Low global oil prices have hurt Nigeria’s economy, taking it to the brink of recession. But the resulting cash crunch has also had a more unexpected effect on mass weddings.
More than 10,000 women have registered for the state-sponsored programme in Kano, said Abba Sufi, director-general of the northern city’s “morality police”, the Hisbah.
“At the moment we have over 10,000 women who have registered for the mass wedding programme and are waiting to be introduced to prospective suitors when the project resumes,” he told sources.
“The women include divorcees and girls of marriage age registered in person and via social media platforms we operate.” The matchmaking programme began in 2012 to help divorcees remarry in Kano state, which has the highest divorce rate in Nigeria. Under the scheme, the state government pays the bride price and provides furniture and household utensils for the newlyweds.
The mass wedding project was seen as a solution to the situation and also at preventing Boko Haram Islamists from recruiting disaffected and impoverished youth for their violent insurgency. The north’s conservative culture gives a husband absolute powers in marriage but men have often abused it and divorced their wives at will.
Under the matchmaking project, couples can only divorce with the explicit consent of the state government and the Hisbah. Any man who unilaterally divorces his wife risks going to jail.
“The security the mass wedding programme provides for the wife makes many women to prefer getting married through the programme because she knows the husband cannot divorce her at will,” said Sufi.
To resume mass weddings, the Hisbah wants funding from the private sector and wealthy individuals — but in the current climate that is proving difficult. “We can’t allow the programme to crash because of its immense social benefits which makes stopping it altogether unthinkable despite the economic crunch”, said Sufi.