Four men have been arrested in the northern Nigerian city of Kano for allegedly carrying out a false marriage on Facebook, which the Islamic enforcement agency said had mocked Islam.
Kano is among 12 northern Nigeria states where Sharia law operates and the Hisbah enforcement agency said on Wednesday the wedding was perceived to have made a mockery of the institute of marriage.
“We arrested four men for organising a mock wedding on Facebook which has caused public outrage,” Hisbah’s chief Abba Sufi told AFP.
“We arrested them for making a mockery of the sanctity of the institution of marriage,” he said.
The four suspects, aged between 30 and 32, were picked up on Tuesday, days after news circulated that one of them married a young woman on Facebook in a ceremony witnessed by the others, Sufi said.
The groom, Sanusi Abdullahi, confessed to have “jokingly” offered a female Facebook friend who lives in the northeastern city of Maiduguri a bride price of 20 000 naira ($56) during the “online marriage” on the condition that the money would be paid after she moved into his house.
His three accomplices stood as witnesses in the ceremony which was more of a “banter” between friends.
Sufi said the suspects had never met the ‘bride’ in person and was only a “social media friend” to the four men.
The incident sparked an uproar from radical Muslim clerics, who called for the arrest and prosecution of the suspects.
Sufi said Abdullahi even received death threats on his mobile phone and was assaulted by an attacker while leaving the mosque after evening prayers on Monday before his arrest.
“We have to intervene to ensure the issue doesn’t spiral out of control, now that the main suspect is under threat.
“We have asked the police to investigate such threats and the physical attack on him which has left him with an injury to his arm,” he said.
Sufi said the suspects had shown remorse and the Hisbah was considering “closing the case” but wanted to gauge the mood of the people.
Last December, the Hisbah arrested 11 young women for allegedly planning a lesbian wedding.
The suspects were arrested while making last-minute preparations for the wedding in a hotel, but insisted on belonging to a dance club.
In northern states, where Sharia runs parallel to the state and federal justice system, homosexuality is punishable by death, although the sentence is rarely, if ever, enforced.