Kano riots 1953

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The Kano Riots of 1953 followed a tense period created by a stream of political events relating to a bill for self government.

Underlying causes and the riots

In 1953, a member of the Action Group, Anthony Enahoro introduced a private bill asking for the swift grant of self government by 1956. The motion was supported by Action Group members and majority of the members of the N.C.N.C., the dominant party in the East. However, Northern Nigerian politicians felt the region was not yet ready for self government. In a subsequent Council of ministers meeting, the Northern ministers decided not to join in discussions concerning the Enahoro bill at the House of Representatives. This situation was displeasing to the Action Group going by the Council of Ministers code of collective responsibility which stipulates a unified front in the debates, this led to the resignation of Action Group ministers in the colonial government. The Northern leaders then tried to salvage the situation by presenting a bill for self government at a practicable time. However, while the N.I.P and N.P.C. ministers abstained from the Enahoro bill, the Action Group and NCNC ministers this time walked out of the new bill scheduling self government at a practicable time. The political impasse resulted in taunts towards the Northern legislators by many southerners leading the legislators and many Northern leaders to feel disenchanted with Southern politics. The situation came to a precipitous state when the Action Group leader, Ikenne born politician, Obafemi Awolowo who had called some Northern leaders despots decided to visit kano, mostly the Southern Quarters, Sabon Gari, a tour some described as tactless. The situation in Sabon Gari became tense and the Kano Native Authority at the last minute withdrew a permit given to the Action Group. However, this did not deter thousands from showing up. Also, the political crisis over the independence bill and the anti-Southern feeling it generated among many Northern politicians had resulted in increased resentment of Southerners by Northerners this was mixed with a deep suspicion by some conservative Koranic scholars of non Muslim Southerners in Sabon Gari.

The riots started when protesting kano residents came out to voice there displeasure at the Action Group meeting and from May 16-19, violence broke out in the city of Kano. The colonial government by May 18, declared a state of emergency in Northern Nigeria and troops were deployed to the city. However, the violence was only within kano. Between 36-52 people were killed and over 200 people were injured in the fracas.


  • Michael Crowder. The Story of Nigeria. p 253-254