TILL date, the situation of the girl child in Nigeria and Africa remains critical, due to a lot of factors. Even though the 1990 African Charter on Human Rights and Welfare of the Child underscored these unique factors, the girl child is far from the special safeguard and care prescribed by the charter.
This in why Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, President of Women Arise,WA, stressed the need to call Sen. Ahmed Sani Yerima, who recently married a thirteen-year old girl to order. She argues that the former governor should be ‘nailed’, if found guilty. Dr. Oke-Odumakin spoke to Charles Kumolu.
EX-and a serving Senator, Ahmed Sani Yerima was reported to have married an Egyptian girl. And everyone is angry because the girl is 13 years old-Â a minorÂ Many argue that the marriage is an abuse of the right of the girl. What is your view on this?
It is wrong and illegal to marry a minor. If you check section 25 of the penal code, you will discover that the code makes that action some how criminal. We learnt that it was $100,000 that was paid. Yerima did this in 2006 and today he is repeating the same thing. What is wrong with him. He married Hauwa at a very tender age and he sent her away after few years. A 13 year old minor is not mature to know the implications of marriage. The previous thing is that she could become a victim of vagina fistula.
These people sitting in the hallowed chambers should not allow such act to be swept under the carpet. It is very sad that at this point in time that he is paying 100,000. But the worst is that he is mortgaging the future of these young people. Such a minor should be in school at this point in time. If we donâ€™t put a stop to such act, Yerima and his co-travellers, who go to any length to satisfy their libido, would popularise this act of getting married to minors.
I think that the committee of public petitions, headed by Cyril Madua should carry out a proper investigation. And if really he was elected by the people, I am urging his constituency members to begin the process of his recall.
Do you think recalling him is enough?
The appropriate authorities should come into this. This is the time to show that our society understands what it means to have moral and societal values. That man is wasting our resources on irresponsible acts and mortgaging the future of our youths. He is doing that because might has become right in this country. We must not allow that this time. We should use him to serve as a deterrent to other people, who may want to take cue from him.
This man at the centre of this matter is a serving Senator, someone, who is believed to be distinguished, by his virtue as a senior law maker. The Senate earlier did not identify with the issue, until when it was recently referred it to its committee on Ethics and Privileges. Do you think is handling the matter properly?
The Senate should suspend him so that a thorough investigation would be carried out, so that it does not obstruct the course of justice while the people that voted him should recall him. The Senate should also find the courage to nail him if the committee finds him guilty. And after that, he should be thrown out of that hallowed chambers. I am saying this because of the position of the Senate as the highest law making organ in the country. And you know that a lot of people expect the Senate to be decisive on this.
Given that Nigeria is committed to 1989 convention on the Right of the Child, 1979 Convention on elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, 1990 African Charter on the Rights of the Child, would you say the girl child is adequately protected in Nigeria?
Not really much to my own understanding. We need to do much on the right of the child and this situation at hand serves as a wake up call on that. The girl child has always been taken for granted because of her vulnerable nature. It happens in this country. There may be other Yerimas that we hardly know. Investigations need to be carried out on this. Who knows if it may provide clues on how to get other adults, who are into this act. We learnt that it is even illegal in Egypt, so why was he allowed to carry out that act. Even in Nigeria here, why was he allowed. We know that the value system in Nigeria has changed, but it does not mean that we should allow Yerima to debase it.
The controversy that this issue has generated has led to arguments that there may be more ‘Yerimas’ out there. What has yourÂ organisation done to nib this and what do we expect if the law fails to catch up with Yerima?
The society has gone beyond the level that Yerima is taking us to. We have gone beyond that archaic stage or state of nature. This is an age of technology. He should not take us to the days of the old.Â Â There is need for reorientation and have a change of mind set. We need to understand the complexities of the kind of country we live in. We have to put all these things into consideration so that the rights of the girl child will not be mortgaged in Nigeria. We will continue with advocacy for the appropriate authorities to come in. Yerima should not be allowed toÂ rubbishing the image of this country.