WHAT
is it that attracts men
(especially middle aged and old men)
to teenage girls in Nigeria? These are
girls of the age bracket of 10 to 15
years.
I am asking the question in the light
of what is happening in this country
of late. Daily, we read stories of rape,
molestation, abuse and (now) forceful
marriage of these young girls who are
still of school age. Is child marriage
becoming a norm in Nigeria?
Indeed, several cases of child
marriage, rape and abuse have been
going on in Nigeria with only very
few reported. I am aware that before
the introduction of western education
and western culture, in some parts
of Nigeria girls were betrothed to
prospective husbands as soon as they
were born. However, the marriage
would only be allowed to take effect
after the girl had come of age, at
which time, both parents would
invite friends and relations to witness
the formal marriage ceremony. Today,
the situation is quite different.
At the weekend, we read the story
of a man and his wife from Ogun
state whose business is to recruit and
traffic teenage girls from Nigeria to
Libya for prostitution. Similar things
happen in Dubai, Italy and other
parts of Europe.
Earlier in the week, we read the
shocking story of two 14-year-
old girls that were forcefully and
deceitfully married against their wish
and consent of their parents. Little
Ese Rita Oruru, from Bayelsa State
was kidnapped and taken to Kano
State and subsequently married in a
Moslem way. It was the media hype
that eventually led to her release from
her captors.
While Nigerians were yet to
recover from the shock of the Ese
Oruru story who was found in the
family way, having stayed in forced
marriage since August 2015, the
nation was jolted to learn that the
same was happening in the Seat of
the Caliphate, Sokoto, where another
girl of 14, Patience Paul from Benue
State was allegedly abducted by two
men and taken before the palace of
the Emir of Sokoto. As at press time,
her whereabouts remain unknown.
A similar case has been reported in
Zaria, Kaduna State. I’m sure many
more would soon be unearthed. A
common feature of all the issues is
that the girls were first forcefully
converted to Islam before marriage,
all without their parents’ consent.

ne wonders why all the above cases
had to do with Islam. I am aware that
forced marriage and forced conversion
are against Islam. The same with
marriage of a teenager without her
parents’ consent. But why these things
are happening at this time baffle my
imagination. I am also worried on the
tacit approval of the illegal acts and
protection given to the perpetrators by
the Emirs of Kano, Sokoto and Zaria
who, apart from being well educated
and exposed, are custodians of the
culture, religion and tradition of their
people.
Are they by their attitude saying that
Islamic religion now sanctions child
marriage and in extreme case, child
defilement?
The first major reported case of child
marriage in Nigeria was that of Senator
Ahmed Yerima of Zamfara State in
2013 when he married an Egyptian
girl of 14, but later sacked her and
married another Egyptian girl of 13. In
spite of the hue and cry that followed
the underage marriage, the senator
continued to serve in the senate after
maintaining that he acted according to
the dictates of Islam and against the
Nigerian constitutional provision of 21
years.
The case of Senator Yerima and
the Egyptian girls, however, seems
to be different from the two cases of
marriage after abduction as witnessed
in that of Ese Oruru and Patience Paul.
Whereas the parents of the Egyptian
girls gave their consent to the marriage,
Ese and Patience’s parents never gave
their consent as they reported the
disappearance of their children from
their homes to the police. And as often is
the case, the Police did little or nothing
to help.
It is appalling that someone should be
forced to go into marriage and worse
still, forced to practice a religion against
her wish. What is glaring in the Ese
and Patience’s case is that some people
seem to be out to recruit girls for the
Islamic religion, because in both cases,
the girls were quickly made to wear
Muslim robes, an indication that they
have become Moslems.
If the case of the two girls are not
enough to justify that some people are
preoccupied with recruiting people for
Islam by hook or by crook, the abduction
of the Chibok Secondary School girls is
further evidence that Islam is the motive
for the early and forced marriage being
witnessed in Nigeria today. I need to be
convinced otherwise. ‎
Apart from Islam, equity and good
conscience should tell those forcing
people into religion that they should
allow fundamental human rights of
the citizens to prevail. The Emirs and
members of the Sharia Commission as
well as the Police are educated men who
should know that the constitution is
supreme and people should be allowed
to operate within the ambit of the law.
If child marriage is desirable in
anyway, it should be done with full
consent and not coercion or intimidation
of any kind.
On the part of human rights activists,
it will be nice if they embark on
sensitising parents against giving out
their girl child in marriage without
reaching maturity age for health and
economic reasons. This is important
because instead of harping on law
and punishments, our preoccupation
and persuasion should be to make the
society sane. If parents are made to see
the importance of bringing up the girl
child, the society will be the better for it.
Trying to fight child marriage legally
is like fighting abortion, harlotry, ‎ and
sundry social crimes. Despite laws put
in place against all these crimes, rather
than abate, they have continued to grow
in magnitude and sophistication. Hence,
moral persuasion and sensitisation are
paramount. That being the case, on no
account should anybody marry a child
by force and intimidation, no matter
how highly placed in society. We must
stop all this rubbish

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