A court in the northern Nigerian city of Kano has fined 45 motorcycle taxi riders for transporting women, in violation of a new rule to comply with Islamic Sharia law, a court official said on Friday.
The ban on women passengers, brought in last year to make Kano state traffic laws compatible with Sharia, has caused controversy in the city, which is predominantly Muslim but has a sizable Christian community.
Hisbah committees, or volunteers who help uphold Sharia, have clashed with motorcycle taxi riders caught with women passengers. Women are supposed to ride in special motorized tricycles, but there are not enough of these on the streets.
A court official said the 45 riders had been fined between 1,000 naira ($8) and 5,000 naira. These are big amounts for the men, who usually earn between 20 and 60 naira per ride.
If they cannot pay, their motorcycle taxis, known locally as "achabas," will be auctioned off by the court, the official said.
Kano was one of 12 mainly Muslim northern Nigerian states that reintroduced in 2000 parts of Sharia that had been abolished under British colonial rule.
The measure alienated many Christians and triggered sporadic religious rioting that killed thousands of people. Kano was one of the flashpoints.
The city launched a segregated Sharia-compliant public transport system last July, under which achabas are not supposed to carry women because contact between the rider and the passenger cannot be avoided.
Opinions of the ban are divided among achaba riders.
“If I carry a woman my concern is the money she pays me, not her body,” said Ibrahim Dan-Sokoto, who has been in the business for four years.
But Sharif Magashi said as a Muslim he felt it was God’s will that he should not carry women passengers. “Sharia is Allah’s divine injunction and we must uphold it,” he said.
Hisbah volunteers have been enforcing the ban, though their vigilance decreases after dark, when more women take to achabas.