Some traditional and religious leaders have urged the federal government to increase its level of family planning advocacy and implementation so as to achieve a considerable milestone in reducing maternal and child mortality rate and population explosion in the country.
This plea was made on the first day of the three-day annual family planning consultative stakeholders meeting held at Transcorp Hilton hotel, Abuja on Monday.
The conference, the fifth of its kind on family planning issues in the country with “Investing in family planning: Key to achieving the sustainable development goal in Nigeria” as its theme was also used as an avenue to launch the new national family planning logo.
The event which was organised by the federal ministry of health, in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund and other health development partners in the country had in attendance, traditional and religious rulers, health experts, government and non-governmental organisations and other concerned persons/bodies in the sector.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Sa”ad Abubakar who was represented at the event by the Emir of Shonga, Haliru Yahaya, said the issues regarded as religious roles in family planning has been ‘over-represented’ and all these have ‘come down to (lack of) communication.’
The emir said there has been an imbalance in communication and implementation of family planning policies in the country.
He solicited for support of family planning among Nigerians saying: “Islam is not adverse to new technologies and family planning is one of the new technologies which can improve the lives of the people and help have a healthy population.
”Though there are dos and don’ts in Islam, family planning is not part of the don’ts and the Sultan of Sokoto has made conscious effort to get scholars in Islam to look through all the religious books to see if there is any point where family planning negates the tenets of Islam, especially in the aspect of population control.
We have come out with a book, “Islamic Perspective on Family Planning In Nigeria” and we enjoin all clerics to read and teach them to the people because they are closer to the grassroots. The clerics are very important in disseminating the right information and we have used this book to have a synergy so as to be able to move fast and carry everyone along especially those who we feel can slow us down,” the Sultan’s representative said.
The Ooni of Ife, Adeyeye Ogunwusi, in his address called on the government and everyone to take the issue of family planning more seriously and also be an advocate of family planning.
The King said maternal deaths are also ‘national disasters though’ it is not given recognition because they happen sparsely across the country and at various times.
He said it is time ‘to act and campaign for people to engage the use of family planning as a means of spacing their children and prevent unwanted pregnancies.’
“Nigeria loses 110 women on daily basis and the loss of children in the country is a national disaster. It is very important for us to take it very seriously. Family planning is more than this gathering; it is something everyone should invest in because it is avoidable and must be taken very seriously,” the monarch said.
“I implore the federal government, all the state governments, stakeholders and all those in governance to pay more attention to this impending national disaster. It is something we should be worried about. We are losing innocent lives on a daily basis and all we need to do is to continue to sensitize the youth especially those between the ages of 18 and 25. People should make it a priority to discuss anywhere possible as you can to save lives.”
A representative of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Jonah Samson, said the government needs to do more on family planning implementation in the country and ‘reduce more of talking.’
Mr. Samson said the bible is not against family planning since it encourages ‘the man to be able to provide for his family and the only way he can do that is if they are well planned and spaced.’
“We have been talking about family planning, but not about the implementation which is the problem. We need to plan the family because poverty has no race or religion and we need to take it with all seriousness. The government needs to work more on advocacy and take it to the grassroots. CAN will continue to support family planning,” he said.