Kano Emirate Crisis: Why heads must roll—Top lawyers


In this report, Ise-Oluwa Ige examines the background facts surrounding the judicial theatrics that greeted the dethronement of the 15th Emir of Kano, Aminu Ado Bayero; traces the politics behind the re-appointment of a former CBN Governor, Muhammadu Sanusi II as the new sole Emir of Kano; x-rays the confusion that trailed the judicial enthronement of two emirs in the ancient city of Kano and surveys the perspectives of key stakeholders in the judiciary on the development with their prescriptions on how to avert future recurrence.


After rich deliberations on its floor during plenary on May 23, 2024, the Kano State House of Assembly passed the Kano Emirates Council Law (repeal bill) 2024 sponsored by the Majority Leader and member representing the Dala Constituency, Lawan Hussaini Chediyar Yan Gurasa, of the state.

The new bill effectively repealed the immediate past Governor Abdullahi Ganduje’s Kano Emirate Council Law 2019, Kano State Emir’s Appointment and Deposition Amendment Law 2019 and Kano State Emirate Council Amendment Law 2023, which created five emirates in Kano and paved the way for the deposition of Sanusi four years ago.

Specifically, the new bill reverts the state’s highest ranking traditional institution to its former structure of one emir with all the offices established under the previous law abolished. It also reverts all district heads elevated or appointed under the repealed law to their previous positions.

The bill was transmitted to the state governor, Abba Kabir Yusuf, same day it was passed by the state lawmakers.

The state governor who promptly appended his signature to the bill to become law on the same May 23, 2024, at about 5:10pm thereafter dethroned the 15th Emir of Kano, Aminu Ado-Bayero who was installed by his predecessor, Ganduje.

The governor however gave the five former emirs, including Ado-Bayero, 48 hours to vacate all official residences and hand over former emirate properties to the deputy governor.

In what remains a mystery, few hours after the governor dethroned Ado Bayero, few minutes after 5:00pm on Thursday, May 23, a Federal high court judge, Justice Mohammed Liman, purportedly sat in far away United States of America (USA) and issued an exparte order to stop Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf from implementing the new Kano Emirates Council Law 2024 or reinstating Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II pending the determination of a substantive suit filed on the matter.

But the governor faulted the order on the account that a Federal high court has no jurisdiction to entertain chieftaincy matters and that assuming without conceding that he had jurisdiction on the case, the judge could not be in the USA, to entertain a case on Kano emirate council in Nigeria.

As expected, on Friday, May 24, 2024, Kano state governor reappointed a former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Muhammadu Sanusi II as the sole Emir of the ancient city of Kano and the head of the Kano Emirate Council on the strength of the new bill he signed into law the previous day and the recommendation of Kano kingmakers.

The politics behind dethronement of Bayero, reinstatement of Sanusi

Muhammadu Sanusi II became the 14th Emir of Kano in 2014 after he left the Central Bank of Nigeria as its governor but was dethroned on March 9, 2020 by the immediate past state Governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje over alleged insubordination while his cousin, Aminu Ado-Bayero was enthroned in his place.

BAR & BENCH WATCH reports that Ganduje was effectively at the helms of affairs in the state for eight years, spanning 2015 and 2023 after serving as deputy governor of the state twice under former Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso.

Shortly before Kwankwaso finished his term, he anointed his deputy to succeed him.

Indeed, the 1949-born Ganduje won the state gubernatorial election and was sworn into office on May 29, 2015.

But during his first term, Ganduje fell out with Kwankwaso, his boss. His tenure was also characterized by a series of clashes with Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II, who he investigated for alleged financial recklessness.

In 2019 when he was seeking re-election, his former boss, Kwankwaso did not support him but he got his second term, defeating Kwankwaso’s son-in-law, Abba Kabir Yusuf, even though his emergence was highly criticized as less free and fair.

After his re-election, Governor Ganduje moved against Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II, by signing into law the Kano Emirate Council Law 2019 which saw to the creation of four new emirates, a move that reduced Emir Sanusi II’s traditional domain.

By the 2019 law, the Kano emir would only preside over 10 local government areas out of the 44 in the state, when previously the emirate’s domain was all the 44 Kano State LGAs.

Not done with Sanusi, in March 2020, the state legislature launched a new investigation on Sanusi for violation of traditional practices while on March 9, 2020, Ganduje deposed and exiled Emir Sanusi, on the basis of alleged “insubordination and disrespect to lawful instructions from the office of the Governor”.

Sanusi who was banished to Awe, an agrarian community in Nasarawa State on the orders of Ganduje, was later flown to Lagos after legal battle and quartered by one of his friends, the late Herbert Wigwe of Access Bank.

When he was about completing his tenure of office in 2023, Ganduje purportedly anointed Nasir Yusuf Gawuna as his successor but Gawuna lost the year’s gubernatorial poll to Governor Kabir Yusuf, the candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), made popular by former Kano Governor, Rabiu Kwankwanso. 

At the 2023 polls, NNPP swept nearly all the elective offices in the state including the vacant seats at the state House of Assembly but Ganduje became the National Chairman of the ruling APC.

Upon assumption of office, the Majority Leader and member representing the Dala Constituency, Lawan Hussaini Chediyar Yan Gurasa, sponsored a bill to the state House of Assembly which is now effectively controlled by the NNPP, seeking to repeal the Kano State Emirates Council Law, 2019 which Ganduje used to dethrone Emir Sanusi.

The state governor assented to the bill on May 23, 2024, same day it was passed by the lawmakers. The governor also began implementation of the law 24 hours thereafter by approving the reappointment of Muhammadu Sanusi II.

With the new development, Governor Yusuf gave the five former emirs 48 hours to vacate all official residences and hand over former emirate properties to the deputy governor.

The dethroned Emir, Ado-Bayero left the main Emir’s palace in Kofar Kudu in Kano on May 23, 2024 while Emir Sanusi occupied the palace the following day, May 24.

But the dethroned Emir who left the main palace returned to the Emir’s mini palace in Nasarawa, Kano on the strength of a controversial May 23, 2024 US-court order that restrained the state governor from implementing the new emirate law.

The development understandably created tension in the ancient city of Kano all through the weekend as the district heads, council members and other senior traditional title holders were in a dilemma over where to place their loyalty.

Judicial theatrics begin

On Monday, May 27, 2024, one Ibrahim Wangida, counsel to the Attorney-General of Kano State and the state House of Assembly approached the state high court with a request for an order directing Aminu Ado Bayero who refused to leave the mini palace to stop parading himself as the 15th Emir of Kano even as the judge ordered the state police command to evict him from the said mini palace located on the State Road in Kano.

The trial high court judge in the case, Justice Amina Adamu Aliyu not only granted the interim order but also restrained the four dethroned emirs of Bichi, Rano, Gaya and Karaye from parading themselves as emirs.

However, rather than evicting Bayero, the Nigeria Police and the Nigerian Army under the control of the APC-led government, beefed security around Ado-Bayero in the mini-palace.

Less than 24 hours after Justice Aliyu of the Kano State High Court granted the order, another Federal high court judge, Justice S. Amobeda on Tuesday, May 28, 2024 granted a counter order directing the Inspector-General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, and the Kano State Commissioner of Police, Hussain Gumel to evict the reinstated Sanusi from the Emir’s Palace in Kofar Kudu.

But as soon as the Federal high court gave its fresh order, the new emir and four kingmakers of Kano on same Tuesday, May 28, 2024, approached the state high court to stop the Kano State Commissioner of Police, the Inspector-General of Police, the director of DSS, the Chief of Defence Staff, and Aminu Ado Bayero from evicting the reinstated Sanusi from the Emir’s Palace in Kofar Kudu.

The same Justice Amina Aliyu of the Kano State High Court who heard the application granted the order restraining the police, the Department of State Services (DSS), and the Nigerian military from evicting  Sanusi from his palace.

The judge also restrained the respondents from “attempting to hijack” the symbols of authority meant for the Emir of Kano pending the determination of the suit.

Amid the conflicting rulings on Tuesday, Ado-Bayero who was appointed by Ganduje in 2020, now APC national chairman, shunned the order of the state high court since he appears to have the backing of the APC-led government at the centre.

Confusion trails conflicting court orders on reappointment of Emir Sanusi II

The rain of conflicting court orders from the United States, the Federal high court, Kano and the Kano State High Court threw the police into dilemma on which order to enforce while other security agencies selectively enforced the orders based on their preferences between the warring parties.

At a point, the Kano state police commissioner, Gumel had to forward all the local and foreign court orders to the Inspector-General of Police who himself forwarded the court documents to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN for interpretation and guidance while the media and Nigerians feasted on the shenanigans.

Chief Justice Ariwoola, NBA President react

Embarrassed Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of National Judicial Council (NJC), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola has since summoned Justice John Tsoho, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, and Dije Aboki, Chief Judge of Kano State to a meeting to hear from the horses’ mouth why the judges under them intervened in the crisis in the way they did.

In a statement by the NJC’s Director of Information, Mr Soji Oye, the meeting is preparatory to a wholescale investigation of the judges and their orders with a view to sanctioning whoever is found wanting amongst them.

The President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Y.K Mikyau, SAN also deprecated the conduct of the  affected high court judges even as he vowed that all the lawyers that played one role or the other in the case would be investigated while the erring ones would face the disciplinary panel of the NBA.

Conflicting court orders and the way forward

Conflicting court orders from courts of coordinate jurisdiction are rampant in Nigeria, particularly in cases involving politically exposed persons.

In December 2021, the NJC, then chaired by the CJN at the time, Justice Tanko Muhammad, barred three judges from elevation to higher court for issuing conflicting court orders in a political case but the conduct is still going on unabated.

According to a rights firebrand, Mr Kunle Adegoke, SAN, improprieties in the judiciary will continue to fester until judges that traffic in them are tried and jailed, in accordance with the laws of our land.

“I believe that the NJC is working. I believe that the NJC is really trying. But it is not enough. It can do more. There must be an internal mechanism that will be stronger than what we have now to check misconduct.

NJC should step in, impose far reaching sanctions if necessary—Prof Olawuyi, SAN

According to a respected silk, Prof. Damilola Olawuyi (SAN), the events in Kano State are unfortunately another sad reflection of the level of decay and rot in the nation’s judicial system.

The silk said in the first place, a first-year Law student will tell you categorically that the Federal High Court lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate on state traditional and chieftaincy matters, adding that though the case in question was cloaked in human rights garb, it is crystal clear that the subject matter and main gist of the case is the Kano State Emirates Council (Repeal) Law 2024, and not fundamental rights.

Besides, Olawuyi, SAN who was reacting to an allegation that one of the affected Federal High Court Judges gave his orders from outside of the country virtually said granted that the NJC Guidelines for Virtual Court Proceedings (2020) permitted virtual court hearing in certain circumstances, the judge, lawyers and parties involved in the matter must be within Nigeria’s borders to participate in the virtual court proceedings, otherwise, any order made virtually from outside of the country is invalid.

He said the way forward is for the NJC to urgently step in to review the role of the judiciary in the ongoing impasse in Kano and where judicial misconduct is found, there is a need to impose far-reaching sanctions on erring judges in order to set the record straight, correct ethical missteps and prevent future recurrence.

He said there is also a need to accelerate and invest more in judicial education, ethical training and mentoring programmes that will better equip judges to maintain the dignity of their office and to avoid both impropriety and the appearance of impropriety at all times.

Share your story or advertise with us: Whatsapp: +2348179614306 Email: barandbenchwatch@gmail.com


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here