By Boluwaji Obahopo, LOKOJA
While no one can say in particularly when they met, but in 2018, Rahimat Abdullahi and Idris Abdulmalik tied the nuptial knot. The marriage was conducted under Islamic injunction. Beautiful and elegant Rahimat, then was 31 years.
But fast forward to three years later, Rahimat is in court seeking for divorce from the man she once professed undying love for.
Sitting quietly at the Upper Area Court 1 in Lokoja, Rahimat listened to some divorce cases mentioned before her own. The magistrates, three in numbers tried so much to intervened. In some cases, they called witnesses upon witnesses, they urged parents to intervened, they asked divorcing couples to seeks Alternative Dispute Resolutions; all these to safe marriages.
Soon it was time for Rahimat. She was called forward, she approach the litigant stand. She was put on oath through the Quran. That was her fourth time, still the respondent, her husband refused to show before the court. Rather, he sent a letter, granting Rahimat her divorce request.
Before the final pronouncement was made, one of the panel members asked Rahimat again why she was adamant about divorce; her answers shocked the court….she wanted divorce on the ground that her husband, Abdulmalik Idris has decided to go back into politics. Rahimat said when they met, she told him categorically that she cannot marry a politician. He agreed. But just a year after their wedding, Idris, a former councilor in the local government went back to the political arena.
Rahimat said that amounted to ‘breach of trust’. She said the development has robbed him of her love. She has realised how incompatible they were. She has lost interest in the marriage. Moreover, there has been no success to all Idris’s efforts to settled their differences.
She said Idris had resulted to blackmailing her when he heard that she wanted out of the marriage. Idris accused her of dating someone in her office at the Federal Medical Center, Lokoja. Rahimat was a nurse. She said though Idris had begged, but her mind is made up, because she knows that Idris will not leave politics. The couple already has a two years old daughter as blessing of the union.
The magistrate asked how long they had been married. Three years she quickly answered. Magistrate Levi shouted “Just three years!”. But at the end, the panel dissolved the union…they both by law are entitled to divorce just as they are to marriage.
Rahimat is one of the many persons seeking divorce in Kogi state. Infact, the rate of divorce in the state over the years has become alarming. Marriages are dissolved at the slightest excuses. The court is filled up to the bream with divorce cases.
Many factors have been said to be responsible for divorce. Most commonly reported were lack of commitment, infidelity, conflict, domestic violence, and substance use. But in Kogi State, finance has played a great part in divorce. Many of those seeking divorce are women, complaining bitterly of their husband incapability of taking care of them. Bad economy of the state is fueling divorce.
While, separation or divorce had long been occurring in the state, there was however a reported surge in divorce cases from 2015 till date.
The Upper area court 1, Upper area court 11 and Felele Upper area court are amongst the courts that handles family issues in Lokoja, aside the upper area courts in Kabba, Isanlu, Ankpa, Kotonkarfe, Anyigba, Egbe and others. But more divorce cases are recorded in the Lokoja and Felele courts.
Between 2015 and 2020, the Upper Area court 1 in Lokoja recorded 669 divorce cases compared to 389 cases instituted between 2010 to 2014 in the same court. (115, 109, 139, 115, 116 and 106 cases were recorded in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 respectively.)
The period under review was characterized by economic doom. The state, basically a civil service state, was worst hit by the state and local government workers screening exercise that resulted in many workers being laid off. The well thought out civil service screening exercise turned awry, lingering for close to two years. Salary were not paid on time, and when paid, it was in percentages. Many civil servants lost their jobs, some were termed “Uncleared Staff”; and the economy of the state bled.
RELIGIOUS INFLUENCEMore Muslims are divorcing across the state than other religions.
The upper area court 1 in Lokoja attends to only Islamic cases as the three-man led panel are all Muslims, while the Upper Area Court 11, located within the same vicinity attends to Christian divorce cases; as the three -man panel are all Christian judges. But the number of cases instituted at the upper area court 1 has becomes daunting to the extent that the court has decided to transfer some of their cases to the Upper Area court 11.
While 106 cases were instituted at the upper area court 1 in 2020, only 50 was instituted at the Upper area court 11 in the same year.
SETTLEMENTThe Upper area court 11 has had more cases resolved than the other court. While 70 percent of cases at the upper area court 11 did not end in divorce; the opposite was recorded at the upper area court 1, where more than 70 percent of divorce – seeking – couples ended up separated.
AGE – RANGEMany who thoughts that new couples will still be enjoying their marriages, or old couples would have understood each other and will not bothered about divorcing may be shocked to know that there is no age limit to couples seeking divorce. Both old and new couples are milling up in their numbers seeking for the law to back up their separation desires.
FUNNY ASPECT.Divorcing is strenuous. The process is tiresome. Nothing is simple or joyful about it, however, their are some cases that sounded so funny to be true. One of such is a man who on January 1st, 2021 approached the Upper Area Court 1 to seek for divorce. The man met the gateman who told him the first day of the year was a public holiday. The day fell on Friday, he asked him to return on Monday, but not before he requested why he chooses divorce as the first thing to do in a new year. The man returned on Monday to file his case, he also reported the gateman to the court registrar, telling her that he felt insulted about the gateman’s intrusion to his personal life.
There is also the case of a pastor with Living faith church in Lokoja who filled for divorce on the ground that his wife has refused him access to her breast. The wife all of a sudden refused him sucking her breast. The pastor, being a man who is fond of fondling breast said he cannot continue to suffer in silent of what he desires. The court tried to intervene, but the pastor refused. He was quoted to have boldly said, “Even Bishop Oyedipo cannot beg me on this. I want a divorce and that is final.”
NEW TRENDThe rate of divorce in Kogi is increasing by the day. The court are becoming choked by such cases. The upper area court 1 had to scheduled divorce cases as first on the list to attend to before any other civil cases they are obliged to handled. From Monday to Friday, divorce cases are always slated. The magistrates are calling for long adjournment. They have seconded cases to their court counterpart. Yet, they are still complaining of being choked.
The panel members has turned to preacher, marriage counselor and even offering parental advices, all because they want to save marriages. By January 11, 2021, eleven new divorce cases were already filled at the upper area court 1. Multiply this with the number of family or divorce courts in Kogi, one will get the idea and understand why it has become alarming and scaring even to the judges.
Majority of those who seeks divorce are women. 80 percent of them all listed lack of financial commitment from their spouses as one of their reasons. However, some of the divorce seeking couples are from the rural area whom apparently for ‘reproach’ associated with divorce in those areas, came to the state capital where not many close knitted family members will be aware of what they seeks from the court.
A legal luminary practising in Lokoja, Kogi State capital, Barrister Ayo Jonathan said the rise in divorce seeking couples in the state can be linked to the economic meltdown. He said the financial situation of the state is not only making it difficult for men to get married but for those married to keep their homes. He called for understanding from couples to resolve their differences, find way to augments their incomes and get a better way of managing their resources.
An average of one divorce case is filed at one of the family courts in Kogi each day. Worse part, majority of these couples end up getting their divorce wishes granted. Families are being separated, more children are getting singles parents. The future looks blink for their offspring.
Findings has shown that children and adolescents who experience the divorce of their parents have higher rates of depressed mood, lower self-esteem, and emotional distress. Parental divorce is also associated with negative outcomes and earlier life transitions as offspring enter young adulthood and later life.
The situation in the state called for an urgent needs of effective marriage counseling. It seems there is a total absence even in “official quarters” of marriage counselors. The state needs helps in that regards.End.
BOLUWAJI OBAHOPO WORKS WITH VANGUARD NEWSPAPER AND CARRIED OUT THIS INDEPENDENT RESEARCH IN JANUARY 2021