Eniola Akinkuotu, Abuja
The Sultan of Sokoto and Spiritual Leader of Muslims in Nigeria, Muhammad Abubakar III, has said that Islam is not against the use of contraceptives or child spacing.
He, however, said the message of the advocates of child spacing must be modified in such a way that it would be acceptable to the people.
Abubakar said this while delivering a speech at the fifth Annual Family Planning Consultative Stakeholders Meeting in Abuja on Monday.
The theme of the event was ‘Investing in Family Planning: Key to Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in Nigeria.’
Abubakar, who was represented by the Emir of Shonga, Dr. Haliru Yahaya, said overpopulation in northern Nigeria could be curbed the same way polio was eradicated.
He said, “I think everything has to come down to communication. For example, when the government set up a new policy, there was an issue on population control: five children per family. That set the whole thing backwards. People resisted but the whole essence of it was good.
“If you use the premise of economy, they will tell you that only God gives wealth. But they will succumb to superior argument when you ask if Islam says men should be nice to their wives?’ Does Islam not talk about a healthy population? So why do you have to have up to 10 children when your spouse can only manage two?”
He said Islam was also not averse to technology. He, therefore, called on the government to change its strategy.
The monarch added that he had brought together the most influential clerics across all Islamic sects to discuss the issue of family planning which eventually led to the publication of a book titled, ‘Islamic Perspectives in Reproductive Health and Child Birth Spacing in Nigeria’.
The Sultan added, “Are the clerics important? Yes. This is because they are very close to the grassroots and that was how the rise in polio was reversed. This is the same way we can operate on this (family planning).”
The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, urged Nigerians, especially the elite, to preach the message of child spacing to their domestic servants and low- income earners known to have many children.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, said if the country failed to do anything about the growing population now, by 2050 Nigeria would be the third largest country in the world, a situation the country could not afford.
He said, “Our population is increasing yet the land mass. We can’t even begin to imagine the type of challenges we are facing. We must do something.”
This notwithstanding, he said the government had a clear statement that the country must adopt a strategic approach in population management.
The country he also said “must increase contraceptive prevalence and we must increase end users and improve service provider capacity and make sure that we ensure we are not out of stock.
“Not only that, we must really offer people a variety of options. One of the reasons why people really don’t embrace family planning is that there are not really many options available and the health provider must be less judgmental. We must educate our health providers.”
On the 2018 budget, he asked that the health budget be increased to eight per cent from the current four per cent and hopefully in two to three years’ time, Nigeria gets 15 per cent in line with the Abuja Declaration.
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