By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
Former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and 14the Emir of Kano, Muhammdu Sanusi, Tuesday, said no one can successfully address the high poverty level in Northern Nigeria without addressing that region’s high rate of population growth.
He spoke, virtually, as a panelist on human capital development at the NES#27, in Abuja.
According to him, a situation where northerners, including poor people, marry three or four wives, with birth rate average of seven per woman in North-East and North-West; and parents give birth to children and throw them to the streets as “almajiri” was unacceptable and unIslam.
His words: “It is not all that you need for development that is money.
“Look at the North: life expectancy, per capita income. The poverty level in the North is caused by rapid demographic growth that is not supported by underlying statistics.
“The fertility rate in the North-East and in the North-West are over seven children on overage.
“You cannot address poverty in the North without addressing demographic issues.
“As Emir, I said people are refusing to do this because of religion.
“I got together religious leaders who worked for three years to produce a code that will address these issues, put some sensibility around the age which to marry off girls; about the rate they divorce women;
“About the rate at which poor people can go and marry three or four wives, have children and throw them on the street.
“Until we address those legal issues and apply sanctions, until we change those attitudes; even if we have four million in the last five years — how many children were born in those five years?
“At end of the day you may see that four million were enrolled within that period, but then there are another six million just there that have been born.
“You are not going to close that hole, until you address the rate at which those children are produced.
“Now the point I am making is this; we finished that code and it was taken to the state government.
“It was not taken to the state Assembly. After waiting for a long time, I personally sent a letter to the Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum.
“Sent him this code and say this is the code that can address some of these social issues, share them with your colleagues. Up till this point, nothing has been done.
“I called a friend of his who gave me his number and I reminded him, in case he has forgotten. He noted.
“Up till now, none of the northern governors has done anything.
“People just have children go and throw them in the streets. Nobody takes responsibility. We keep talking about “almajiri”.
“The almajirins did not produce themselves. The parents that produced them are responsible.
“So you are just like John the Baptist that is crying in the wilderness and the people are not paying attention. This is totally at variance with Islamic law.
“Those in government must understand that there are times that you have to make some decisions not because they are popular but because they are right.”
The former emir challenged the administration to be courageous enough to take the right decisions, saying that the current populist approach was hurting the nation.