BY PRUDENCE IJAH, Abuja
As the federal government drives the road map for the actualization of demographic dividend in Nigeria in the year 2050 even with a predicted population increase to 400 million, the Sultan of Sokoto have advocated for education for young people.
The Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Muhammadu Abubakar who disclosed this on Monday in Abuja at a meeting on harnessing demographic dividend for sustainable development in Nigeria: The Role of Muslim Religious Leaders, said education and awareness creation is crucial in achieving population control and he urged all Imams to preach the message of family planning to all their followers.
The Sultan of Sokoto who was represented by the Emir of Keffi said “God dosent control population, it behoves on all imams to preach the message on population control and advocate for all Muslims to use family planning contraceptives”.
While speaking on the practice of Child marriage, the Emir of Shonga, Alhaji Haliru Yahaya advocated for strategic enforcement of education laws to ensure every girl is engaged in school till the age of 18, as community leaders should be engaged to ensure that girls are not married off without completing their education.
According to the Emir of Shonga, “empowering religious leaders will cascade down to their followers as continuous demonstrations will convince people on what is right and wrong”.
Yahaya added that “knowledge is important in achieving behaviour change as productivity is assured through education of the girl child as a woman is the anchor of the family and training her will ensure a healthy family. Attention to the health of the woman is key as her Sexual Reproductive Health Rights should be protected”.
In his address, the Regional Director United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) West and Central Africa Regional Office Mabingue Ngom said strategic engagement is key to reaping demographic dividend as high fertility rate issues needs to be addressed because every additional newborn should be planned for.
According to Ngom, “demographic dividend is all about leaving no one behind, investing in girls and boys is important as Africa cannot move foreword without investing in young people. The only way Africa will rewrite her story is by going beyond talks and commitments to Actions that will put young people first, put them in school and protect them from harm”.
Earlier, the UNFPA Country Representative Eugene Konguqi said the meeting is to strengthen the capacity of Muslim religious leaders, advocate for the promotion of sexual reproductive health rights of girls and fights against harmful practices including child marriage.
He said ” Youths are big potential that could be restive if not well managed hence the need for this engagement to ensure that youths are carried along in decision making process and young people should not be left behind”.
The theme of this UNFPA meeting is increasing access to Reproductive health services as a key pillar for achieving Demographic Dividend in Nigeria.