Falmata, 27, and Sheriff, 34, began a new life on Thursday, March 17, 2022 when the Judge at the Mobile Sharia Court dissolved their marriage. This was no ordinary couple nor were the circumstances ideal. The former couple are Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) at Gubio Camp in Maiduguri, Borno State, Northeast Nigeria. They were married for seven years.
When Falmata sought the dissolution of their marriage, she told the Court at the IDP Camp that her husband, an IDP from Baga, had stopped feeding her and their children for about two years.
Ironically, she was not the plaintiff in the suit that terminated her marriage. Her husband had filed a case in court to compel her to forgive his misbehaviours of the past two years. But the woman said she’d had enough of him.
Falamata told the Sharia Court Judge that her husband had “for the past two years and six months abandoned me without providing food or anything to eat. So I want the court to end our relationship.”
The Judge, Alkali-Hassan Usman, in his ruling said, “the husband admitted the claims of his wife, who also said she had the support of her parents to refund the dowry of about N42,000 to the husband. And Falmata had also prayed the court should compel her husband to take over the custody of their children or should be responsible for their upkeep, especially food.”
Having exhausted all channels of reconciliation outside the court, the Judge ruled that Falmata should refund the sum of N50,000 being the value of the dowry paid for her marriage to Sheriff. When the payment was confirmed, the marriage between them was dissolved. The judge also ruled that the husband should provide for the upkeep of his children or take over their custody if they are of the age allowed by law to be separate from their mother.
Falmata walked out of the court to face her children while her husband walked his way home alone.
On the same day, Judge Hassan Usman presided over two other marital disputes in which the couples, all IDPs, sought for divorce.
A middle-aged man, Mai Kache, dragged his wife, Hadi Modu, from whom he had been separated for a long time, to the court on the accusation that she had violated the marital creed by marrying another man without dissolving their marriage.
Kache, who demanded a refund of his dowry after the court, had to swear by the Holy Quran in the courtroom to prove that the dowry he paid for the marriage was not less than N40,000. The wife had told the court that the dowry was far less than that. But since he had sworn by the holy book which places a seal to all doubts, in the Sharia Court, the woman would have to refund the dowry so that her marriage with Mai-Kache could be officially annulled.
Hadi said she walked out of the marriage with Kache long ago because he abandoned her and her child.
“He never cared about us for many years, so I moved on and got married,” she told the court.
The judge said by Sharia Law, she had no right to remarry without dissolving the first one. So her two marriages were technically dissolved, and that if she paid back her dowry to her estranged husband, she could go back to her second marriage.
A mild drama ensued when Kache sought custody of his two children. But his wife said she had only one child for him, insisting that her second child belonged to her second husband.
Kache insisted the two children with her were his, and he must take custody of them. Unfortunately, he could not tell the court the name of his second child, a baby girl, because he had never set eyes on her since she was born.
The court eventually turned down his request for custody of the second child whose pregnancy he claimed his former wife had before she left his home. The court said until further investigations were conducted to establish the veracity of his assertions, he would only lay claim to the first child.
Divorce among IDPs on the rise.
“This is just a few cases compared to those of other sittings in this mobile court,” said Barrister Hajara Saeed, a legal counsel to Fatima and Hadi.
HumAngle was informed that most disputes between couples in the IDP camp ended up in court, where either of the parties involved would see a termination of their marital contract.
“We’ve lost count of the numbers of divorce cases that we have handled, including many pro bono cases, in the court within the IDP camp,” Saeed added.
Women, especially the married ones, face untold abuse and hardship in the camps due to limited access to food and other means of livelihood.
The lawyer also told HumAngle that many dissolved marriages were either in connection with the failure of the husbands to provide for the family or based on accusations that the woman was being accused of infidelity.
“Some of the women cannot be blamed for the alleged cases of infidelity because they do so, in most cases, to get means of survival,” said Nur Abdullahi, an IDP in Gubio Camp.
HumAngle had earlier reported how women, especially married ones, engage in unwholesome sexual affairs in exchange for food to feed their families.
“There are some women that went to court to seek a divorce because their husbands were nowhere to be found for many years. And we have had cases of men quietly divorcing their wives and walking away because they have no means of feeding them in the camp – this is very common with the younger couples,” Abdullahi added.
This report is produced in partnership with the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), West Africa.
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