The Divided House

We all have heard about the recent happenings in the Nigerian senate and the marriage law palaver. Well, I did some findings on the issue and discovered some facts I thought I could share.

Based on my findings, on Tuesday the 18th of July 2013 the Senate did not pass any law legalising child marriage when they met to review the 1999 constitution. As a matter of fact nothing like child marriage was actually placed directly in the picture on this day or any other day for that matter.

So what happened? What led to this child marriage brouhaha?. Let’s go through the events of that day (18th July 2013) when the Nigerian Senate met to review the 1999 constitution so we can have a better understanding. Senator Ike Ekweremadu’s committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution had recommended the amendment of a part of Section 29 which deals with the renunciation of Nigerian citizenship.

According to Section 29 subsection 1 of the 1999 constitution “Nigerians who are of “full age” would be at liberty to renounce their citizenship provided they met certain other conditions which are enumerated in the succeeding subsections”.  Even though Section 29 subsection 4a states that: “full age means the age of 18 years and above”, 29(4b) states that “any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age.”

 

The committee sought the deletion of the clause 29 (4b) apparently with the understanding that many girls are forced into marriage before their 18th birthday and that since 18 signifies adulthood in various other parts of our national life, it would be improper to afford girls who cannot obtain driving licenses, cannot vote or be voted for, the opportunity to renounce their citizenship on the basis of their marital status. This was where the problem began.

 

Senators voted for the deletion of this provision in the clause 29(4b) and all was going smoothly until Senator Yerima, who needs no introduction to all those familiar with Nigeria’s political scene stood up to protest the “injustice” in the deletion of Section29(4b). This he-goat is reputed to have travelled to Egypt to marry a 13-year-old in 2010 under the guise of religion. Now what baffles me is, this rascal married a minor in Nigeria even though Sections 21,22, and 23 of the Constitution outlaws and criminalizes child marriage. Nobody said a thing to him because he waved the Sharia law flag which allowed him do so.

 

At this point, I will pause to ask a question. If Northern Nigeria is part of Nigeria why has Sharia law become superior to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the Northern states? Is this not a sort of rebellion? I am coming back to that issue soon.

 

Now back to the matter of discussion. Senator Yerima once again obviously prepared, waved the religious flag on the floors of the senate and he was also able to gather some he-goat followers like himself in the senate. His point of argument was that Chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution guarantees the right of every Nigerian to privacy, freedom of expression and religion therefore deleting this provision stated in Section 29(subsection 4B) would trample on the belief of Muslims that any married girl is of full age. He also reminded them that Item 61 under Part1 of the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution otherwise known as the Exclusive legislative list forbids the Senate from prescribing laws related to the “formation, annulment and dissolution of marriages…” contracted under Islamic and customary law.

 

Without mincing words and without fear of any consequence from my statement, I declare that I have no regard whatsoever for any school of thought that believes because a girl is married she is of full age. Asking me to accept this crap is like telling me to believe that gravity will not drop a baby when it’s thrown up because it’s a baby. Is this not common sense? Abeg!!! . Anyway with Yerima’s well-formed argument and the he-goat followers in his camp, he arm-twisted the Senate President Senator David Mark for another round of voting and the rest is history.

 

According to some Nigerians, there is no need to worry about the failure of the Senate to delete the Section 29(subsection 4B) provision of the constitution since Section 277 of the Child Rights Act 2003, defines a minor as anyone less than 18 years of age and Sections 21, 22 and 23 of the same law outlaws and criminalizes child marriage. In my opinion, last Tuesday’s events indicate that some elements in the Nigerian senate care less about these laws. Besides, people like Yerima and his fellow he-goats in the senate who are determined to have children as brides would use any provisions of the constitution to justify their wicked actions.

 

For your information, 10 years after the National Assembly passed the Child Rights Acts,12 out of the 36 states in Nigeria have not adopted the law and 11 out these 12 states are in Northern Nigeria. This means therefore that, we cannot currently depend on the Child Rights Act in the definition of age for the attainment of adulthood in Nigeria as the violation of the rights of children would most likely go without restitution in any and all of the states which have not passed the law.

 

Considering the event’s that took place last Tuesday In the Nigerian Senate, I would be right to say that the future of our children and particularly the girl-child in Nigeria is not safe if we have people like Yerima and his cohorts in the Senate passing laws that would shape the lives of children unborn.

 

Why should the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria not protect the rights of Nigerian children? Why should Sharia law supersede the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in northern Nigeria? In all these events I have fixed my eyes on the big picture and all I see is a group of men from the North trying to control the future of Nigeria and Nigerians. If you doubt me why has no elder from the North openly come out to tell us who Boko Haram is? It is no longer news that some folks in Northern Nigeria believe the Presidency is their birth-right. Don’t even tell me about Obasanjo’s PDP zoning because I have researched the pattern of Nigeria’s leadership thoroughly since 1960 and the North has always tried to play a fast one on all of us. Haba! No be one Nigeria again? I am in no way against Northern Nigerians but I am firmly against some things they believe and I am not afraid to say so.

 

This is the moment when every right thinking member of the National Assembly should stand against any law or provision that will hurt the future of Nigerian children and I don’t care if they throw chairs at each other trying to resolve this one. We must stand together to mount pressure on every state government so that the Child Rights Act of 2003 is implemented and enforced in all states of Nigeria. All stakeholders should mobilize to enlighten parents and the general populace that with education, it is possible to tackle the dangers of poverty, income inequalities, underdevelopment, gender disparities, Vesicovaginal fistula (VVF), child mortality, illiteracy, gender-based violence and even harmful traditional practices which all diminish our country’s development.

 

 

Finally, why does the constitution of Nigeria permit Northern States to operate Sharia law without being totally subject to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? Imagine the mayhem if every religion represented in Nigeria demanded for their set of rules that superseded the Nigerian constitution? We need to start doing it right now because in the words of Abraham Lincoln “A HOUSE DIVIDE AGAINST ITSELF CANNOT STAND”.

 

NOW MY MESSAGE IS THIS – EDUCATE THE GIRL CHILD IN NIGERIA ESPECIALLY IN NORTHERN NIGERIA!!!

Together we must class anyone against this campaign as an enemy of Nigeria’s progress and fight them in every way we can.

 

 

 



No thoughts yet on “The Divided House” by Uzoma Umekwe (@uzomaumekwe)

Leave a Reply