Oct 25, 2016 – Buhari Urged To Rescue Christian Girl In Forced Marriage In Katsina As Pedophile Emir Gets Soft Landing With Police
Less than a year after Ese Oruru, a minor from Bayelsa State, was abducted, taken to Kano, and forced into an illegitimate marriage, another ugly practice of underage marriage is playing out in Katsina State. Habiba Isyaku, an indigene, aged 14, was purportedly married to one Jamilu Lawal, said to have masterminded her abduction, according to the victim’s father. As usual, the Nigeria Police Force, which ought to have acted decisively by rescuing the girl, is just watching the ugly drama, playing the ostrich, as it were, while impunity wags its tail before it.
According to the girl’s father, Tanko Isyaku, Habiba is a pupil of Government Senior Secondary School, Kudun Kankara, Katsina. He stressed that she was “abducted on the 16th of August, 2016, from her school.” It is most offensive to hear the Katsina Emirate Council, which supported Lawal’s illegality, has collected N50,000 bride price on behalf of the girl’s parents, saying that such an unholy union is irreversible. This is absolute nonsense!
Isyaku has lodged a formal complaint with the state’s Commissioner of Police, Usman Abdullahi, who, unfortunately, merely advised the girl to return to her parents, convinced that she “willingly” embraced Islam and left her parents’ home without anybody’s prompting. This is utter perfidy, an incoherent narrative not expected from a law enforcement officer of his rank.
Ironically, the Emir of Katsina, Abdulmumini Kabir, denied marrying off the girl through Nuhu Abdulkadir, one of the kingmakers, who represented him at a meeting with the Christian Association of Nigeria, Katsina branch, last week. Clearly, this narrative conflicts with the emir’s earlier stance, exemplified in the girl father’s account of how he went to his palace to pick his daughter and was told off that no relationship existed anymore between him and her, after the conversion to Islam and marriage.Besides, the emir accused him of defamation, for which Isyaku was harassed, threatened and compelled to sign a prepared letter of apology, which the emirate council now flaunts as evidence of his acquiescence of having misread what really transpired.
Really, there are many other cases, including that of Charity Uzoechina, daughter of an Abuja-based Redeemed Christian Church of God pastor, Raymond, in 2013. Charity, then a student of the Federal Polytechnic, Bida, Niger State, was forced into marriage, her name changed to Aisha and sequestered in the palace of the Etsu Nupe.
No underage girl under our constitution can consent to marriage, evident in Section 29 (4) of the 1999 Constitution, which stipulates that 18 years is the “full age.” This law has been violated by Lawal. Besides, the Child’s Right Act, in Section 21, states, “No person under the age of 18 years is capable of contracting a valid marriage and, accordingly, a marriage so contracted is null and void and of no effect whatsoever.” Marriage, under whatever religious suasion, is a consensual engagement that involves the parents of both the bride and groom.
This serial abuse of the laws of our land under the cover of religion should stop. The tendency to place religion over and above Nigeria’s constitution very often throws the country into a cauldron. Ahmed Sani, the senator who married a 15-year-old Egyptian in 2010, trod a path that should be avoided with his action that activated a national discourse, when he said, “I don’t care about the issue of age since I’ve not violated any rule as far as Islam is concerned. I will not respect any law that contradicts that….”
But the practice has serious health implications, too. The US-based National Centre for Biotechnology Information says child marriage is a human rights violation that prevents girls from obtaining an education, enjoying optimal health, bonding with people of their own age, maturing, and ultimately choosing their own life partners. It has many effects on girls’ health: increased risk for sexually transmitted diseases, cervical cancer, malaria, death during childbirth, and obstetric fistula. Girls’ offspring are at increased risk for premature birth and death as neonates, infants, or children.
According to Musa Elisha, a United Nations Population Fund analyst, Nigeria has an estimated Vesico Vaginal Fistula burden of 800,000 women, out of which the North-West and North-East regions have 680,000. Nigeria’s burden represents 40 per cent of global cases, clearly the world leader. Habiba should not be allowed to add to these awful statistics.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who is also from Katsina State, should save himself from further embarrassment of seeing his emir entangled in this messy, illegal union and abduction of another man’s daughter by ordering the Inspector-General of Police to secure the release of this girl within 24 hours.
[Report with Punch]