Row Over Nigerian President’s Birth Control Plan

Goodluck Jonathan
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan

Religious leaders, human rights activists and opposition politicians yesterday faulted Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s plan to introduce a birth control law, saying it was an admission of failure of his government.

Jonathan on Tuesday said while inaugurating a new board of the National Population Commission that the nation needed a law to control population growth, which he said was hampering economic planning.

Religious leaders who spoke said their religions reject legislating on birth control.

“Our religion doesn’t sanction implementation of a law on the number of children that one should produce,” Reverend Chris Dariya, the secretary of ECWA churches in Zaria, said.

“It is economic reason that makes people to limit the number of their children. But if one can afford producing four, five or more children, then there shouldn’t be any barrier,” he added.

Chief Imam of the Tudun Jukun Juma’at mosque in Zaria, Sheikh Aliyu Abdullahi Telex, said failure of government to effectively utilise human and natural resources, rather than population growth, is the country’s problem.

“China has the largest population in the world yet it is now one of the fastest developing countries,” he said yesterday. “Ethiopia is one of the countries with the smallest populations but it is among the poorest.”

“Religiously, Islam cannot sanction such a law because it amounts to taking the powers of Allah into one’s hand…. Islam does not put a limitation on the number of children one should produce,” Sheikh Aliyu added.

Plateau State chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev Phillip Dafes Mwelbish, said by initiating a birth control bill, President Jonathan will be acting against the Biblical injunction that says, ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.’

“The Bible says go into the world and replenish it,” Mwelbish added. “It isn’t God’s wish to restrain childbirth.”

Leader of the Jama’atu Nasril Islam in Jos North, Dr Abdulrahaman Lawal, said, “Child control in Islam is forbidden; Islam only permits child-spacing and birth management.”

He said Islam permits birth management only when giving birth will be detrimental to the life of the mother or in the case of a woman who has several caesarean sections and is advised by a medical doctor to stop having children because it could be life threatening.

A Kano-based Islamic scholar, Sheikh Aminudeen Abubakar, said “To bring about the issue of birth control while we are in a democracy would not be good for the government. Every Nigerian has the right to live his life the way he likes so long as he will not infringe on other peoples’ rights.”

“If government will bring a law that is asking us to space our children we can do that because spacing to allow for wellbeing of the child is acceptable in Islam but to control the children one would have, is an infringement on our rights as Muslim,” he added.

For his part, CAN chairman in Kano, Bishop Ransome Bello, said there was no biblical law that talks about controlling the number of children a Christian should have.

But he added: “If for economic reason or any reason a person decides to limit the number of children he would be able to cater for, there will not be problem in that.”

Reps won’t approve bill

Members of Nigeria’s House of Representatives yesterday said they would not approve any birth control bill that might be presented to them by President Jonathan.

Rep. Muktari Kura (PDP, Kano) said, “We are not going to pass it because it is against our culture and religion.”

For her part, Rep. Nnenna Elendu Ukeje (PDP, Abia) said, “I don’t think it is proper to bring it now. The Catholic church will resist it because Catholicism plays great role where these issues are concerned. We must be careful about this.”

Rep. Mu’azu Lawal (ANPP, Zamfara) said, “Population is not a problem or the cause of our set back because China with its 1.3 billion population is the second largest economy today and they are developing. The US is 300 million yet population is not an issue to them.”

Rep. Bilyaminu Yusuf Shinkafi (PDP, Kebbi) berated the President for concentrating on “trivial issues” when there are serious issues that deserve to be given attention. “May be people close to the President are misleading him,” he added.

But Rep. Abike Dabiri-Erewa (ACN, Lagos) declined to comment on the matter until she sees the bill.