Hisba became the name used to refer to gangs of Islamic fundamentalist vigilantes in Northern Nigeria who oversaw the imposition of Sharia, in the region. After years of violence between different Islamic religious groups, the Nigerian central government allowed the Northern part of the country to adopt strict Islamic law. In Sharia states, the Hisba gangs were authorized to reprimand, arrest, and even beat Nigerians caught violating the law. Punishable offenses include drinking or selling alcohol, having premarital sex, soliciting a prostitute, speaking unfavorably about Islam and Sharia, and speaking positively about more progressive alternatives.
Hisba vigilantes also ensured that the buses in Northern Nigeria were segregated by gender. Although the methods of the Hisba were often violent and arbitrary, the military and police forces turned a blind eye towards their abuses. Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo was afraid to interfere in either the Sharia controversy, or Hisba enforcement, because of the potential for even more violent consequences.