Nigerian governor rallies thousands for segregation of sexes in public transport

Kano, Nigeria - Thousands rallied in northern Nigeria's largest city in support of keeping men and women separated on public transportation, in accordance with a Muslim tradition.

The governor of the northern state of Kano, Ibrahim Shekarau, told a crowd of around 10,000 people July 26 that thousands of uniformed security forces would ensure that men and women no longer sit together on the same buses.

"Our aim is to be at the forefront of conducting our activities decently and to protect Allah's Shariah," or Islamic law, Shekarau said at the rally in Kano's main soccer stadium.

Many in Kano, particularly members of the Christian minority, oppose the new law. Officially Shariah is not applicable to Christians in Nigeria, but in practice many Christians say they are forced to comply.

Kano was one of a dozen majority-Muslim states that adopted the Shariah criminal code in 2000, a move which sparked religious riots throughout the country that left thousands dead.

Already, three northern states are enforcing sex segregation on public transport.

Under the local interpretation of Islamic laws, women are forbidden to ride on motorcycle taxis, the cheapest and most popular way of getting around. Commercial motorcycle riders can be fined or lose their riding permits for six months if they accept woman passengers.

Shekarau said that his administration hired 9,000 unarmed Shariah police, called "Hisbah," last month. They can make arrests but must give prisoners to the federally controlled police force.