Rising divorce cases: Are couples throwing caution to the wind?



It is fast becoming fashionable for couples to rush to the court for divorce at the slightest excuse, even for problems that would previously have been settled amicably within family circles. PAUL OKAH examines the rising cases of broken marriages and divorces.

Christian marriages are hinged on the Bible admonitions in Mark 10:9 and Matthew 19:6, which states, “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” However, in recent times there appears to be an alarming increase in the number of couples, especially those who were wedded in the church, that rush to the law courts seeking dissolution of marriages they invested years of courtship and sacrificed in many other ways to build, at the slightest misunderstanding. The situation is not peculiar to Christians but also people of other faith and creed, in different parts of the country and cutting across ethnicity and religion.

Sex  as factor

On Thursday, September 5, 2019, a housewife and mother of eight Mrs Halimatu Salami lost her 40-year-old marriage over allegations of starving her husband of sex.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the plaintiff Mr Ganiyu Salamian, who is an Islamic cleric, was granted his request for dissolution of the marriage after filing for divorce at an Igando Customary Court in Lagos on the grounds that his wife had denied him his matrimonial right by failing in her conjugal duties.

According to the 59-year-old man, his marriage to Halimatu had been turbulent and fraught with fights and quarrels, even as he explained that his marriage did not allow him have peace of mind, alleging that his wife had at a time threatened to kill him.

The husband further alleged that his wife turned their children against him, alleging that she once ordered their first born to beat him up.

The plaintiff also alleged that his wife gave out their daughters in marriage without his knowledge and consent, saying that he had never met any of his sons-in-law.

He said that his wife was after the property he inherited from his late father and pleaded with the court to terminate the marriage so that he could have peace of mind and live long to enjoy the rest of his life.

He said: “My wife, who sleeps, eats my food and drinks my water, has been starving me of sex for 16 years now. She will not even allow me to neither touch her nor make love to her. Another cleric who lives with me, told me that my wife was after my life; that she gave him charms to put in my food.

“There was a day she wanted to stab me with a broken bottle but for the quick intervention of my friend who entered at that time and collected the bottle from her.

“My son beat me up mercilessly and tore my clothes to pieces with my wife’s consent. My father’s property belongs to me alone. My wife and children cannot inherit my father’s property but can only inherit my own property.

“My wife is fighting to take over my father’s property from me, claiming it belongs to her and the children. I later bought a land in her name so that she and the children can have that as their inheritance but she went to the land owners begging them to sell the land and give her the money.”

Surprisingly, the respondent a 52-year-old trader, who consented to the dissolution of their marriage, admitted denying her husband sex, however, she claimed that her husband and their first son had a misunderstanding which made son beat his father. Nevertheless, she denied ordering her son to beat his father.

“I was ill at a time and when I recovered from my illness, my husband refused to sleep with me, claiming I am a mad woman. He went and married another woman without my knowledge and when he later wanted to sleep with me, I refused,’’ she said.

In his judgment, the court president Mr Adeniyi Koledoye said it appeared that the estranged husband and wife were tired of the marriage, since efforts to reconcile both parties had failed.

The court ordered Ganiyu to pay a severance fee of N250,000 to the respondent for her to move on with her life as well as N150,000 for her to secure another accommodation.

He said: “Since both parties consented to the dissolution of their marriage, this court has no choice than to dissolve the marriage. The court hereby pronounces the marriage between Mr Ganiyu Salami and Mrs Halimatu Salami dissolved today. Both of you henceforth cease to be husband and wife.

“Each of you should go on his or her separate way unmolested. The court wishes both of you well in your future endeavour. The custody of the last born, who is 17 years old, is awarded to Halimatu, while Ganiyu must be paying N5,000 monthly for her feeding and must also be responsible for her education and general welfare.”

Pecuniary gains

Also, in May this year, a Gudu Grade I Area Court in Abuja ordered a housewife seeking divorce, one Amina Abdulsalam, to pay her estranged husband Sani Abdulraman, N20,000 as a condition for divorce.

The petitioner, who filed a case against Abdulrahman, told the court that she could no longer tolerate her husband of 13 years and wished to divorce him.

The Judge Ado Muktar said that as stipulated by Islamic law, when the divorce is at the insistence of the one of the party, which in this case is the wife, the court has a duty to grant them what they ask for.

“I hereby, pronounce the dissolution of the marriage between Sani and Amina as stipulated by the Islamic law. However, your husband cannot take you back until after a new marriage has taken place between you and someone else,” he said.

The petitioner told the court that her husband ran away with her children when she separated from him. She also informed the court that the respondent restricted her from seeing them when he took them back to school.

The respondent, on his part, told the court that he would not contest her request for divorce. He told the court he was not interested in the money but requested that the court should order her to return the household items she took from his home when she left. The couple who got married in 2016 have two children.

Adulterous lifestyle

Similarly, on Wednesday, September 4, 2019, Ibadan-based security personnel Sunday Abiodun begged an Ile-Tuntun Customary court in Ibadan to dissolve his 13-year-old union to his wife Funmito Abiodun over alleged adultery.

In his petition, Sunday who lives in Muslim-Odinjo area in Ibadan, said: “I cannot live with her anymore because her mother, is solidly behind her daughter’s immorality and arrogance. I have pleaded with Funmito to change her adulterous lifestyle, disobedience, and arrogance, but she has got worse.

”She told me that she was bored with me. She said I can go out and look for any woman I want. She starves me of sex. I caught her in a compromising position with another man,” he alleged.

However, Funmito prayed the court not to grant her husband’s prayer for divorce. “My husband is the adulterer. He has slept with four of my apprentices. Sunday is also abusive,” she said.

In his observation, Chief Henry Agbaje, the court’s President, noted that there was need for the couple to produce their relatives and three children in court.

He adjourned the case until September 17, for them to provide more evidence to substantiate their arguments. Not a few couples are going through similar experience.

Battery

On Tuesday, September 3, 2019, a Shari’a court in Kaduna dissolved an eight-year-old marriage between Rashida Yakubu and her husband Muhammad Yahaya over battery.

The Judge Malam Murtala Nasir dissolved the union after efforts made by the couple’s guardians to settle the matter failed.

“Since Yahaya has failed to present witnesses to disprove his wife’s claims the court shall deliver its ruling based on the couple’s guardians’ resolution,” the judge ruled.

Earlier, the complainant Rashida, who resides in Rigasa area of Kaduna state, prayed the court to grant her a divorce on grounds of battery and lack of care. “My husband often beats me. He sent me out of my matrimonial home and sold all my belongings,” she said.

In his defence, Yahaya denied the claims by his wife. He told the court that he still loved her and prayed the judge to give him time to beg her to forgive him.

Extrajudicial killings

While many couples seek divorce in law courts, others out rightly take the laws into their hands by killing their partners rather than wait for the court to separate them.  For instance, on August 28, 2019, the police in Kebbi state arrested a lactating mother Auta Dogo for allegedly conspiring with two others to kill her husband Abdullahi Shaho.

Commissioner of Police in charge of the state CP Garba Danjuma made the disclosure at a press briefing in Birnin Kebbi, stating that the suspects allegedly conspired with her former in-laws to kill her husband in the bush, using machete and stick.

Danjuma said: “One Auta Dago conspired with her former father in-law Garba Hassan and brother-in-law Garba Sahabi to allegedly kill her present husband in the bush.”

According to the police commissioner, the suspect, who resides in Sabongari village in Bagudo Local Government of the state, allegedly confessed to conspiring to kill Shaho of Tungar Bature village to enable her go back to her former husband, Idris Garba.

He said all the suspects had been arrested and would be charged to court after the completion of investigation.

Hope in sight?

Worried by the incessant cases of domestic violence that often lead to divorce, on August 30, 2019, the Social Secretary Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Ilorin branch, Mr Kolawole Usman called on women to report any form of harassment by their spouse to the appropriate security agencies rather than seek personal revenge.

Usman gave this advice in Ilorin in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in view of the rising cases of domestic violence in Nigeria.

He advised women to report to the police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps as well as lawyers and stop taking the laws into their hands by revenge; cause injury or death to their spouses.

According to him, women are not sex objects but special creation of God, who deserve to be protected.

The lawyer, however, advised men to desist from threatening and harassing women at homes and in public places. “Even in marriage or place of work, women are increasingly becoming victims of harassment. They should speak out or report such harassment instead of planning to fight back. They should stop listening to bad advice from friends to embark on a revenge mission. There are policemen and NSCDC officers around, who are ready to help.

“The Nigerian government must act fast to save women from the day-to-day harassment. Women should be celebrated and not to be assaulted by men. Men must learn to respect and love their women counterparts and stop subjecting them to emotional trauma every day,” he said.

Third party influence

On Tuesday, August 20, 2019, some stakeholders identified third-party influence and lack of trust among couples as factors responsible for the collapse of marriages nowadays.

The stakeholders made this observation in separate interviews with NAN in Omu-Aran, Irepodun local government area of Kwara state.

The stakeholders expressed the belief that the incessant kidnappings, banditry, armed robbery, insurgency being experienced are direct consequences of prevalence of marriage break-up.

A legal practitioner Mr Biodun Owoeye said marriage break-up could pose adverse socio-economic effect on the affected individuals and the larger society, saying the rate of divorce as a result of irretrievable marriage collapse was becoming worrisome and needed to be checked.

According to him, marital separation or divorce can be very unpleasant, and families as well as the society will suffer the consequences, charging couples to learn to keep their marital vows in order to guide against unwarranted break-up.

“Prevalence of divorce is fast increasing in the society nowadays. It has become so bad that many couples believe that it is the best means to settle scores and issues, which ordinarily can be resolved without any third party,” he said.

Divorce uncalled for

The acting Deputy Registrar Kwara state Marriage Registry Mallam Mustapha Lukman described the rate at which couples seek divorce as alarming and called for restraint.

Lukman identified lack of good understanding, trust as well as third-party influence, especially from close relations as contributory factors.

“Couples need to learn to evolve amicable settlement of their differences for peace to reign. Not all issues should be thrown at the doorsteps of friends, families and other external influences,” he said.

Divorce as un-Islamic

Also speaking, an Islamic cleric, Alhaji Abdulrazaq Aduagba, described divorce as un-Islamic and should be the last resort. According to him, Islam only accepts divorce after all possible options have been exhausted but to no avail by both parties.

“Married life should be with mercy, compassion and tranquillity but if the reverse is the case, couples are advised to pursue all remedies to rebuild their relationship,” he said.

Avoiding hasty decisions

On his part, Prophet Christopher Owolabi of the Christ Apostolic Church, Ori-Oke, Irapada, Omu-Aran, urged judges to always do their best in reconciling couples to avoid hasty divorce.

Owolabi also charged the management of Centres for Alternative Dispute Resolution and Reconciliation to always live above board in settling marriage differences.

“Judges need to intervene at times and give room for reconciliation among affected couples for possible settlement. This will go a long way to reduce the rate of marriage collapse in our society,” he said.

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