Again, the Nigerian Senate has lived up to its infamy. Their support for child marriage in the constitution has confirmed Nigeria as a country of paedophiles — a country where men frequently prey on minors either through rape or contracting them for early marriage.
By Bayo Olupohunda
Now, the vote in the Senate last week officially puts a stamp on a crime that has been the greatest scourge of the girl-child in our country today. This latest outrage by our lawmakers may also seem unthinkable. But for those familiar with the malfeasance that has come out of Nigeria’s “House of the Absurd”, it is not totally unexpected. Are our lawmakers not known to have perpetrated some worst form of violations against the Nigerian people in the Fourth Republic? Just a few days ago, it was revealed by The Economist of the UK that Nigerian lawmakers are the highest paid in the world. When last week the Senate voted to alter the constitution in favour of underage marriage, it was not without a precedent. After all, one of them was known to have contracted a minor under the same circumstance.
Ahmed Sani Yerima, a former governor and now senator from Zamfara State, had insisted that the Senate alter the constitutional provision that stipulates that a woman shall not be qualified for marriage until she attains the age of 18. The Senate was reported to have deleted the age specification clause for women from the 1999 Constitution being reviewed and left the marriage age open. The reason given by the Upper Chamber was at best nonsensical. It claimed that a woman is deemed to be “of age’’ once she is married irrespective of the age she did so. The import of this asinine rationale is that even if a 10 or nine-year-old-girl is contracted for marriage, she is considered ready because by virtue of being contracted (albeit forcefully), she is deemed to be “full of age’’. How outrageous?
But the Senate’s volte-face is not surprising. Earlier, while debating the issue, the house had retained the age specification that pegged the marriage age for girls at 18 years. But the David Mark-led Senate later reneged. This it did in submission to the alarm raised by Yerima who claimed that age specification for marriage contravenes Islamic provision. He argued that pegging the age of 18 for girls is at variance with Islamic laws. That the Zamfara senator is at the forefront of promoting and legalising underage marriage should not surprise anyone familiar with his lewd antecedent. The senator in 2010 made headlines for contracting underage marriage with an Egyptian minor. In spite of the uproar the marriage to his underage bride provoked, Yerima defended his action as a religious duty.