News / Africa

Nigerian President's Call for Birth Control Sparks Debate

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan (file)Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan (file)
x
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan (file)
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan (file)
Anne Look
DAKAR, Senegal -- Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has sparked intense debate by saying Nigerian families should have only the children they can afford.  In remarks to the newly created National Population Commission Wednesday, the president said it may be time for “birth control legislation.”

Nigeria is Africa's most populous country with about 162 million people. The United Nations says the population could reach 400 million by 2050.  That's a growth rate of 2.5 percent annually that economists say is unsustainably high for such a densely populated country plagued by poor infrastructure, poverty and unemployment.

The World Bank says a Nigerian woman has, on average, five or six children.  It is not unusual for couples to have as many as 10.

President Goodluck Jonathan has called on Nigerians "to only have the number of children they can manage."  Managing population growth, the president said, is essential to economic planning and the government could adopt policies aimed at curbing rapid population growth and encouraging birth control use.

The president, himself a Christian, said the topic of population control is "sensitive" in Nigeria, where people, he said, are "extremely religious" and children are seen as "God's gift to man."

His comments have sparked religious debate.

Muslim leaders say Islam only allows family planning methods to space a woman's pregnancies for health reasons, but not to control the number of children she has.  

Sheikh Ibrahim Umar Ibrahim Kasuwar, a senior member of the Supreme Council of Sharia in Nigeria, says he was unhappy to hear of the president's speech.  He says nowhere in the Bible or the Quran does it say that people can be discouraged from having children.  He says this is not the first time Nigerian authorities have talked about such measures but what they forget is that the people they serve are loyal first to God.

He says he has three wives and 16 children and plans to have and care for as many more as God gives him.

A local Christian leader in Kaduna state, Reverend Esra'a Kafaiza, said the Bible encourages procreation, but adds that parents have a responsibility as well.  

"It is not right to give birth to more children that you can able to control - how are you going to educate them and guide them and lead them to the way of God," asked Kafaiza. "

Reverend Kafaiza said population growth is not the problem in Nigeria - it's leaders are.

"The population of Nigeria cannot stop the progress of Nigeria," said Kafaiza. "If our leaders can stand on their obligations and apply the wisdom of God and the fear of God, we can make it and succeed also in Nigeria."  

President Jonathan pointed to the example of China, which has a one-child policy and whose population growth has slowed sharply in recent years.

Politicians and community leaders said the government would be overstepping its bounds by attempting to regulate family size.

Sociologist at the University of Abuja Umar Kari says tradition and religious values make birth control a "hard sell" in Nigeria.

He says attempts to link a reduced birth rate with poverty reduction are met with disbelief.  

"The ordinary people are not impressed," said Kari. "In their own opinion, Nigeria's major problem is not overpopulation or high rate of population increase.  Rather it is the inability of the Nigerian state to properly harness the resources - mineral, natural and human resources - of the country for the benefit of the people."  

Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer.  However, corruption and mismanagement mean that little of that wealth trickles down to the average person.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid