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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid