By Ibrahim Shuaibu
KANO, Nigeria (Reuters) - Islamic police in northern Nigeria's main city of Kano used an earth haulage truck on Thursday to destroy around 240,000 bottles of beer seized from supply vehicles and minority Christian shop owners.
Alcohol is banned under sharia (Islamic law) in Kano and several other mostly Muslim northern states, although it is consumed in some areas especially the Sabon Gari district housing mostly Christian ethnic Igbo traders from the southeast.
"We thank God that our command has successfully destroyed about 244,151 bottles of beer of different sorts. We hope (this) will help restore the tarnished image of Kano," said Sheikh Aminu Daurawa, head of the Hisbah uniformed Islamic squad at the site where the truck crushed the bottles at the city's edge.
Africa's most populous nation and second biggest economy is roughly divided into a largely Muslim north and Christian south, but with sizeable minorities living in both regions.
It is home to more Muslims than any other country in sub-Saharan Africa but is also a major target market for big brewers like Heineken and Diageo. The country is now the now the world's second biggest consumer of Guinness.
A wave of Islamic fervour in Nigeria led several states to introduce sharia in 2000, including Kano, once a medieval Islamic caliphate prospering from trans-Saharan caravan routes connecting Africa's interior with its Mediterranean coast.
That has triggered tensions with Christian minorities that have never really been resolved.
"The sharia officials have crippled my business," alcohol shop owner Johnson Ikechukwu told Reuters. "I feel seriously cheated over the seizure and destruction of my beer."
Despite growing religious piety and the adoption of ever more zealous brands of Christianity and Islam, beer turnover in Nigeria is growing faster than its economy's 7 percent rate. The north is also increasing its consumption.
"We hereby send a warning to unrepentant offenders that Hisbah personnel will soon embark on an operation into every nook and cranny in this state to put an end to the sale and consumption of alcohol," Daurawa said.