Bill to reduce marriage expenses will curb divorce – Sokoto lawmaker
The member representing Yabo constituency in the Sokoto State House of Assembly, Abubakar Shehu Yabo, who is also the Chairman, House Committee on Religious Affairs, tells ANIMASAHUN SALMAN about the bill he sponsored to regulate marriage expenses in the state
What motivated you to sponsor a bill to regulate marriage expenses in Sokoto State?
The idea was from me and one of my colleagues, Faruk Mustapha Bale, from Gudu constituency. We decided to request the House to allow the amendment of the bill, because there is an existing bill enacted in 1992 and reviewed in 1996. Given the present situation and complaints from members of our communities, as you know we represent our people, we pushed for the amendment and members agreed with us. After consultation with the Sultanate council led by the Sultan of Sokoto (Sa’ad Abubakar), who welcomed the idea and requested the Chairman of the Religious Affairs Committee of the council, Prof Sambo Junaid, to support us. The House seriously considered the importance of the bill and gave it first and second reading, after which the bill was referred to the House committee on Religious Affairs, which coincidentally I chair. We invited several stakeholders including Ulamas, clerics, Islamic groups and associations to make input so as to come up with an acceptable law. After the stakeholders’ meeting, we sat down to prepare our report and present the bill to the House after which the House approved all the recommendations we put before it. It was later passed by the House and is awaiting the assent of the governor (Aminu Tambuwal).
What are the benefits of the law for the residents?
It will help a lot. Take for instance, if you want to marry a girl, for you to let her parents know that you want to marry their daughter, you will have to provide many things. Sometimes, you would see three to four vehicles loaded with things like drinks, kolanut and many other things. To be honest, it is worrisome that young men are complaining bitterly on this issue.
What difference will the new law make, if signed into law?
In the new law, when signed, the groom is expected to take along only two items, which are kolanut and two cartons of drinks. All those other expenses relating to marriage, naming ceremony, circumcision and many others have now been prohibited by this bill.
Are there other provisions in the bill you like to talk about?
In addition, those gatherings where males and females will be gathered for any kind of celebration are now prohibited under this law. The mingling between males and females in the state, especially in the name of ceremonies, is now outlawed in the bill.
Why did you really take interest in the bill because people would contend that there are other pressing issues that demand legislation?
As I said earlier, there are a lot of complaints from our people. I have given out about five daughters in marriage and I didn’t collect anything from the family apart from bride price. Our people are complaining bitterly over the amount they spend on marriages, naming ceremonies and so on. Since we represent the people, we must listen to their complaints. That was why we had to come up with this amendment.
There are religious and cultural attachments to marriages, will the bill not be in contrast to these?
It won’t. First and foremost, the law is for Muslims only, and it is known that as Muslims, our lives are guided by Islamic teachings. Anyone who is a true Muslim will not think otherwise of the bill, because we are doing this for the benefit of our people. You see, because of these kinds of extravagant expenses on marriage, a lot of our teeming youths cannot marry. Rather, people are getting pregnant out of wedlock.
Some members of the public have asked why you didn’t prioritise bills on critical areas that have a greater impact like education instead of a bill on marriage expenses?
This bill has more impact, because as I told you earlier, it’s not for personal interest. We represent the people, who elected us into office to protect their interest. They have complained bitterly on this issue, and we have listened to their complaints by amending the bill.
Is there any penalty for defaulters?
Of course, there are penalties. Whenever there is a law, there is also a penalty if you contravene such laws. If you violate any part of the law, when it’s passed, you are liable to be fined, starting from N50,000 or based on the decision of the trial judge. The judge may look at the gravity of the offence to decide. Also, there must be different fines for the poor and the rich. If you are a rich man, you can be fined up to N1m or N2m depending on the offence the person committed. The offender may also be liable for imprisonment, starting from a month. However, the court will decide.
The issue of divorce is a matter of concern, does the bill take care of it?
You see, this extravagant spending has caused a lot of problems in marriages. A lot of our men cannot meet up with the requirements of being a husband at home and this at times leads to problems with their wives. This is because most of them have spent so much on ceremonies, and they have problems after the marriage, which sometimes leads to divorce. As a result of all these, we tried to come up with this bill so that by the grace of God, all such cases will be dealt with and be reduced to the minimum.
Now that the bill has been passed, what next?
The next stage is that we are waiting for the governor to sign the bill so it can become a law. When that happens, all citizens and residents have to comply with it, as long as the person is a Muslim. Like I said, the bill is meant for only Muslims.
As a member of the state House of Assembly, how would you rate the performance of the executive in the last four years?
As a member of the parliament, which is an arm of government, I cannot speak about the achievements of the executive. I believe the civil servants in the state are in a better position to speak on the achievements of the state government. This is because they are the custodians of government’s activities. Therefore, they are in a better position to speak about that. We can only rate a government if we have a comprehensive report, then as lawmakers we can come up with our position on that.
You are the first politician from your constituency to win a second term to the House, what should your constituents expect in your second term?
Before the 2019 elections, my people voted for me as a local government chairman and they knew what I was able to achieve. So, in 2019, they requested me to come out and represent them in the state House of Assembly. I promised them that I would do whatever was within my capacity to protect their interest and attend to their complaints. I thank God that despite the economic meltdown and the issue of Covid-19, among other challenges, I tried my best to alleviate some of the sufferings of my people. It may however interest you that in my local government, there was never a time that a member from Yabo constituency came to this chamber more than once. I want to assure my people that I will continue to do my best in protecting their interest. (Punch)