1953 Kano Riot

In May 1953, a riot broke out in the ancient city of Kano, northern Nigeria. The riot began on 16t May and ended on the 19th of May 1953. This was as a result of the strained relationship between the Northerners who were opposed to Nigeria’s independence and the southerners made up of mainly the Yorubas and Igbos who supported the independence.

1953 kano riot

In March 1953, Chief Anthony Enahoro a prominent member of the Action Group (AG) moved this motion which says “That the House accepts as primary political objective the attainment of self-government for Nigeria in 1956”. However, the northerners were against this motion as they believed that the regions were not matured enough for independence. As a result, a counter motion was moved by the leader of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) and Sardauna of Sokoto, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello in which he replaced the 1956 date with “As soon as practicable”.

1953 kano riot
Sir Ahmadu Bello

This, of course, led to disagreements in the House of Representatives, as the NPC members were in majority and the proposed amendment was likely to be in their favor. The Southern representatives walked out of the meeting as a result of the adjournment of the meeting. At the close of the meeting, the northern leaders were “greeted” by hostile crowds in Lagos, insulted and called all sort of names. As a result of the failure of the self-government motion, a delegation of the Action Group and National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) led by Samuel Ladoke Akintola went on a tour to the north to campaign for self-government. This was the last straw that broke the camel’s back, as the tour that was organized to explain the importance of self-government to the northerners which was misconstrued by the latter as an invasion of their territory. This was the immediate cause of the riot.

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The riot started at the Colonial Hotel on May 16, 1953, which was the supposed meeting point of the Action Group led by Samuel Ladoke Akintola.

1953 kano riot
Ladoke Akintola

Prior to the meeting, the Kano Native Authority withdrew its permission to grant the meeting. A mob gathered outside of the hotel and started stoning people close to the hotel. The situation became worse on the 17th May when mobs from Fagge, an area dominated by northerners  attempted to break into Sabon Gari with some success, though their original chants were against the Yorubas, the causalities in the Sabon Gari market were mostly the Igbos. Shops in the Sabon Gari market were looted and violent attacks took place; as a result the Native Authority Police and the army were called upon to prevent further degeneration and on Monday 18th May 1953, the colonial government declared a state of emergency in northern Nigeria and troops were deployed to Kano. The riot resulted in the death of about 46 people, mostly northerners and Igbos died during the clash, several properties burnt and looted over 200 people were injured before the calm was restored.

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The implications of the Kano riot were grave, as both northern and southern political leaders maintained uncompromising positions on the issue of independence and related political issues and consequently, the relationship between them deteriorated. Also the riot prompted the British government to organize conferences of Nigerian leaders in London (1953) and Lagos (1954) to discuss the political future of the country. The outcome of these conferences basically constituted the Lyttleton Constitution of 1954, which adopted federalism for the country.


  1. www.guardian.ng/politics/echoes-of-1953-kano-riot
  2. www.nigerianwiki.com/kano-riots-1953
  3. www.oldnaija.com/2015/06/19/the-kano-riot-of-1953
  4. www.nairalovers.com/kano-riot-of-1953-nairalovers