KANO - Helping children and orphans, Nigeria's police is leading a matchmaking program aimed at offering widows and divorcees with suitable men to reduce the country's social problems by providing a stable home for children.
"With the current security situation in Kano, children with no proper parental guide and care are more likely to be influenced and fed with these extremist tendencies," Nabahani Usman, deputy head of the Hisbah, the shari`ah police, told Agence France Presse (AFP).
"It is very important they are saved from these destructive elements through this program, where they can have stable family life with their mothers and step-fathers looking after them."
Identifying the society's problems, analysts say unemployment and frustration among young people has helped feed the violence blamed on Boko Haram hard-line group.
The program was introduced last February by the Islamic shari`ah police in Kano, the largest city in Nigeria's mainly Muslim north, hoping to fight rising extremist among Nigeria's youth.
It started by airing radio announcements in mid-February calling on men open to marrying selected widows and divorcees to come forward.
The women were located through an NGO called the Voice of Widows, Divorcees and Orphans of Nigeria (VOWAN).
At the first stage of the program, men and women were invited to a screening review with the police to be introduced to their interests and education.
The questions asked by the police panel include basic information, such as occupation, income and number of children. Men are asked why they want to get married again, among other things.
Those who qualify are then allowed to meet each other at the Hisbah office, choosing on their own among the participants who they might wish to marry.
A group wedding will be held later for participants, but those who prefer not to wait can also go ahead with their marriages.
Health NGOs also offer free HIV screening to the spouse-seekers, which the Hisbah has made mandatory to the applicants.
Marriage & Peace
Seeking marriage and peace, Amina Adamu, 38, was one of the first set of 100 women applicants for the program in Kano.
"I need a mature, sincere and caring husband, which is why I want the Hisbah to be involved in my choice because I need security in my marriage," Adamu told AFP shortly after being screened by the panel.
For men, police arranged marriage offered them marriage without high dowries usually paid in Nigeria.
Making marriage easier, the Hisbah program pays the dowry and also provides a small grant to help them set up a home.
"It is quite expensive to marry a young woman, which is why I want to be part of this initiative to enable me to marry the woman of my choice at low cost," Ismail Ibrahim, a 25-year-old bachelor and a school teacher, said.
Altine Abdullahi, head of VOWAN in Kano, also hopes the program would curb the increasing phenomenon of divorce as men who marry through the program cannot divorce their wives without permission from the Hisbah.
"People change wives the way they change their wardrobes and we feel the best way to stop this and give security to our members is arrange marriages through the Hisbah," she said.
She said the high number of divorces in Kano "leave (women) to fend for themselves and the children without any support from the fathers."
"The children end up as menaces to society, which is why most teenage criminals here are from broken homes," she said.
Nigeria has one of the highest divorce rates in the world.
Estimates show that there are over one million women divorcees and widows in Nigeria.
Hajara Adamu, a 48-year old widow, vowed to make the best of the programme.
"I will not make a hasty choice. I want a responsible, respectable and mature man and I'm confident I'll get him here," said Adamu.