The 86 wives of an 84-year-old Nigerian man, Alhaji Bello Masaba, and some of his over 100 children staged a four-hour protest in Minna, capital of Nigeria’s northern Niger state Thursday to demand his release from detention.
Masaba, who was arrested and charged to an Islamic Sharia court on Tuesday for illegally marrying the women and for flouting Islamic laws, is currently being detained on the orders of the presiding judge pending the resumption of the case on 6 Oct 2008.
The women, some of them expectant mothers, carried placards as they arrived at the state’s ministry of justice in several buses and cars.
Some of the cards read ”release our husband”, ”don’t force us into prostitution”, ”release our bread winner, we are suffering” and ”we are legally married to our husband according to Islamic and Nigerian laws”.
A spokesperson for the wives, Hafusat – identified as a the daughter of a former government minister – was quoted by the local media Friday as saying the cleric’s action in marrying 86 wives was approved by God, and that he had committed no offence to warrant his detention.
The protesters were later dispersed by the police after holding up workers at the ministry for four hours, during which they could only meet with the Permanent Secretary, Alhaji Danji Usman, instead of the Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General, Usman Adamu.
A top Islamic body – Jamatu Nasril Islam (JNI) – has passed a ‘fatwa” (death sentence) on Masaba for defying the Islamic law that allows a Muslim to marry up to four wives only. The Bida Emirate Council has also banished the cleric from his town (Bida).
But on Thursday, Masaba’s lawyers filed a suit at the federal high court in the capital city of Abuja seeking to quash the death sentence as well as the banishment.
Masaba’s case has generated widespread interest from within and outside Nigeria, and on Friday some newspapers splashed the pictures of his protesting wives on their front pages.