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UNDERAGE MARRIAGE: Building Nigeria On Deceit

PROLOGUE
By IKEDDY ISIGUZO, Chairman Editorial Board
THE Senate loves itself too much to care about Nigerians. Senators are out to destroy Nigeria with their arrogance and greed. They believe they are above reproach by Nigerians, as they set out to ruin Nigeria today, and its future.

Defences of the intention to make a constitutional provision that would allow girls to be married off when they are five years old – without a prescribed age, they can be married at five months – show the Senate’s ignorance of the possible impacts of the decision.

We are discussing our country’s future, not the length and width of a bridge that can widened or taken down with minimal consequences. We are dealing with the lives of millions of Nigerians and their right to life as human beings, not commodities for the profane pleasures of some twisted adults. Some female senators voted for child marriage!

UNDERAGE MARRIAGE: SENATORS WHO VOTED YES
UNDERAGE MARRIAGE: SENATORS WHO VOTED YES

Limiting the contest to the rights of the girl child introduces a minimalist approach to the issue. One of the consequences of early marriage is fistula, a condition that leaves a hole between the rectum and the vulva. The woman is incontinent, smells from inability to manage her bowl. In time her husband abandons her in search for his next victim.

Nigeria has more than 800,000 fistula cases, the highest in the world, all resulting from child marriages, which also contribute to high maternal deaths.

Senate President David Alechenu Bonaventure Mark waffles, exposing the flimflam on which the Senate operates. Mark said senators were blackmailed to pass the provision. He used religion and culture as excuses for the vote.

Nigeria does not have a state religion, according to Section 10. Mark’s brief is to provide leadership that would sustain the plurality the Constitution proposed in its preamble –

“We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

Having firmly and solemnly resolve,.… to provide for a Constitution for the purpose of promoting the good government and welfare of all persons in our country, on the principles of freedom, equality and justice, and for the purpose of consolidating the unity of our people

Do hereby make, enact and give to ourselves the following Constitution.”

How would a discriminatory Constitution cater for the “welfare of all persons in our country, on the principles of freedom, equality and justice?

The proposed amendment would circumscribe the rights of women, from birth. Our Constitution in Section 42 forbids discrimination on basis of origin, belief, or sex. At what age would a woman retrieve her abrogated rights? Would a girl once married be eligible to vote even if she is 10? Can she stand as guardian and sign legal documents for her children? The girls among them could be married before they are six!

How would a society of fistula-ravaged women, who are divorced, abandoned, still in their teens, raise its new members? Exactly what should this law achieve? How would it enhance the liberties our Constitution grants?

Nigerians should contest this matter until it is resolved in their favour. We cannot build a nation on deceit, as has been the case with the Child’s Rights Act (2003) and the Freedom of Information Act (2011). Both laws protect personal liberties the Constitution awards.

The National Assembly watches disinterestedly, as State Houses of Assembly manacle the two laws claiming they are domesticating them. Our Constitution prescribes domestication only for treaties between Nigeria and other countries. According to Section 12 (1) the National Assembly should domesticate treaties for them to have effect. Our Constitution has no provision for State Houses of Assembly to amend federally made laws. It is deceit that permits this illegality.

UNDERAGE MARRIAGE: SENATORS WHO VOTED YES
UNDERAGE MARRIAGE: SENATORS WHO VOTED YES

Section 4 (5) is clear on what State Assemblies cannot do. “If any Law enacted by the House of Assembly of a State is inconsistent with any law validly made by the National Assembly, the law made by the National Assembly shall prevail, and that other Law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.” Where do the States get their powers?

Each senator swore to this oath, “I, do solemnly swear/affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that as a Member of the Senate, I will perform my functions honestly to the best of my ability, faithfully and in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the law, and the rules of the Senate and always in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being and prosperity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that I will strive to preserve the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; and that I will preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria….”

The deceit that is mounted as defence for the abnegation of Nigeria’s future has to be resisted. The Senate has the effrontery to defend itself instead of apologising to Nigerians for abandoning the oath to protect the rights of all Nigerians – including girls.

 SENATORS WHO VOTED YES

1. Sen. Abdulmumin M. Hassan (Jigawa SouthWest, PDP)

2. Sen. Abdullahi Danladi (Jigawa NorthWest, PDP)

3. Sen. Adamu Abdullahi (Nasarawa West, PDP)

4. Sen. Ahmed Barata (Adamawa South, PDP)

5. Sen. Akinyelure Ayo (Ondo Central, Labour Party)

6. Sen. Alkali Saidu A. (Gombe North, PDP)

7. Sen. Bagudu Abubakar A. (Kebbi Central, PDP)

8. Sen. Dahiru Umaru (Sokoto South, PDP)

9. Sen. Galaudu Isa (Kebbi North, PDP)

10. Sen. Garba Gamawa (Bauchi North, PDP)

11. Sen. Danjuma Goje Mohammed (Gombe Central, PDP)

12. Sen. Gobir Ibrahim (Sokoto East, PDP)

13. Sen. Gumba Adamu Ibrahim (Bauchi South, PDP)

14. Sen. Hadi Sirika (Katsina North, CPC)

15. Sen. Ibrahim Bukar Abba (Yobe East, ANPP)

16. Sen. Jajere Alkali (Yobe South, ANPP)

17. Sen. Jibrilla Mohammed (Adamawa North, PDP)

18. Sen. Kabiru Gaya (Kano South, ANPP)

19. Sen. Lafiagi Mohammed (Kwara North, PDP)

20. Sen. Lawan Ahmad (Yobe North, ANPP)

21. Sen. Maccido Mohammed (Sokoto North, PDP)

22. Sen. Musa Ibrahim (Niger North, CPC)

23. Sen. Ndume Mohammed Ali (Borno South, PDP)

24. Sen. Sadiq A. Yaradua (Katsina Central, CPC)

25. Sen. Saleh Mohammed (Kaduna Central, CPC)

26. Sen. Tukur Bello (Adamawa Central, PDP)

27. Sen. Ugbesia Odion (Edo Central, PDP)

28. Sen. Umar Abubakar (Taraba Central, PDP)

29. Sen. Usman Abdulaziz (Jigawa NorthEast, PDP)

30. Sen. Ya’au Sahabi (Zamfara North, PDP)

31. Sen. Zannah Ahmed (Borno Central, PDP)

32. Sen. Ahmad Rufai Sani (Zamfara West, ANPP)

33. Sen. Ahmad Abdul Ningi (Bauchi Central, PDP)

34. Sen. Bello Hayatu Gwano (Kano North, PDP)

35. Sen. Ibrahim Abu (Katsina South, CPC).

How did they ever get to office as senators?

 


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