North Nigerian state bans protests over royal power struggle

Traditional rulers have no constitutional power in Nigeria but they wield enormous influence (AMINU ABUBAKAR)
Traditional rulers have no constitutional power in Nigeria but they wield enormous influence (AMINU ABUBAKAR)

A state governor in northern Nigeria on Wednesday banned protests and public rallies to prevent a power struggle between two rival royals over a traditional throne from escalating into violence.

Emirs in the mostly Muslim north, as well as Obas or kings and other traditional rulers in the predominantly Christian south, have no constitutional authority but wield huge cultural and religious influence.

The northwestern city of Kano, capital of Kano state, has become absorbed by what local media has dubbed a Nigerian "Game of Thrones".

Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf restored former emir Muhammadu Sanusi II to the throne, four years after he was deposed by the previous governor.

Sanusi's successor Aminu Ado Bayero was removed on Thursday along with four other emirs after Kano assembly lawmakers amended the emirate law of 2019 that put them in place.

But Bayero returned to Kano and declared himself the legitimate emir, citing a court order restraining his dismissal pending a hearing in early June.

A Kano high court has ordered him to desist until the June ruling.

With the standoff fuelling tensions among their rival supporters and political backers, Kano governor Yusuf "imposed stringent restrictions on all public gatherings intended for protest", a statement from his office said.

The governor has credible intelligence that opposition politicians are looking to sponsor "political agitators" to incite chaos in support of the dethroned emir Bayero, the statement added.

"The state government has explicitly outlawed protests, demonstrations, or processions of any kind, and individuals found on the streets of Kano engaging in such activities will be promptly apprehended."

Kano police have vowed to enforce the ban with "all sense of vigour".

"Police personnel have been put on red alerts to ruthlessly deal with any situation as any form of security threat in the state will not be tolerated," a police statement said.

- 'Utter disgrace' -

Both royal rivals are backed by political foes.

Sanusi is linked to former governor and influential Kano politician Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, whose New Nigeria People's Party or NNPP now controls the governorship.

Bayero is backed by local Kano representatives from President Bola Ahmed Tinubu's ruling All Progressives Congress or APC party.

Both parties squared off in national and regional elections last year for control of Kano, the state with the second-largest number of voters nationally and a key political fiefdom.

Sanusi has moved into the emir's palace where he now holds daily court, while Bayero is staying in a royal guest house a few kilometres (miles) away where his supporters pay their respects.

Both palaces are heavily guarded by military and police personnel.

The royal tussle has been compounded by four conflicting court orders by federal and state high courts in the city, both restraining Bayero's dismissal and affirming Sanusi's reappointment, pending the court hearing early next month.

The court orders have caused embarrassment to Nigeria's chief judge, who has summoned the judges who issued them, according to local media reports.

The head of the Nigerian lawyers' union NBA, Yakubu Chonoko Maikyau, condemned the conflicting court rulings as an "utter disgrace and shame to the profession".

"The damage is one that would take the legal profession a long time to recover from," Maikyau said in a statement.

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