BY JOSEPH ERUNKE
ABUJA – FOLLOWING the barrage of attacks on the Senate by concerned Nigerians over alleged voting for child marriage during last week consideration of the Senate’s Committee Report on Constitution Review, some senators have said that the public misconstrued Senate’s position on the issue.
Senators Akin Odunsi, ACN Ogun West, and Atiku Abubakar Bagudu , PDP Kebbi Central, who spoke at separate briefings with journalists Monday, said the Senate position on the issue was completely different from both the public and media views.
Senator Odunsi, explained that the alleged underage marriage provision was an existing law in the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as contained in section 29 clauses 4 (a) and (b) which states that “any woman that is married in Nigeria is of full age”
“What the Senate attempted to do that day was to expunge that clause but couldn’t do so due to shortage of 13 votes because 60 senators voted for its removal as against 73 required votes while 35 voted for its retention.
“Therefore, from what happened on the floor of the Senate last Tuesday, the Senate attempted to expunge the somewhat archaic clause and not in any way created the law as now wrongly portrayed by Nigerians”, he clarified.
On his part, Senator Abubakar Bagudu, said it was quite unfortunate that the Senate was being drawn into what he described as unnecessary debate.
He said the alleged endorsement of the Senate for underage marriage in Nigeria was a terrible misrepresentation of what the Senate considered or voted for under section 29 clauses 4(a) and (b) of the Nigeria constitution and as presented for consideration by its committee on Constitution review.
According to him, the issue of renunciation of citizenship was what the Senate considered and voted on as far as section 29 clauses 4a and b were concerned and not anything about marriage.
He said: “Clause 4a of section 29 of the 1999 constitution defines a full age for any Nigerian who wants to renounce his or her citizenship to be 18 years and above while clause 4b states further that in the case of women, aside the 18 years prescribed in clause 4a, any woman that is married can be considered to be of full age”.
Senator Bagudu said: “In many places around the world, marriage below the age of 18 years for girls is allowed by parental consent”. He insisted that the “Holy Bible, the Koran, the Torah etc , all view full age for women from the age of puberty.”