Is Divorce Exceedingly Uncommon In Nigeria?

Those who were in court the day the Presiding Judge, Muhammad Adamu of a Kubwa Grade 1 Area Court, Abuja, was to deliver judgment in the suit filed by 51-year- Abubakar Aliyu against his 17-year-old wife Khadija Akarami, waited patiently for the court’s verdict.

Aliyu had gone to court, to seek the court’s intervention to compel his wife to come back to her matrimonial home.

Delivering judgment,  Adamu held that Akarami, in her testimony admitted to introducing her 51- year- old husband, Abubakar Aliyu to her parents as “her love interest’’ before they eventually got married.

Adamu said his judgment was based on the petition brought before him by Aliyu, adding that any party that is not satisfied can file fresh processes in court.

Earlier, Akarami’s father, Mohammed Musa told the court that his daughter stayed in her matrimonial home for three weeks before leaving.

” The day she ran away, Aliyu called me over the phone to inform me and I confirmed that she travelled to meet her siblings in Kaduna.

” All efforts made to arrange a meeting with Aliyu for us to settle failed, until I saw the court summons, ” Musa said.

He added that his daughter was not forced into the marriage because she introduced Aliyu to him herself.

Aliyu, however said he wanted his wife back home, but if she still refuses, he would demand to be paid for all he spent for the wedding.

Akarami in response said Aliyu had sexual intercourse with her four times during her three weeks in matrimony, adding that he should also pay her back for that.

” I am no longer interested in the marriage,” she said.

The judgment of the court, elicited reactions, even as statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) suggest that divorce is exceedingly uncommon in Nigeria.

According to NBS, just 0.2 per cent of men and 0.3 per cent of women have legally untied the nuptial knots.

Also, under one per cent of couples admit to be separated, adding that such exclude the vast majority of Nigerians, whose traditional marriage ceremonies were not governed by Matrimonial Causes Act.

A legal practitioner, Damilola Atibioke, who commented on Akarami’s case, highlighted grounds of divorce.

” Akarami should institute a cross action that she is no longer interested in the marriage and running away is a sufficient ground for a court to infer that probably the marriage has broken down.

” The court is not a Father Christmas, you cannot get what you do not ask of the court, for Akarami’s husband, he was the one that approached the court and the relief he sought  was granted, ” Atibioke said.

He said that divorce would be granted when a marriage has broken down irretrievably due to desertion or persistent refusal to consummate.

Another legal practitioner, David Okokon, said procedurally, the Matrimonial Causes Act which are the laws regulating divorce in our society specifies that the court can only give you what you request of the court, except it is not within the jurisdiction of the court.

“Marriage is mutual and cannot be forced on anyone, but the procedure must be followed.

“For divorce to be valid, there must be evidence of valid marriage, incompatibility based on character, bullying, battery, irreconcilable differences, adultery with proof, bigamy and infertility.’’

Another legal practitioner, David Madukar, said some people get into marriage under the influence of infatuation, lust or because of the need to get married.

” No human is perfect, every human has their lapses and accepting same can be a challenge, but love endures all things,” he said.

On her part, Mrs Adaugo Eze, a hair stylist, said if a wife earns more money than her husband, it could result to low self- esteem for the man and may lead to divorce.

” Couples should have a mindset of making their marriage work against all odds before getting into it because God hates divorce, ” Eze said.

She added that the African culture leaves the entire burden of making marriages work on the wife, but husbands should also do everything to guard, preserve and sustain their homes,’’ she said.

Narrating his experience, Mr Dauda Bello said infidelity, disrespect for each other and lack of submissiveness result to divorce.

“I am a divorcee and not proud to say so, but after years of marriage, infidelity on the path of a partner cannot be accepted and forgiven repeatedly because trust is lost, ” he said.

A businesswoman, Mrs Ijeoma Linus, said self-centredness and intolerance are major factors that destroy marriages.

” Couples should have an open mind, while getting married, bearing in mind that it’s a life time commitment except if violence is involved, ” she said.

An engineer, John Chukwuma, said divorce can be avoided when both partners recognise their faults, shortcomings and are willing to forgive each other.

” In the olden days, our parents, especially our mothers were more tolerant and enduring, couples should do the same, ” he said.

Mrs Rita Joseph said divorce is an easy option for couples who don’t fear God.

Joseph added that couples who had numerous sexual partners before marriage, tend to compare their spouses with their ex-lovers and have high expectations from them sexually and character wise.

Pastor Felix Ajide, who spoke on the issue, said Matthew 5:31-32, explains the situation divorce will be allowed.

He said the only ground for divorce in Christianity is found in the said chapter, which is unfaithfulness, and when a person is divorced he or she cannot remarry.

“Due to situation some people find themselves, they try to bend the rules and rewrite the Bible to suit them, but divorce is not in God’s programme.

” The reason why the rate of divorce is alarming in the 21st century is because Christians sideline the Bible and do things for their own convenience, thereby bringing the world into the church.

” You cannot marry the world with the Bible. When you want to do things the way it is done in the world, then you are against God,’’ Ajide said.

” The scripture is the manual through which we were created, so we need to go back to it, the husband must go back to the traditional role of loving his wife and the wife must be submissive to him, ” he said.

Mallam Musa Da’ud, National Coordinator, Islamic Family Foundation, said that the Koran, Sunnah of Prophet Mohammed and the Hadith guide divorce.

“The Hadith says of all things permitted for a Muslim to do, it is divorce that is reluctantly granted by Allah. For every case of divorce, the throne of Allah held by more than 70, 000 angels will shake because of the consequences of divorce.

“So it is not something to be rushed into or to be proud about because of its consequences.

“When there is crisis, Islam tilts towards reconciliation and mediation rather than going to court.

“It is when communication has finally broken down and life is being threatened then divorce is allowed, ” Da’ud said.

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