An Islamic court in northern Nigeria has ordered police to arrest and investigate 10 local celebrities for “immoral conduct” on social media that could influence youth, a judicial official told AFP Thursday.
The court issued the order on Tuesday last week after lawyers filed a lawsuit, calling for their prosecution for singing and dancing to “immoral” songs and sharing them online, Baba-Jibo Ibrahim, a judicial spokesman said.
The accused celebrities, four men and six women, include a popular hip-hop singer, a famous film actress and eight TikTok influencers with huge followings.
The order highlights strict measures often employed by authorities in Nigeria’s Muslim-majority north to regulate social media content and force users to conform to tradition and religious norms.
Sharia law operates alongside criminal and civil law in Nigeria’s 12 Muslim-majority northern states.
“The Upper Sharia court gave an order to the police commissioner to arrest the 10 suspects and carry out an investigation on the roles they played in displaying immoral conduct,” Ibrahim said.
Hip-hop singer Ado Gwanja is accused of releasing a song titled “A Sosa”, meaning “Scratch your body” in Hausa language to which the other celebrities danced in videos online.
The song and the videos generated furore in Kano, the country’s second-largest city, prompting condemnation from hardline clerics.
But none of the accused has been arrested or reported to the police, nine days after the court order, Ibrahim said.
“We will wait for the completion of the investigation by the police for the next line of action to be taken by the court,” he said.
None of the celebrities has so far reacted publicly and Gwanja and other high-profile figures did not immediately respond to attempts to contact them.
On Tuesday, Nigeria’s broadcasting regulator NBC banned television and radio stations from airing another of Gwanja song for containing obscenities and “portrayal of drunkenness as an acceptable way of life”.
Kano is home to a burgeoning film industry dubbed Kannywood, which produces more than 200 film each month in local Hausa language spoken in the region and across West Africa.
It also houses hundreds of musical studios which churn out songs by local artists like Gwanja which dwell on love, marriage and money.
Kannywood has already been under close watch by Muslim clerics and officials who believed it promoted un-Islamic foreign values, prompting authorities to create a censorship board.
The increasing use of social media by Kannywood for skits and songs prompted the board to extend its authority to social media.
“Social media has a wider reach and potential to circulate content to a large audience,” Ismail Na-Abba, head of Kano’s film censorship board told AFP.
“For this, we will not allow anyone to hide under the ubiquity of social media to spread immoral content.”