27 January 2009

Nigeria: Salute to Divorcees And Widows


Today we are declaring our total support and solidarity with the thousands of divorcees and widows of Kano State who expressed their intention to hold street protest in Kano city at the end of this month over the alarming rate of divorce and refusal of the men to marry them. This is a very serious social problem that must be addressed in order to save our culture, religion and stop other unpleasant consequences.

The announcement for this historical street protest was made by Hajiya Altine Abdullahi, the Executive Director, National Association of Divorcees, Widows and the Orphans of Nigeria. She told a press conference that the objective of this protest is primarily to draw the attention of the public, especially the state government, the Sharia Commission and the religious leaders of the alarming divorce rate in the state as well as the serious "social problem that has the capacity to impact negatively on the social fabric of any society that has chosen to neglect it". Of equal concern is the neglect of the state House of Assembly to redeem a three year old promise to initiate laws against the menace.

To this end, "A One Million Divorcees March" is being organized to sensitize society to wake up to its responsibilities. I share the sentiments and concerns of my brethren and declare my total support to this noble crusade. The social problems of Kano State were noticed way back in 1988 by the then Group Captain Mohammed Ndatsu Umaru administration. At that time, the government set up 4 committees on Women (chaired by Sheikh Ibrahim Kabo), Almajirai (headed by Sheikh Isa Waziri), Zakkah Committee and the Mobilization (headed by Late Alhaji Adamu Salihu). At that time all the committees toured all the local government areas, held public hearings and collated peoples' views and prepared their reports. The government collected these reports and came out with a white paper in which appropriate laws and policies were recommended especially for women and Almajirai (Destitutes and Beggars). Thank God at least three of the committee chairmen are still alive and their secretaries. I remember Alhaji Nuuman Barau Danbatta was the Secretary to the Women Committee.

It is therefore very disappointing that the House of Assembly to have treated the issues of women with levity. My advice to the Divorcees Association is to visit the chairman of the Women Committee and his Secretary to collect a copy of their report and enjoined them to join their crusade. Similarly, they should forward the report to Governor Ibrahim Shekarau to prepare an appropriate Bill and send to the House of Assembly. In the interim, the Association should continue with its enlightenment and mobilization efforts by enlisting the support of the Islamic Leaders, Sharia Commission, A Daidaita Sahu, the media, traditional rulers and other stake holders. But before doing all that, the Association should have its facts and figures of the number of widows, divorcees and orphans in the state. If they do not have the statistics, they should commission researches immediately. They should also continue with their advocacy activities so as to sensitize society on the magnititude of the problem.

The government too should come up with a social policy as was attempted in 1988 by the government of Group Captain Mohammed Umaru. Though the Shekarau administration has revitalized the Zakkah Commission and set up the Sharia Commission, it has to do something urgent on Almajirai/Destitutes and Women. These issues should also be promoted to the national level by lobbying the National Assembly to make appropriate laws. We note with satisfaction the report of the Mobilization Commission under the late Alhaji Adamu Salihu was adopted and transformed into the social Organisation (MAMSER) by the Federal Government. As for the issue of Almajirai/Destitutes, we also note the progress made by the Kano state government in the few years in addressing the problems. Nevertheless, the laws made must be vigorously enforced. Similarly, all the northern states governments should join hands together in curtailing this social menace.

But the problems of divorces with impunity must be tackled head-on. Divorce must be made unattractive with strict laws and enforcement. As is happening in Libya and some countries, any woman divorced with children should automatically take over the house and the husband should vacate it for them. Similarly, any man who divorces his wife should be made to pay her alimony that would take care of her for some time with her children, if any. The sanctity of marriage as a religious and social institution must be protected. Islam adequately protects the rights of women including the married, divorced and widow. The Kano State Sharia Commission and Sheikh Ibrahim Kabo should be at the vanguard of this social rearmament. The government must protect the rights of the divorcees and widows and provide them with security and their children. They should be trained in some trade and empowered to sustain their livelihood with dignity. The same treatment should also go for the widows and their children in order to save them from jumping into anti-social behaviours and the threat of HIV/Aids.

Finally, we urge all married men to take their wives seriously and avert the alarming divorce rate in the state. The state government should immediately set up a committee to investigate the causes of high divorce in the state. As a sign of good will, I appeal to Governor Shekarau to implore his Deputy Governor, all his male commissioners, Members of the State House of Assembly, male permanent secretaries and directors to take a wife each out of the divorcees. We also appeal to all those with one wife to take an additional wife from the divorcees and widows and we pray God will provide them with the means of sustenance. Let me end this discourse by congratulating Alhaji Ibrahim Ado-Kurawa, Government House Director General, Research and Documentation, for his recent bold marriage to Hajiya Binta Saiyadi, the Queen of the state ANPP publicity machine. It is a worthy example that should bring succour and reduce the number of divorcees in Kano State.

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