Agence France-Presse

KANO, Nigeria, April 4 (AFP) - Nigeria's northern Kano state on Monday banned prostitution, the sale or consumption of alcohol and gambling in a move seen by analysts as a prelude to the adoption of Islamic Sharia law.

The decision to impose the ban on the state's mostly Muslim population followed a meeting between state deputy governor Abdulahi Umar Ganduje, leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria, community leaders and the Council of Youths, an official communique said.

The communique said that in view of the "alarming" spread of HIV/AIDS in the state, there was an urgent need for the state government to ban prostitution "as no religion or code of ethics supports this vice."

During the meeting, which lasted for about four hours, video film on the spread of HIV/AIDS in the state was shown to participants, followed by a lecture on the disease.

The ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol and drugs was a bid to curb the social problems they create, said the text, while the ban on gambling was a response to growing fraud.

During the meeting, some participants pleaded with the state government to defer the implementation of the ban order until tension generated by recent unrest in neighbouring Kaduna and some parts of southeastern Nigeria was diffused, a source close to the meeting said.

The period of deferment could also be used by government to embark on an extensive enlightenment campaign against these vices, the participants said, according to the source.

They also called for a phased implementation of the ban, but the deputy governor rejected the suggestion.

A law to back up the ban will soon be enacted, the communique said. Kano city, capital of the state of the same name, is Nigeria's second largest commercial centre after Lagos.

Last month, more than 1,000 people were killed in bloody clashes between Christians and Muslims in Kaduna and some parts of Christian-dominated southeastern states following protests against the Islamic law in Kaduna. In January the northwest Zamfara state became the first Nigerian state to implement Sharia in criminal matters.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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