- Nigerian Muslim preacher who has 86 wives and 107 children was yesterday charged with violating Islamic laws governing marriage, and could face harsh Sharia punishment.
Mohammadu Bello Abubakar, 84, was reportedly arrested by Islamic authorities for refusing to divorce all but four of his wives.
Media reports show that he was picked up in a pre-dawn raid on his house in Bida, Niger state and charged with "insulting religious creed" and "unlawful marriages".
They indicate that a Sharia court judge denied him bail until another hearing on October 6. It is however still not clear what his potential punishment might be.
Reports further say local traditional rulers told Mr Abubakar to divorce his other 82 wives by end of August or be evicted from his home.
According to Islamic law, a man is forbidden from taking more than four wives, but Mr Abubakar reportedly claims God has blessed all his unions.
His lawyers reportedly argued that Mr Abubakar had not broken any law. For his part, Mr Abubakar is said to have noted that there was no punishment stated in Koran for having more than four wives.
"An ordinary man with even 10 wives would collapse and die. But because of power bestowed on me by Allah, I am able to control 86 of them," the man was quoted as saying.
Niger is one of the Muslim majority states to have reintroduced Sharia punishments since 2000.
Reports show that around half of Nigeria's 140 million people are Muslim, and Niger is one of 12 Muslim-majority states that adopted Islam's Sharia criminal code after Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999.
Severe corporal punishments imposed by Sharia courts are reportedly rarely carried out and no executions have taken place.
Nigeria's secular, federal government, which controls national security forces, is said to have stated that it would not allow the most serious Sharia punishments.
Analysts say Sharia was implemented for political reasons as well as religious convictions, as a show of strength by Muslim northerners and as acknowledgment that secular courts had failed to stem years of crime.
Case has reportedly stirred controversy in Africa's most populous nation. Many Muslim scholars say Islam allows men to have up to four wives at any given time, who must be treated equally.
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