The Sultan of Sokoto and Spiritual Leader of Muslims in Nigeria, Muhammad Abubakar III, says Islam is not against family planning.
He, however, said the message of the advocates of child spacing must be modified in such a way that would be acceptable to the people.
Abubakar said this while delivering a speech at the 5th 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 say, ‘doesn’t Islam say be nice to your wives?’ Doesn’t Islam talk about a healthy population? So, why do you have to have 10 (children)? And the person may agree to have two.”
He said Islam was also not averse to technologies. He, therefore, called on the government to change its strategy.
The monarch added that he brought together the most influential clerics across all Islamic sects to sit down and agree on 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, Adeyeye Ogunwusi, urged Nigerians, especially the elite, to preach the message of child spacing to their domestic servants and low income earners who are 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, “The land mass of Nigeria is just a little bit bigger than Texas, and so you can imagine as of now we are 10th in the world, our population will then increase to third and yet the land size is not increasing and think that will explain 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 8 per cent from the current 4 per cent and hopefully in two to three years time, Nigeria gets 15 per cent in line with the Abuja Declaration.