Preacher with 86 wives, 107 children charged under Nigeria's Sharia laws

ABUJA, Nigeria — A Muslim preacher in northern Nigeria who claims 86 wives and 107 children has been charged with breaking Islamic laws governing marriage.

Authorities detained 84-year-old Mohammed Bello Masaba on Monday under an order issued by Niger state's Islamic court. It was unclear when the man would appear before the court, or what the potential punishment might be.

Islamic law forbids men from taking more than four wives. But Masaba claims God has blessed all his unions.

He says an ordinary man with even 10 wives would "collapse and die." But because of the power bestowed on him by Allah, he is, in his words, "able to control 86 of them."

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 the Sharia courts are rarely carried out and no executions have taken place.

Nigeria's secular, federal government, which controls the national security forces, has said it won't allow the most serious Sharia punishments.

Analysts say Sharia was implemented for political reasons as well as religious conviction - as a show of strength by the Muslim northerners and as an acknowledgment that secular courts had failed to stem years of crime.

Nigeria has 24 other states that do not follow Sharia law.

Jean-Louis Kayitenkore
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