*CAN aborts secret wedding to Muslim brother
Charity Uzoechima, the 26-year-old girl who converted to Islam and kept in the palace of Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, for “safety” for three months, is in the news again.
Her fate and whereabouts since July last year when she was brought to Government House, Minna, Niger State for reconciliation with her parents had not been known until days ago when she was said to be prepared and almost given out in marriage to a Muslim lawyer without the consent of her parents.
The last time she was brought to public glare was July 3, 2013 in Government House, Minna.
She was not alone on that day. Her parents, Pastor and Mrs. Raymond Uzoechima; their lawyer, Femi Ikotun; the National Secretary of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Dr. Musa Atake; CAN Chairman, Niger State, Rev. Musa Dada; and immediate past governor of the state, Engr, Abdulkadir Kure; among other stake holders, were at the peace meeting held at Government House, Minna on that day with the deputy governor, Alhaji Musa Ibeto, presiding.
The purpose was to reconcile Charity with her family. But the reconcilation failed due to a pending court case that compelled Charity to remain in Etsu Nupe’s palace until the case was discontinued.
The deputy governor said after the meeting that the issue at hand was not religion but how to settle the case out of court amicably.
“We believe that the issue at hand is not the religion Charity should practice but how the case should be settled out of court amicably and get the girl reconciled with her parents,” Ibeto remarked. Charity’s father, Uzoechima, had filed a case on July 15, 2013, praying the court to bar the Sharia Court from entertaining a suit filed by his daughter on the grounds that the court lacked competence and jurisdiction to hear the suit.
Charity, now Aisha, had dragged her father to Sharia court, Bida, seeking its protection from the father over her conversion from Christianity to Islam in order to exercise her new faith without hindrance.
Meanwhile, the lady was withdrawn from the Etsu Nupe’s palace and kept in the deputy governor’s house where she was said to have been residing.
However, arrangements were said to have been made to give Charity out in marriage according to Islamic injunctions to a Muslim brother, said to be a lawyer.
The secret plan was allegedly halted only hours to the wedding when a letter was written by the National body of CAN to its Niger State wing to investigate the matter and make its findings available to appropriate quarters.
Niger State CAN Chairman, Dada, was said to have alerted the state Commissioner for Religious Affairs and the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice on the development, seeking to know what led to the Charity’s proposed wedding especially without the consent of the stakeholders especially the parents of the lady.
The Commissioners, it was gathered, could not give satisfactory answer and the matter was taken before the deputy governor, Ibeto, for intervention.
The stage was allegedly set for the wedding on a Friday with Imams and other Muslim clerics in attendance when Governor. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, after being consulted about the development ordered that the wedding should be aborted.
The aborted marriage has generated questions from different stake holders. What is the fate of Charity? For how long would she remain in “custody”? would have collected her dowry and on whose permission would have the marriage been contracted?
Charity was admitted to Federal Polytechnic, Bida, Niger State in 2012 to read public administration but converted to Islam along the line and could not accomplish her academic pursuit.
In an exclusive telephone conversation with her last year on the issue, the lady called on Nigerians to leave her alone to practice the religion of her choice, pointing out that nobody forced her into the religion and she should be left to carry her cross alone.
“I did it on my own. Nobody forced me into it. Am I the first to convert to Muslim in Nigeria?
I know it is people that are pushing my father and I am praying for him and other members of my family to know that this is the right religion,” she remarked.
On whether she would like to follow her father back home if the matter was amicably settled, Charity insisted that she was afraid going back with the parents for fear of being killed.
“I am not going back to my father because of his actions. He had been threatening me. But at my age, I am free to practice any religion of my choice and so, I should be left to decide,” Charity declared.
Efforts to get in touch with her parents on the latest development proved abortive.
Our correspondent reliably gathered that the state government may be forced to contract the wedding between Charity and her groom with or without the consent of her parents and family members.