In 1903, British forces captured the ancient city of Kano and were surprised to find its formidable walls.
Sir Frederick Lugard, High Commissioner of the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria, recorded 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.
The amazing structure was built during the reign of King Kijimazu 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.
It's sad to state that for nearly a thousand years the walls had remained standing against external attack and invasion of the city but are almost gone now due to human encroachment, collapse and natural factors.
According to a report by the Gidan Makama Museum, custodian of the walls and associated sites in Kano, people pulled down the walls to build their houses. For this and other practices against the walls, the museum officials claim about 25 to 30 percent of the city walls are today standing, and about 70 percent had been destroyed.
The walls and gates were previously under the protection of the Emir but in 1959, the Federal Government declared it a national monument. Now, it is the responsibility of government to safeguard, maintain, protect and preserve them. And they are failing.
Gates were created in specific areas of the walls, and each of them has a gate keeper known as Sarkin Kofar and houses are provided for them and their families inside the gates or around them till today.
Kofar Kansakali was the first city gate to be built between 1095 to 1135. Today, there are 15 city gates in Kano: Kofar Nasarawa, Sabuwar Kofa, Kofar Dan Agundi, Kofar Naisa, Kofar Gadankaya, Kofar Fomfa, Kofar Dukawiya, Kofar Kabuga, Kofar Kansakali, Kofar Waika, Kofar Ruwa, Kofar Dawanau, Kofar Wambai, Kofar Mazuga and Kofar Mata. Sabuwar Kofa was built after the British invasion of Kano in 1903.
The other relatively new city gate is Kofar Fomfa that was built during the reign of King Abdullahi, the father of late Emir Ado Bayero.
Now, the gates are all that is left of this incredible masterpiece, the mud walls are either gone or crumbling, very soon there will be nothing left at all and history would be erased and forgotten.