doing a different thing. Nigeria is a country with no principle, where two different rules apply simultaneously – one for the privileged; and the other one for the not so privileged, those who have nobody to speak for them.
Nigeria calls itself a secular nation, but if you go through the Nigerian Constitution, you will see the rules of one religion mentioned several times and over. In practical life, you will also see the Nigerian government dancing to the tune of music played by different religious men and women, sponsoring religious pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia and to Jerusalem.
In the year 2000, one man called Sani Yerima, who was Governor of Zamfara State in Northern Nigeria, woke up one morning and told us that he had declared Sharia law in his state. The then President Olusegun Obassnjo, waved it off, and called it “political Sharia”, which would fissle out with time. Obassnjo did not stand up to defend the Constitution which he swore to protect.
This gave other states in the North the impetus, the freedom, the audacity, to also begin to proclaim Sharia law in their different states, and nobody did anything to stop them. When these Northerners saw that Sharia law has succeeded in their states, and that nobody was challenging them, they came up with another monster called Boko Haram. Ever since, we have been battling these evil men, all to no avail.
At present, Nigeria is governed by two different laws. There is a secular law based on a constitution that is full of contradictions. There is also a Sharia law formulated on the basis of beliefs of one particular religious organization. The ordinary citizen of the country is thus lost in the world of these contradictions.
Under the Sharia law, nobody in these Northern states where the law is operative, is to be seen with any form of alcoholic drinks, much more taste or drink them, among other rules that run counter to the rules of a country that claims to be a secular nation. Severe punishment awaits any defaulter of any of those rules.
Thus, in accordance with the Sharia law operating in most parts of Northern Nigeria, hotels, beer parlours, restaurants and other relaxation spots, are prohibited from selling any form of alcoholic beverages, while nobody would be seen with any of such drinks. Police and Islamic Corps Marshalls, known as Hisbah, were constituted and empowered to ensure strict enforcement of the law.
They were equally empowered to destroy and cart away properties belonging to any establishment, institution, hotels, etc., found to have violated the law, or any individual consuming or selling alcoholic drinks. Any such a person would be severely dealt with, in accordance with the law.
This has made many establishments, industries, hotels, restaurants, eating houses, etc., that sell or deal on alcoholic beverages, to either close shop, or relocate to the southern part of the country, where there is no Sharia law.
On the part of the federal government of Nigeria, while closing their eyes on these states that declared Sharia law, that also reject alcoholic drinks, they however allow the consumption of alcohol in none Sharia states. At the same time, they impose taxes on alcoholic drinks, known as Value Added Tax (VAT), which at first, stood at 5 percent, but later increased to 7.5 percent. This was not just aimed at discouraging alcoholic consumption, but more importantly, at netting revenue for the government.
Thus, at the end of every month, the government will aggregate proceeds from these alcoholic drinks from none Sharia states, which run into billions of naira, put them on the table, and share them to the three tiers of government, the federal, state and local governments, including to states that do not permit the sale and consumption of alcoholic drinks in their area, states that confiscate properties belonging to people or establishments found to have violated Sharia law on alcohol.
This is unfair. Proceeds from alcoholic drinks should not go to states that refuse the consumption of alcohol in their area, that jail and confiscate properties of those selling alcohol. Value Added Tax (VAT), accruing from alcoholic beverages should be restricted to states where such VAT is netted. This should be the ideal thing. How can one reap from where he did sow?
A few days ago, a beer distributor in Kano seriously complained about how the state government and operatives of the police and Islamic corps, Hisbah, had destroyed his beer parlour at Agangara, Badawa area of the state. They carted away his refrigerators and plasma televisions from his shop.
A report by SaharaReporters, an online publication, alleged that the state governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, alongside some policemen and Hisbah officials, had visited beer parlours in Badawa area of Kano, and destroyed the buildings, while the owners of these shops counted losses that ran into millions of naira.
According to the report, one Hillary Okafor, popularly known as Larry White, who was badly affected, was after his shop had been looted, planning to leave Kano for the South East as there was nothing left for him anymore in the North. The report claimed that Okafor’s door was broken down and his goods destroyed, while some were taken away, like the fridge, plasma television and generator.
The Kano incident, which happened a few days ago, was not an isolated case. Similar incidents happen almost on daily basis in many parts of Northern Nigeria, where Sharia law is operative. They do not allow any sale and consumption of alcohol in their area, yet they will turn round to enjoy the proceeds of alcohol. What a hypocrisy, what a contradiction?
In other words, those Northern states that operate Sharia law, and forbid the sale and consumption of alcohol in their area, but turn round to participate in the sharing of proceeds from alcohol, are committing double sin. They offend their religion by sharing from the proceeds of the product, which their religion has forbidden; they also commit economic crime by sharing in the wealth, which they did not participate in creating, wealth which they are indéed opposed to, and sabotage.
How can any people with conscience, any people with claim to religiosity, be involved in such double standard, in such absurdity? This is Nigeria!
Dr. Eze, KSJI, wrote in from Enugu