ByÂ Chinyere Amalu
Chairman Senate Committee on Health, Senator Iyabo Obasanjo Bello has described as an â€œallegationâ€Â the purported taking as wife of a 13-year -old girl by Senator Sani Yarima.
Fielding questions from journalists during theÂ â€œMotherâ€s Nightâ€, an awareness-creation event on maternal mortality held in Abuja last week,Â Obasanjo said, the age of the girl in question was yet to be ascertained.
She said people keep linking cultural practices in the past to the presentÂ where under-aged girls are married out to older men, adding that if anything like that had happened, there were laws against it in Nigeria and in Egypt.
Her words: â€œFor meÂ I would say, the marriage is an allegation. This is because in the current terms, girls between ages 13-15 years are not ready for marriage. We cannot go back to that trend, where girls are married out in their early age.
â€œPersonally, I cannot say girls under this age are ripe for marriage, because there is law in every country which allows girls to mature before marriage.
We have to ascertain the age of the girl and if critically she is under age, we have to look at our laws and that of Egyptians.
â€œI think, Egyptian laws are stiffer than ours. If this is happening to an Egyptian girl, we should look back at what is happening to our own girls, which we are not reporting.
Continuing, she said: â€œTo me this incident should not be looked at punishing an individual alone, but what the society is doing to our girls and a way to save them form abuse. We should be concerned about them and a way of lifting them from their present plight.â€
She however, stressed on the need for the Child Rights Act to be enforced in all States of the Federation.
On the National Health Bill, she said it would have been an old story if not for the clauses on the NHIS and NAFDAC, which according to her, have their own laws and need to be incorporated in the Bill.
â€œWe have passed the Health Bill, both Senate and House members have come out with the finalÂ Bill and it was passed, but when it was time for passage, the lawyers came back and said there are two things, the law mentioned that is not in order.
â€œThe law mentioned NHIS and NAFDAC is covered as if the two organisations are enacted in the law. These two organisations already have laws. So the lawyers said they have separate laws.â€
Pointing out that apart from that, the health Bill would have since passed into law, but quickly noted that the amendment is something that will take only few minutes to get it done.
â€œWe need the Bill to set up the health sector. This is the problem we are facing. We really need to do something fast, it doesnâ€™t need to be debated because the Bill will affect so many lives.â€