It was one of those days when everything hits you at once. I was physically, intellectually, emotionally and politically tired. I decided to check my mails to take my mind off ‘issues’ but instead of some funny cat meme, the headline ‘Nigerian Senate Okays Child Marriage’ jumped at me. I screamed “Whaaatttt?” I clicked on the link to read the report and just out of nowhere I started laughing. Yeah, that was actually my first reaction, it was my first laugh of the day, actually my first laughter in days, I laughed so hard and it was very fulfilling. Now, you might wonder what was so funny about child marriage. Honestly, nothing. Child marriage is simply child abuse and there is nothing funny about child abuse. It was the report that gave me a lot to laugh at. Remember I said this was a day everything seemed out of my control and I was almost at a breaking point. I guess stress has a funny bone sometimes.
The news was about the dramatic proceedings in the Senate on Tuesday 16th July, 2013. The report stated:
The voting in the Senate, which lasted for about five hours, also witnessed the adoption of Section 9 of the draft bill of the amendment, which empowers the National Assembly to make an entirely new constitution for the country.
The senators also adopted Section 3A of the draft, which rejected the president’s assent to the amended constitution before taking effect.
Make new constitution for the country? Take away the power of the president to assent the constitution? I smell trouble here, the kinda trouble I would enjoy watching. Power is hardly ever easily relinquished. Politicians will kick up a storm whenever their rivals propose to hack their powers. I eagerly await the drama that will definitely ensue.
The report further stated that the senators rejected autonomy for Local Governments, refused the proposal to make the office of the Attorney General of the Federation independent of the Minister of Justice and managed to end the day by somehow ‘Okaying’ child marriage.
Hmm, my reaction was this laughter that went on uncontrollably for minutes. I was already picturing the president heaping abuses on the senators for daring to even suggest taking away his presidential power of assent. Also,picture the screaming Local government chairmen (well they are almost all men anyway and i am tired of complaining about the persistent use of ‘Chairman’ when it should have been changed to gender neutral ‘Chairperson’, even the few women ‘chairmen’ reject the ‘Chairperson’ tag, so much for girl power!)
I imagine the president might right now be plotting the impeachment of the senators who dared to support the removal of his power to sign or veto the proposed constitution. Since some of those lawmakers are from his party, I suspect they will be called to order soon, especially as they stand to gain politically and economically if they behaved and remained in the good book of Mr. President.
However, in all this mess I wondered where the outrage was for the Nigerian girl-child. Shouldn’t Nigerian women be storming the National Assembly right now, baring their breasts in protest to remind the senators of how their precious daughters suckled from the breasts and definitely shouldn’t be suckling the penises of men old enough to be their grandfathers? I laughed as I pictured the scenario but of course even then I knew it was not a laughing matter. I guess stress has a funny way of relieving itself sometimes.
I made a mental note to get more reports on the breaking story. Fortunately, I got a call from a friend who was present at the hearing. She explained that her group had mobilized from Lagos to Abuja to attend the hearing. When the votes were taken, they thought the business of the day was over so they left for Lagos before the session was officially declared closed. She was however surprised when a reporter called later to ask what she thinks of the ‘child marriage law’ that has now been Okayed by the senate. She actually argued with the reporter that there was no such thing at the hearing, she was there when the vote was taken and that the removal was accepted by the required 2/3 majority. She later got the full info that after the initial vote, the pedophile, Senator Sani Ahmad Yerima, had gone outside to mobilize his fellow northern lawmakers from the region famed for its pedophilia Sharia law, a religious law which BTW was introduced to the region by same Yerima when he was Zamfara state governor. After the break, Senator Ahmad Sani Yerima raised a Point of Order. He claimed that the provision which stipulates a certain age for women before getting married was at variance with Islamic law.
The Senate President David Mark observed that the point of order was wrong since it was coming after the vote had been taken and the issue was not even raised at the initial committee reading. The pedophile senator persisted, claiming he was raising it on the grounds of religion. The empty headed Senate president, David Mark, who BTW once opened a senate hearing on the Nigeria’s ‘Jail the Gays’ bill with the remarks that his religion frowns upon homosexuality therefore he supports the bill to jail gays for 14 years, fell into the religion bullshit trap, he conceded that since it is a matter of religion, it is a sensitive issue and therefore permitted the erroneous Point of Order. Just another instance when ‘religion card’ is played to truncate established rules. Anyway, this time Pedophile Yerima was able to get enough votes to retain the section that indirectly affirms that any woman who is married is deemed to be of ‘full age’ even if she was two years old!
Of course I wanted to scream, but as my friend who is a senior learned colleague pointed out, that section actually has little to do with marriage and everything to do with the renunciation of citizenship. I decided to check it out before making any post on it. And yes, she was right.
As much as I loathe Senator Sani Ahmad Yerima, I have to admit that the particular section in the constitution is not about encouraging child marriages. Yes, I understand perfectly well that his maggot ridden brain is looking for every loophole in the constitution to feed his pedophilia, but that section is not about marriage age.
Actually, the whole chapter three of the constitution is about ‘Citizenship’. Also, the citation to Section 29 reads:
(4) For the purposes of subsection (1) of this section.
(a) “full age” means the age of eighteen years and above;
(b) any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age.
The “(4) For the purposes of subsection (1) of this section” effectively means the section cannot be used to apply to any other definition outside the purpose of subsection (i) of this section, which reads:
29. (1) Any citizen of Nigeria of full age who wishes to renounce his Nigerian citizenship shall make a declaration in the prescribed manner for the renunciation.
However, many Nigerians have condemned this ‘purported’ new law; I initially asked “Where was the outrage”, well, it came, albeit wrongly directed. There has been an outcry on social Medias with Childnotbride hashtags, cartoons and petitions flying everywhere. Many friends have fallen out on Facebook and Twitter over accusations of supporting pedophilia. Also, ethnic and religious insults have taken over rational discussions, with missiles thrown at anyone within range. The newspaper headings were sensationalized to generate readership and income. Many also never bothered to do their homework before joining the bandwagon.
Also, I know how difficult it is to convince Nigerians with facts and logic especially when they are getting high on the adrenaline of self-righteousness. I have even seen quotes from my learned friend condemning the Okaying of child marriages by the senator even though she was actually the first person to direct my attention to the fact that it is not really about child marriage. I understand the pressure to fall in with the majority rather than fall out with the majority. AND THIS IS ONE MAJOR PROBLEM WITH NIGERIANS. No one wants to hear the truth, no one cares for facts and many get high on lies. Most activists often want to be seen to be on the side of the majority even if it means subsuming the facts and spewing lies on the pages of newspapers just to get on the popularity bandwagon.
I was impressed to read this very correct analysis of the controversial ‘law’ from a fellow Nigerian, Egghead Odewale who wrote in from Cambridge, Massachusetts. He wrote:
I do not think that S29 in whole or in part sets out to consummate, annul or dissolve any marriage or matrimonial cause(s) before a woman is 18 years of age as had been variously peddled and which has triggered wide protests and signature collections. I perfectly understand if Nigerians feel the need to champion a cause for the girl child and to protect their rights but to associate that with the retention or deletion of S29(4)b is a deliberate, willful but puerile misrepresentation of the Senate proceedings of last Tuesday.
This is the pure fact of the case, but of course Nigerians aren’t bothered with facts, so this view is not popular with Nigerians. Funny enough some pedophile apologists actually thought the post justifies their case, which also shows that their dead, maggot infested brain couldn’t comprehend the article. I doubt if they read it to the end.
Just as the writer said, if we are serious about protecting the Nigerian girl-child from child marriage and other abuses, the federal constitution already does a good job of that. However there are gaps particularly in some state laws which jeopardize the rights of the Nigerian girl-child. There are inconsistencies in the federal and state laws regarding the definition of a child, age of consent and age of criminal responsibility. The Child Rights Act was adopted in 2003 to domesticate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. I was actively involved in advocating and mobilizing support for the adoption of the bill. It was eventually adopted but as of now only 24 states out of the 36 states have ratified it, with some states redefining the age of a child before adopting the Act!
Interestingly, the federal Child’s Rights Act of 2003 defines a child as one who is below the age of eighteen years. The Matrimonial Causes Act puts the age of maturity at 21, whereas the Immigration Act stipulates that any person below 16 years is a minor, while for the purpose of criminal responsibility, the Criminal Code provides for ages 7 to 12. The Nigerian Marriage Act merely provides that parental consent is necessary for the statutory marriage of a person under the age of 21 years. Albeit, if a marriage takes place without such parental consent, the marriage does not become null and void but remains valid. The Matrimonial Causes Act does not help either. It only provides in Section 3 that for a marriage to be valid under the Marriage Act, the child must be of marriageable age but specifies no particular age. In northwest and north-central Nigeria, the age of marriage is set at 14. In the northeastern part, the age of marriage is between the second and third menstruation, while in the southern states it varies from 16 to 18 years of age.
There is a need to concentrate action on what really matters. We must address the laws that encourage child marriage in our various states. We must collectively and effectively tackle pedophiles like Senator Sani Ahmad Yerima. It is appalling that this pedophile senator voted to jail consensual adults who engage in same sex relationship. Senator Yerima just two years ago imported the 13 year old daughter of his Egyptian gardener and in the presence of his fellow senators, married the imported girl at a lavish wedding ceremony conducted at the National Mosque built with our tax money.
Following outcry the erroneous Point of Order generated, the pedophile senator, Sani Ahmad Yerima lashed out at his ‘enemies':
”Nigeria has many uncountable problems and none of them is early marriage. As a matter of fact early marriage the solution to about half of our problems. For those who wonder if I can give my daughter(s) out in marriage at the age of 9 or 13, I tell you most honestly, I can give her out at the age of 6 if I want to and its not your business. This is because I am a Muslim and I follow the example of the best of mankind, Muhammad ﺻَﻠَّﻰ ﺍﻟﻠَّﻪُ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻪِ ﻭَﺳَﻠَّﻢَ .
In Islam, marriage is not only about sex, it is about family and helping one another in achieving their goals, which is the attainment of Paradise.
In Islam, a girl can be given out in marriage as early as 6 years old, but consummation of the marriage can only be done when the girl becomes physically mature and she gives her consent to it because unlike English law, it is not permissible for a man to rape his wife in Shari’ah Law. So what can anybody tell me?
~ I live in a city where young girls at the age of 12 have already became serial fornicators and cannot count the number of man they’ve had sex with.
~ I live in a City where primary school children disvirgin themselves behind toilets on Valentine day.
~ I live in a city where young girls flood the street at night looking for men that would give them N500 to have sex with them.
~ I live in a city where parents send their daughters out overseas to prostitute and send dollars down.
~ I live in a City where Government officials pick undergraduates from University car parks with Coastal Buses to wild sex parties.
~ I live in a city where abortion is so common that even a Chemist shore owner can perform abortion with just N2,500.
These are your daughters, and this should worry you and not Yerima’s private matters. So ask me again why I support early marriage and I will slap the Jinn out of your head”.
– Senator Ahmad Sani Yarima
Also, reactionaries like the renegade, Asari Dokubo, reacted by launching attacks on those who criticized the decision, he was quoted as saying
People should learn to respect other people’s sensibilities. We Muslims have the right to marry when we want or give out our daughters at any age we want. It is not your business and the law must respect our right to do so. Anything short of that is an infringement on our rights to do so. Please respect our sensibilities.
The feminist groups screaming blue murder should direct their energy towards fighting the existing state laws that gives loophole to pedophiles and horrible people like Asari Dokubo. There should be total separation of state and religion, especially in the important area of law and policy.
Also, of special concern is the growing cases of child rape in Nigeria.
Just a few days ago, it was reported that:
A Pastor with the Deeper life Bible Church, Abudu, in Orhiomnwon Local Government Area of Edo state, Fidelis Eze, has been paraded by the Police in the state for defiling two under-aged girls.
Pastor Fidelis was said to have lured the two girls, aged six, into his room after sending them on an errand. The police claimed he had carnal knowledge of them before dismissing them.
The father of one of the girls who noticed the unusual way his daughter was walking when she got home, got the story of the incident from her, which led to the arrest of the paedophile.
Eze who admitted to the act, confessed that he had previously defiled two other minors, both of them 11 years old, earlier this year, but claimed that on all the occasions, he had been tempted by evil spirits.
“I am really ashamed of myself particularly as a Pastor. I have been a Pastor at Deeper Life for over six years but I was tempted to defile these girls. They are always visiting me, so this particular day I defiled both of them,” he said.
In another horrible case, it was reported that:
The State Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Calabar has arrested one Chijioke Nwakor for allegedly raping a nine-year-old girl to death.
20-year-old Nwakor confessed to have engaged Miss Alice Enej (9) in ‘marathon love-making.’ He also told the officer heading the CID’s homicide unit, Mr. Joseph Inuyashe, that there was a mutual agreement between him and the girl and that there was no form of force.
As of the time of the girl’s death, the rapist was still out on the street, free. According to the rapist, he was out raising money for the girl’s medical bill when he was informed the girl had died. He claimed he did not rape the 9 year old girl because she gave him consent to have sex with her, and he thought the girl was crying because she was enjoying it, until she slumped. Yeah, that is the kind of sick society we live in.
The feminist groups and NGOs should get their acts together and stop playing the popularity game. Are any of these groups interested in securing justice for the dead 9 year old girl or is it that the case of the girl is not of national importance therefore they can’t be bothered to take it up?
I mean, we can’t eat our cake and have it. It is either we truly care for human rights for all or we don’t. Playing to the gallery to gain relevance is sad. There are laws gender activists should rally against and believe you me, section 29(4b) is hardly a law to raise an eyebrow over. Not when there are real laws that threaten the Nigerian girl-child.
Hypocrisy is one major cause of the problems bedeviling our country, Nigeria. At least the human rights community should endeavor to rid itself of playing to the gallery.
Unfortunately, because the human rights activists do not want to lose their popularity with the ‘masses’, they have kept a deafening silence on the oppression of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals in Nigeria. They have refused to be seen supporting LGBT rights as Human rights. In private discussions, some of them do agree that the draconian Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition bill which stipulates 14 years imprisonment for same sex relationship is harsh and unjust. But can they say this in public? NOPE. Their fear of losing mass popularity and donor funds from their Christian donors won’t allow such grandiose declaration of equality for all. Yes, Nigeria sucks and that include its human rights community and its ‘as good as dead’ Human rights Commission (HRC).
Well, for those who wanted to know what I have to say about the #childNotBride thing, now you know. BTW, do we now get to have a viral #childnotbride t-shirts reminiscent of the ‘My Oga at the top’ saga?
I am more than willing to continue to champion the inalienable human rights of the girl-child; I just won’t do it under deliberate misconception or false pretense. Watch out for my video highlighting the plight of the Nigerian/African girl-child, coming soon. And in the meantime, here is a poem for the Girl-Child, titled ‘Because I Am A Girl’.