Kano losing ancient city wall to encroachment

Part of Kano city wall being torn down

The constant disappearance and distortion of historical monuments has become a source of worry to many. In the ancient city of Kano, some concerned citizens have become greatly worried over the destruction of the Kano City wall.

In an era where the Great Wall of China and the pyramids of Egypt still stand as sources of pride to their respective peoples, the ancient historic wall of Kano State is gradually disappearing due to encroachment by some individuals.


For a typical Kano citizen, there is an old song that dares every boy and girl to memorise the names of the ancient city wall gates. This song has become like a societal anthem that seeks to preserve the historic works of the people of Kano State.

It is on record that when the colonial masters conquered Kano in the early 20th Century, the city walls, Kano Central Mosque, Kurmi Market and Kofar Mata Dye pit were identified as important historical sites and structures in view of their years of construction.

Sir Frederick Lugard, the then High Commissioner of the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria, once wrote that “the extent and formidable nature of the fortifications surpassed the best-informed anticipations of our officers. Needless to say, I have never seen or even imagined anything like it in Africa.”

According to his description, the impressive work built in the 11th century was 11 or 12 miles in length, 40 feet thick at the base and varying from 30 to 50 feet in height. A broad rampart walk ran behind the 4-foot thick loop-holed crest of the wall which was pierced by 13 gates, further strengthened by a deep ditch.

Till date, the remains of the city wall of Kano is still a beautiful sight to behold and also serves as a symbol of the people of Kano’s intelligence and creativity as well as their social ideologies because initially gates were created in specific areas of the walls, and each had a gate keeper known as Sarkin Kofa.

Malam Bashir Idris is a historian with the Kano State Teacher’s Service Board. He revealed that the Kano City wall was built during the reign of Sarki Gijimasu from 1095 to 1135 AD.

“They were built to prevent enemies and the armies of empires that were in search of vassal states to expand and increase their royalties, from penetrating Kano.” He added that presently it is the responsibility of government to safeguard, maintain, protect and preserve them as against the initial arrangement which placed the walls under the care of the Emir.

He added that places like Agadez in Niger Republic and Timbuktu in Mali have tried in preserving their ancient monuments, “The Kano city wall is indeed a heritage worthy of protecting; such monuments are what gives a nation an identity and they are usually what defines who we really are,” he said.

However, it is sad that this historical monument which had remained standing against external attack and invasion of the city for nearly a thousand years is virtually gone due to human encroachment, negligence that resulted in its collapse and other natural factors.

Gradually, the city walls are being replaced by buildings, petrol stations and other architectural structures. This act signifies the demise of a heritage declared as a national monument in 1959 by the Federal Government.

The level of encroachment on the city wall has drawn the attention of a lot of well-meaning individuals from within and outside the state who have called on the authorities concerned to wade in and address the issue, to preserve the history of the state.

Similarly, a report by the Gidan Makama Museum, custodian of the walls and associated sites in Kano, revealed that people pulled down the walls to build their houses, and that over 70 percent of the wall had been destroyed.

Alhaji Ubale Yusuf is a Kano businessman who’s travelled to various countries in the course of his business. According to him, other countries across the globe have made serious attempts in preserving many of their historical monuments, adding that such efforts is what has been giving such countries an identity and also a source of income.

“Go to China and see how much money they are making from the Great Wall of China, a certificate is issued to anyone that walks on that wall and you know one has to pay for it. It is the same in every nation where monuments are well preserved. That is why it is very vital for our country to preserve ours as well,” he said.



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