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The structure of the pre-colonial political administration of the Hausa/Fulani in Nigeria

The Hausa/Fulani ethnic group can be found in the northern parts of Nigeria. The current geographical location includes, but is not limited to, Kaduna, Sokoto, Kano and Zaria, not forgetting Katsina. The pre-colonial political administration of the land of the Hausa/Fulani was a highly centralized one and is hierarchically structured. The system has been associated with Usman (Uthman) Danfodio, the great Jihadist of the 1800s.

Sarkin Muslim (Head of Hausa land)
At the very top of the administrative structure was Usman Dan Fodio himself. He put together all the fourteen previous Hausa states to form one great Hausa land. 

The Caliphates
The whole of Hausa land was divided into two Caliphates. The eastern Caliphate was headed by Abdallah, the son of Usman Danfodio. It was headquartered in Sokoto, and the western Caliphate was headed by Bello, the brother of Usman Danfodio. This one was headquartered in Gwandu. 

The Emirates and the Emirs
In order to make the administration of the huge land of the Hausa at the time easy, each of the two Caliphates were further divided into Emirates. The Emirates were headed by Emirs. The Emirs were appointed with the approval of the head of the Caliphate. The Emirs reported to the Caliph within which the Emirate was situated. The Emirs were responsible for the administration of the Emirate. They were expected to maintain law and order.

Other officials of the Emirate
The Emirs appointed other officials who were to assist in the administration of the Emirate. There was an Administrative Officer called “Waziri”. He could be described as the active head of the Emirate. There was also a chief of army staff who was in control of the state troops. He was referred to as “Madawaki”. There was the head of the police. He was called “Dogari”. They had the “Maaji” who was in charge of the Emirates’ treasury. There was also a minister of fisheries. He controlled fishing in the rivers. He was called “”Sarkin Ruwa” and the Chief Butcher. He was the head of all the butchers in the Emirate. The primary function of these officials was to assist in the administration of the Emirate.

Districts Heads
The Emirates were again divided into districts. The administrative head of each district was called “Hakimi”. He was appointed by the Emir. One of the functions of the Hakimi was to maintain peace and order in his district. He was also responsible for the collection of various forms of taxes, such as, the land and cattle taxes.

Village Heads
Each District was made up of various villages. The District Head was empowered to appoint Village Heads. The primary function of these Village Heads was to assist the Hakimi or District Administrator in the administration of the districts. 

System of taxation
The whole administrative set was based on an elaborate system of taxation in order to foot some of the monetary burdens of administering the state. The major form of occupation, which was animal rearing and farming, served as the bases for the taxation of the citizens of the state. Those who owned cattle were made to pay cattle tax (Jangali). Owners of land on the other hand were made to pay land taxes (Jizyah). In addition, the citizens paid alms commonly referred to as “Zakat”.

The Judiciary
The entire judicial administration of the Hausa/Fulani was based on the Sharia Law. The adjudication of disputes was carried out by judges in what was referred to as Alkali Courts. They handled disputes concerning marriages and divorce. They also took care of theft cases and the payment of debts. They tried murder cases and exacted punishment based of the Sharia law. The Emir also presided over cases in the Emir’s Court. The cases included those not covered by the Alkali Courts.

1. Outline the main structures and functions of the precolonial Hausa/Fulani territories.

2. Describe how three main functions of government were carried out under the Hausa/Fulani emirates.

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