A coalition of Nigerian women’s groups, activists and academics signed and delivered a Petition to the Senate calling for an investigation into the marriage of Senator Yerima to a 13 year old Egyptian girl. They also asked for Yerima to be suspended. Whilst the Nigerian government is busy complaining to the BBC over the TV documentary “Welcome to Lagos” for damaging Nigeria’s image, the same gutless government is refusing to condemn and suspend one of it’s members for marrying a 13 year old. Instead they have asked the coalition of women to take the matter to court making them complicit in this crime. If this was anywhere else given the seriousness of the matter, we would expect a statement from the President – Silence.
“Section 22 prohibits betrothal of a child under the age of 13. Today one of our senators, Senator Yerima, who is a member of the highest law making body in the country, is committing the same offence that attracts the penalty of five years imprisonment or N500,000 fine or both.
“If we have a man like Senator Yerima, what happens to our bill on child abuse? We are calling for his withdrawal because it is a shame that Senator Yerima should contract marriage with a thirteen year old.
“This year, the one he married when she was fifteen would be seventeen this year. If we allow this to go on, by this time next year, he would be marrying a six-year old girl.
“We want the people of Zamfara State to start the process that would recall him from the senate. We are not afraid.”
As I wrote a few days ago, I believe only 13 states have actually signed the Child Rights Act, whilst many of the Sharia northern states claim it is anti their religion and culture [I’m not sure if Zamfara State is one of the states on or not].
In 2005, The Supreme Council for Shari’ah in Nigeria (SCSN) made an official protest against adopting the Child Rights Act and again in 2008 the Kano House of Assembly said the Act was against the religion and culture [of the north].
“Gafasa, in an interview with THISDAY, also said that the Act is ” Against the wishes of Kano and entire Northern part of the country as its against our religion and culture”
The attention of the Nigerian Human Rights Community has been drawn by media reports on a marriage which reportedly took place recently between Senator Ahmed Sani Yerima and a purported 13-year old Egyptian child at the National Mosque in Abuja, paying the sum of $100,000.0 (one hundred thousand U.S. dollars only) as ‘dowry’. The said media include: The Punch, THISDAY, LEADERSHIP, NEXT, NATIONAL LIFE and TRIBUNE.
Following these publications which, to date, have not been refuted, the human rights community in Nigeria and beyond has expressed concern and consternation at the alleged actions of the Distinguished Senator which are considered both condemnable and patently illegal, especially as they relate to Nigeria’s statutory and case law as well as its international status. The allegations include, but are not limited to the fact:
1. That the said Senator Yerima “enticed” a 13 year old Egyptian child into marriage
2. That the said marriage could not be formalised in Egypt for reasons of child marriage being prohibited under their Law.
3. That a sum of $100,000.00 (about N15m) was paid by Senator Yerima as ‘dowry’.
4. That about 30 members of the said Egyptian child’s relatives were in Nigeria at the Senator’s expense for the said wedding
5. That the Senator is alleged to have married in 2006 or thereabouts, a 15 year old (Hauwa’u) who, Senator Yerima also allegedly caused to drop out of school at JSS 3, as his fourth wife.
6. That Senator Yerima recently divorced the same Hauwa’u (now 17 years old and nursing a child for him) to make room for yet another marriage, again, with a 13 year old Egyptian child.
These allegations have far reaching consequencies especially for the following reasons:
1. A seeming violation of Section 21 of the Child Rights Act 2003, which is applicable in Abuja where the said marriage purportedly took place. The Child Rights Act forbids marriage with anyone under 18 years and criminalises same with a fine of N 500,000 or 5-year jail term, or both.
2. A seeming violation of Nigeria’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child an International Human Rights Instrument to which Nigeria is a party.
3. The treatment of women and girls who by the Senator’s actions in reference, not only dehumanises them but also has implications for truncating the education of female minors thereby jeopardizing their future and healthy livelihoods.
4. The implications for immigration and the scourge of human trafficking considering allegations of wrongful entry of the child bride and 30 members of her family into Nigeria.
Based on these and the need to hold all Nigerians accountable for their actions and inactions particularly when such actions involve violations of Nigeria’s domestic and international obligations for the promotion and protection of the rights of citizens; the Senate is being urged to kindly, as a matter of urgent national interest, to:
1. Cause these allegations to be thoroughly investigated with a view to establishing the actual names of the child-bride, her age and the circumstances of her entry into Nigeria;
2. Establish the legality or otherwise of this action, considering the high personal status of Senator Yerima , his status in society as a lawmaker and leader, and the negative effect of such acts on the image of Nigeria
3. Cause its findings and decisions to be made public for the same reason as indicated in (b) above.
Your Excellency Sir, it is indeed, in the interest of the Senate to ensure that these allegations are thoroughly investigated, as it cannot be acceptable that the distinguished and hallowed Chamber of the Senate be a safe harbour for impunity by its highly placed members.
Your Excellency, xxx submits most respectfully that it is your responsibility to ensure that the
Senate and its reputation are protected of any real or percieved wrong doing. Nigerians who are
signatories to this petition look up to your person and office to assure them of the Constitutional
guarantees of protection for all citizens irrespective of any leanings.