Culled from News Express
Nigerian Christians are in war mood over what they see as a clever attempt by the country’s senators to approve the marriage of under-aged girls through the back door. Already, the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, has started mobilizing for the protest, which he vowed would hold soon and would be led by himself.
The CAN President announced this in a statement which he issued yesterday in Abuja, the Nigerian capital. He also blasted the Senate, particularly Senator Ahmed Yerima, the man championing under-age marriage. Below is the text of Oritsejafor’s statement:
“The President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor is worried about the Nigerian Senate’s passage of a resolution to amend the provision of section 29 (4) (b) of the 1999 constitution which states that, ‘any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age.’ The President understands this to imply that, if amended, a girl of any age can be constitutionally allowed to marry.
“As the leader of Christians in Nigeria, he is particularly irked by the statement credited to Senator Ahmed Yerima, a former governor of Zamfara State to the effect that the proposal for the deletion of section 29 (4) (b) is at variance with Islamic Law. The President of CAN finds that argument offensive because “it presupposes that Nigeria, a secular state, is populated only by Muslims.
“Yerima is again, advertently stirring up another controversy about the supremacy of Islamic Law to the Nigerian constitution after the one he raised when he introduced Sharia, the Islamic Legal code, in Zamfara State. I think the problem is that people like Senator Yerima are approaching Qur’anic teachings from extremes and disturbing the balance. It makes me wonder the source of their emotions and thoughts that nurture them.
“As a Senator whose case of marrying a 13 years old Egyptian girl is still fresh in the memory of Nigerians, Yerima should only be seen and not heard in matters of this nature. If now he is commenting on a case in which he has interest, it can only mean the action of a man frenziedly trying to get himself out of the hook through some undeserved legislation.
“I appeal to those individuals who have been educated along this line in the Senate not to use their rights as Lawmakers to harm children below the age of 18, but to choose the interest of these children above their own. These girls should be allowed to develop, individually because this resolution, if implemented, would hound girls below 18 years into marriages they know nothing about. This is only one dimension of this tragic resolution.
“I feel that when individuals attain a certain way of thinking and understanding and reach certain status in life, they should be able to comprehend that it is necessary to adhere to conventions in line with best practices the world over and not harm other members of society, no matter their ages within the same society.
“This is why I consider the resolution of the Senate to amend section 29 (4) (b) selfish, delusive and a contravention of all known international conventions, protocols and ethics on the rights of the child to which Nigeria is a signatory. Child bride should not be encouraged or allowed in Nigeria. With over 12,000 women quoted by the National Demographic Health Survey as living with the Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF) every year in Nigeria, fine tuning laws that would enable desiring Nigerians to marry primary school pupils is not what our legislators should be involved in. Rather, the Senate should strengthen the nation’s constitution by protecting all citizens’ rights, especially those of children from abuse. This would amount to legalization of sexual abuse of underage girls.
“CAN rejects this resolution of the Senate and calls on the upper chamber to be more reasonable by revisiting the issue while it calls on all Nigerians of good conscience to resist this provocative resolution before our female children are dehumanized. By the grace of God, I will, personally mobilize Nigerians and lead the street protest against this oppressive and dehumanizing resolution. Why would the Senate after voting recoil simply because a point of order premised on religious basis was raised? We Christians also have Canon Law which frowns on marriage of girls who are not of age. Christianity abhors such marriages. The protest will be soon.
“Finally, I urge the Yerimas in the Senate to tow the path of the Holy Qur’an in (5:32) which states that one who kills a person unjustly in effect has killed everyone and one who saves another has saved everyone. They should save these girls and Nigerians the agony of having their children married off at ages below 18 by unfavourable legislations.”