Mohammed Bello Abubakar

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Muhammadu Bello Abubahkar Masaba Bida also known as Mohammed Bello Abubakar[1] (28 January 1924 – 28 January 2017) was born in Nigeria. Masaba is known for having stirred up controversy in his hometown Bida, Niger State due to his extensive polygamy, and for being outspoken, he was uncharged under Sharia law and sent to prison in 2008 for refusing to divorce 82 of his wives.[1] Islam limits the number of wives a Muslim man can have to four, mandating they must be all treated equally.[2] He married 120 wives, divorced 10, and fathered 203 children. At the time of his death in 2017, some of his wives were believed to be pregnant.[3]

Masaba was as a teacher and Imam. He lived in an entire apartment block with his family. Masaba claimed that he never pursued his wives, and that he was sought by them due to his reputation as a healer. Most of his wives were younger than 30 years of age, and a few younger than his elder children. In interviews with Al Jazeera English, his wives claimed that he was a good husband and father.

Interpretation of the Quran[edit]

The Quran states that a man may marry up to four wives mandating they must be all treated equally. Masaba claimed that when the Quran set a law, it must also set a punishment for offenders, and no punishment was given for this offense.[4]

During a prison interview Masaba told The Christian Science Monitor:

"If God permits me, I will marry more than 86 wives. A normal human being could not marry 86 – but I can only by the grace of God, I married 86 women and there is peace in the house – if there is peace, how can this be wrong?"[1]

Interrogations and trials[edit]

After the death pronouncement on him by the Islamic group, Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), the Bida Emirate Council and an assembly of Islamic leaders invited Masaba for interrogation. Deliberations were given in Etsu Nupe's palace Bida and the Etsu Nupe of Bida, Alhaji Yahya Abubakar read out a veredict saying that Masaba should divorce 82 of the 86 wives within 48 hours or leave the entire Nupe Kingdom as his safety could not be guaranteed within the kingdom. At the expiration of the ultimatum, Masaba refused to divorce any of his wives and denied ever promising this.[5][6]

In 2008 Bello was arrested by Islamic authorities and tried before a Sharia court.[2] Before his trial at the Sharia court, Police in Niger State gave him a clean bill, as the state command declared that nothing incriminating was found in his house. The leader of the police team, that arrested the Islamic cleric in Bida before 27 September 2008, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mr John Olayemi declared:

"We found nothing incriminating in his house. There was no knife, no pistol or skull in his house when we went to invite him to the headquarters for a chat."[7]

Olayemi explained that the command of arresting Masaba acted on an instrument of Upper Sharia Court.[7]

Life in prison[edit]

In October 6, 2008, while in detention in Minna Prison, an Upper Sharia Court Judge in Minna, Alhaji Abdulmalik Imam, transferred Masaba's case to a Chief Magistrate's Court in Minna after admitting lacking jurisdiction. Masaba was still remanded in prison custody at the instance of the Sharia Court.[8][9][10]

Thousands of protestors gathered to protest against his actions, and claimed that if he were released, they would not allow him to return to his home. His wives announced their outrage at his arrest. Due to his persistent refusal to divorce 82 of his wives during his trial,[11][12] he was sentenced to death. The sentence was lifted in early September 2008.[4][13][14] Masaba still faced eviction from his home. The case was reported globally and throughout Nigeria, angering many Nigerian Muslims.

Following the case, Masaba told the BBC:

"A man with ten wives would collapse and die, but my own power is given by Allah. That is why I have been able to control 86 of them," [13]


On 12 November 2008, a Federal High Court sitting in Maitama, Abuja ordered the release of Masaba from detention in Minna Prison with immediate effect. The trial high court judge, Justice G.O. Kolawole attached no condition to his release. The judge also ordered the Inspector General of Police, Mr Mike Okiro, to ensure the protection of Masaba's fundamental rights to life, liberty and privacy, as enshrined in the 1999 constitution of Nigeria, through the Niger State Commissioner of Police. Masaba returned to his hometown, Bida, on 13 November 2008.[15][16][17]

In July 2011, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu, the governor of Niger State said "though we have Sharia in place in the state, but we have no law to pin him down".[18] Niger State government's effort to prosecute Masaba, were unsuccessful because of legal lacuna. The Speaker of Niger State House of Assembly, Barrister Adamu Usman, disclosed that various attempts to prosecute Masaba ran into hitches because there was no provision in the law of the state to effect his prosecution.[19]

Barrister Adamu Usman said:

"As Attorney General then I personally appeared before Sharia court, Minna, as prosecutor to prosecute the man but later discovered that Sharia courts in Niger State cannot deal with the case. No provision made in Penal code C.P.C or Sharia administration of Justice law to deal with such cases."[19]

Appearance on media[edit]

Masaba is frequently depicted by the media as "the man with 86 wives." Contrary to some media reports, that Masaba divorced 82 out of his 86 wives, he refused to divorce any of his wives.[5][6][20][21]

Recently Masaba has reappeared in articles concerning an alleged plot to disenfranchise his family. Members of his family were prevented by thugs from registering to vote.[22] Nine members of the Masaba family were injured by thugs whenever they attempted to register to vote.[23][24]

After a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja ordered the release of Masaba from detention, he had 18 more children, having a total of 138 .[25] Masaba came into limelight with another super polygamist, Ziona Chana of India in 2011. As of May 2011, Masaba had 89 wives and 133 children while India's Ziona Chana had 39 wives, 94 children and 33 grandchildren.[26]

In June 2012, Masaba had an interview with Jide Orintunsin where he debunked his rumoured death and said:

"Large number of wives? I only have 97 wives. I am still going to marry more. I will keep marrying them for as long I am alive. Whoever is fighting me because of my wives or love life. Such an individual has missed it. Left for me, I would have married maybe two wives, but what I am doing is divine. It is an assignment and I will keep marrying till the end of time. I just want to advise those fighting against the number of my wives to stop because such people are waging war against God, their creator."[27]


  1. ^ a b c Nigerian man with 86 wives faces a 'fatwa' The Christian Science Monitor, 24 October 2008.
  2. ^ a b Nigerian with 86 wives arrested, 16 September 2008.
  3. ^ Nigerian Muslim Preacher with 130 Wives Dies, The Indian Express, 31 January 2017.
  4. ^ a b Nigerian advises against 86 wives, 8 August 2008
  5. ^ a b In spite of his travails, followers, children back embattled man with 86 wives, "Sunday Punch", Nigeria 7 September 2008.
  6. ^ a b In spite of his travails, followers, children back embattled man with 86 wives, NigeriaWorld News Archive, 7 September 2008.
  7. ^ a b Police exonerate man with 86 wives, The Nation, Nigeria 27 September 2008."
  8. ^ Polygamist's Trial: Sharia Court Transfers Case, Online Nigeria, 7 October 2008.
  9. ^ Sharia Judge hands of Masaba's Case, The Nation, Nigeria 7 October 2008.
  10. ^ Falola, Francis. "Judge Transfers Masaba's case to magistrate's court", The Punch, Nigeria 7 October 2008.
  11. ^ Nigerian man to divorce 82 wives, 31 August 2008.
  12. ^ a b Nigerian faces death for 86 wives, 21 August 2008
  13. ^ Nigerian man agrees to divorce 82 wives, 2 September 2008.
  14. ^ Nigeria: Court Frees Masaba, All Africa Global Media (all Africa), 13 November 2008.
  15. ^ "Court Frees Masaba", Africa News Service (business. high, 13 November 2008.
  16. ^ "I've added 18 to my children since I was released from detention", The Punch, Nigeria 2010-04-17.
  17. ^ "Conversation with an octogenarian polygamist", The Nation, Nigeria 21 August 2011.
  18. ^ a b "Why we Could Not Prosecute Man With 86 Wives", Leadership, Nigeria 30 January2013.
  19. ^ "Man refuses 82 divorces", The Mirror, London, England, 18 September 2008.
  20. ^ Man refuses 82 divorces, Around the World. (News), 18 September 2008.
  21. ^ Man with 86 wives to sue INEC 6 February 2011.
  22. ^ Man with 86 Wives Alleges Disenfranchisement, 7 February 2011.
  23. ^ INEC Displays List Of Candidates In States The Times of Nigeria, 7 February 2011.
  24. ^ "I've added 18 to my 120 children since I was released from detention", Sunday', Nigeria 17 April 2010.
  25. ^ Maasaba, Chana: Tale of two super polygamists, Nigerian Tribune, 18 May 2011.
  26. ^ I would have taken only two wives but I'm fulfilling a divine assignment - super polygamist Masaba, The Nation, Nigeria 30 June 2012.