Nigerian Government Moves To End Child Marriage

child-brideThe Nigerian government has taken a firm step to stop child marriage in the nation, with a campaign to protect the girl child launched on Tuesday by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

Professor Osinbajo explained that all departments and agencies will be made to ensure compliance as the country has set a 2030 target to totally end child marriage.

The campaign, which is launched alongside 15 other African Union member countries is to highlight the physical, mental and social effects of marrying a girl before the age of 18.

The launch of the campaign is coming few days after the Canadian government demanded for more concrete plans from the Nigerian government to end what it described as huge burden of child bride on Nigeria.

Canadian High Commissioner, Mr Christopher Thornley, made the appeal on Friday at a meeting held to discuss more efforts needed to end child marriage.

According to him, two in every five girls in Africa are given in marriage before they attain age 19 and Nigeria has the highest record of such marriages.

“In Africa, two out of five girls are married before the age of 19. In Nigeria, I’m sorry to say this, but I’m also very heartened that we see people here, like yourselves, who are addressing the issue.

“In Nigeria there are more child brides than in any other country. Part of that is that Nigeria is such a huge country. Absolutely the numbers will be high, but there are massive numbers of young girls being married in this country as children,” he told the gathering of government officials, representatives of different organisations and right activists.

He said that the African Union (AU) campaign to end child marriage was raising awareness and accelerating change.

“Nigeria has signed on to this campaign and we are working with the government in support of its work to end child marriage.

“There is a national strategy that will be launched next week and I know that this meeting will provide an opportunity to discuss some of the elements of that strategy and if any of you is feeding into that, please go back to what I said about the age 18 definition.

“It is very important that that be embedded in the strategy and there is resistance in Nigeria to that, as you know.

“It is not enough to have a strategy, concrete action must be taken to put plans into actions and to accomplish concrete results,” he added.

Child Bride: Canada Wants Concrete Plan From Nigeria

christopher-thornley-canadian-high-commissioner-in-nigeriaThe Canadian government is appealing to the Nigerian government to come out with concrete plans to end what it described as huge burden of child bride on Nigeria.

Canadian High Commissioner, Mr Christopher Thornley, made the appeal on Friday at a meeting held to discuss more efforts needed to end child marriage.

According to him, two in every five girls in Africa are given in marriage before they attain age 19 and Nigeria has the highest record of such marriages.

“In Africa, two out of five girls are married before the age of 19. In Nigeria, I’m sorry to say this, but I’m also very heartened that we see people here, like yourselves, who are addressing the issue.

“In Nigeria there are more child brides than in any other country. Part of that is that Nigeria is such a huge country. Absolutely the numbers will be high, but there are massive numbers of young girls being married in this country as children,” he told the gathering of government officials, representatives of different organisations and right activists.

He said that the African Union (AU) campaign to end child marriage was raising awareness and accelerating change.

“Nigeria has signed on to this campaign and we are working with the government in support of its work to end child marriage.

“There is a national strategy that will be launched next week and I know that this meeting will provide an opportunity to discuss some of the elements of that strategy and if any of you is feeding into that, please go back to what I said about the age 18 definition.

“It is very important that that be embedded in the strategy and there is resistance in Nigeria to that, as you know.

“It is not enough to have a strategy, concrete action must be taken to put plans into actions and to accomplish concrete results,” he added.

Child Bride Poisons Husband, 3 Others In Kano

child brideFour people have been confirmed dead after eating a poisonous food in Kano State North West Nigeria. 

Addressing a news conference, the Police Public Relations Officer, Magaji Musa Majiya, said that the suspect, Wasila Umar, had confessed to have poisoned her husband’s food in which fourteen people were affected.

Wasila Umar, a 14 year old minor was made under duress, to marry one Umar Sani, a 35 year old man who also had one wife and two children.

Two weeks after the wedding, Wasilla’s plan to get rid of her husband materialized when she mixed rodenticide with the husband’s food which was eaten by fourteen people, leaving three, including the husband dead on the spot.

Early marriage mixed with compulsory weddings is very common in most parts of northern Nigeria especially in far remote communities where social learning facilities are either inadequate or completely absent.

In the case of Wasila, she claimed that when she repeatedly told her parents that she was not in love with the man, the wedding was still made to go ahead and that the only way for her to have a balanced life was to do away with her husband. The teenager told Police she bought rat poison at a village market and used it to prepare a dish of rice.

“I told them I don’t like the man but instead for them to consider me, they kept on beating me every day so as to justify to me getting married to him. In the end they succeeded and I had to kill him because I don’t love him”, she said.

Wasila’s father, however, denied giving out his daughter against her wish. Umar said that Wasila brought in three people among which he chose one whom she killed.

“I did not force her into marrying him, she brought in three people for me and I had to make a choice”, he claimed.

Although Wasila is in Police custody, it is expected that there would be no case to build against her by virtue of being a minor. This, however, is subject to the judge’s interpretation of the case, as Wasila or her parents could still be jailed for life.

Ten others who ate the poisoned food have been treated and discharged from the hospital, while the remaining four including the husband were buried in accordance with Islamic principles.

It has been said that in ideal Islamic wedding arrangements, Wasila is not due for marriage since she is less than 18 years, as Islam strongly condemns compulsory marriage.

Stop Defending Underage Marriage, It Is ‘Undefendable’ – Lawyer

A public affairs analyst, Michael Adeleye, has described Senator Ahmed Yerima’s arguments about the legality of marrying underage girls, as an attempt to ‘defend the undefendable’.

Speaking on Sunrise Daily, he said “When I listened to Senator Yerima, yesterday, I began to ask questions. Are we living in a society where some laws seem to supercede or reign supreme over the law of the land?”

In his opinion, if a law comes out of a religion and tries to reign supreme over the laws of the land, then I think it’s questionable.

He faulted Senator’s Yerima’s claim that the parents of a girl are the ones to ascertain her maturity. “A parent cannot ultimately decide, but they can give consent”.

Although the particular law in question, Section 29(4b) of the Nigerian constitution, addresses the issue of citizenship, Mr Adeleye argues that a 9, 10 or even 13 year old female cannot be qualified as a ‘woman’ owing to the fact that such an individual does not have the mental capacity to make important decisions.

“Do you think they’re going to be able to make a decision on what’s going to happen to their lives?

He called for a review of the Marriage Act which has not been adopted in all 36 states of the federation, while making reference to the many conventions on the standard age of marriage to which Nigeria is a signatory.

#ChildNotBride: Activist Says Nigeria Should Conform To International Standard

The National Coordinator, Gender and Constitution Network, Dr. Abiola Akiyode Afolabi has said that Nigeria’s signature to international conventions such as UN Convention on Rights of Child, Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, African Charter, African Protocol on the Rights and Welfare of a Child, demands that it conforms to the global standard which stipulates ‘the majority age of a child as 18.’

While speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, the female rights activist, who was present at the Senate meeting when lawmakers voted to maintain the now controversial Section 24(4)(b) of the 1999 constitution said “the argument of the Senator (Sani Yerima) is actually unnecessary.”

The clause in question states that any woman who is married shall be deemed full of age is in reference to citizenship renunciation and not marriage, as widely misconstrued.

“It is important for us to put the facts straight. Section 29 is dealing with citizenship issue and renunciation of citizenship,” she said.

She added that “the constitution is not supposed to be addressing the issue of marriage” as stated by its exclusive list which does not allow the National Assembly to make laws related to customary and Islamic marriage.”

However, “one of the reasons why we are arguing for the deletion is also for us to ensure that we don’t have ambiguity in the constitution.”

“If Section 29(a) which says full age is 18 and above, why do you need another section determining a particular gender which can be called full aged.”

She disclosed that the culture of marrying off underage girls to men is not peculiar to Northern Nigeria as her organisation has cases of the same occurring in Lagos.

It will not suit us if we have a section in the constitution that can be misread in the manner in which Senator Sani Yerima argued.

She said that the #ChildNotBride fracas has promoted the need for Nigerians to be much more aware of what is happening in the constitution” as well as what the Senate votes for on behalf of the citizens.

Afolabi also raised the issue of inconsistencies prevalent in the different laws and regulations as regarding age of a majority.

“The immigration code has 16, under criminal code we have between 12 and 17 as the age of majority” also, the Age of Marriage Law, (1990) as drafted by the Senate stipulate the acceptable age for a citizen to marry as 18.

However, this remains a federal law applicable to the Federal Capital Territory.