3 Dec 2010

Nigerian Senate investigates Senator who reportedly payed for 13 year old Egyptian 'bride'

BBC News - April 28, 2010

Nigeria - investigation into senator's 'child bride'

Nigeria's Senate has ordered an investigation into reports that one of its members has married a 13-year-old Egyptian girl.

Ahmad Sani Yerima oversaw the introduction of Sharia in Zamfara State

Ahmad Sani Yerima, 49, is alleged to have married her at the national mosque in Abuja several weeks ago.

Senators called for the investigation after receiving a petition by protesting women's groups, who believe Mr Sani has broken the law.

The senator has not spoken publicly about the reports of his marriage.

The BBC's Caroline Duffield, in Lagos, says Nigeria's human rights commission has already begun an investigation.

Mr Sani was the governor of Zamfara state, where he oversaw the introduction of Sharia law - for the first time in a northern state - in 1999.

Legal action

Our correspondent says reports of the marriage - appearing in newspapers - are creating a storm among human rights groups.

The female senators, lawyers and doctors who are protesting say that they fear for the child's health.

"What we are concerned with is that our minors, the girl child, should be allowed to mature, before going into marriage," Mma Wokocha, President of the Women's Medical Association and one of those behind the petition, told the BBC.

"This very evil act should not be seen to be perpetrated by one of our distinguished legislators ... that is what we are saying.''

The senator is reported to have paid a dowry of $100,000 (£66,000) to the child's parents - and to have brought the girl into Nigeria from Egypt.

The women's groups want Mr Sani to be taken to court, to face a fine and a jail sentence.

Our reporter says the whereabouts of the teenager are unknown - and it is not clear whether she has any parent or guardian with her.

Newspaper reports have also accused the senator of having previously married a 15-year-old girl in 2006.

The investigation is to be carried out by a Senate committee.

This article was found at:


Agence France-Presse April 28, 2010

Nigerian senator under fire over alleged child marriage

ABUJA - Nigeria's senate Wednesday ordered a probe into a prominent lawmaker's alleged marriage to a 13-year-old Egyptian girl, after the national rights watchdog and other 10 groups accused him of shaming the country.

The petition by the 11 bodies to the senate, a copy of which was made available to AFP, was presented to the upper house by chairman of senate committee on Women Affairs and Youth Development, Senator Eme Ufot Ekaette.

Some women groups staged a protest outside parliament Tuesday urging the senate to investigate the matter.

Media reports said Senator Ahmed Sani Yerima, who is 49, allegedly paid 100,000 dollars as dowry and married the unnamed teenager at the National Mosque in the capital Abuja.

"The human rights community in Nigeria and beyond has expressed concern and consternation at the alleged actions of the distinguished Senator which are considered both condemnable and patently illegal, especially as they relate to Nigeria's statutory and case law as well as its international status," said the petition.

It said the marriage violated Nigeria's Child Rights Act of 2003 forbidding marriage with anyone under 18. The punishment is a 500,000 naira (3,320 dollar/2,500 euro) fine or a five-year jail term, or both.

The petition said that Nigeria was a signatory to the UNICEF Convention on the Rights of the Child.

It urged the senate to investigate the allegations and to establish the name of the alleged child-bride, her age and the circumstances of her entry into Nigeria.

The groups also want the senate to "estabish the legality or otherwise of this action, considering the high personal status of Senator Yerima, his status in society as a lawmaker and leader and the negative effect of such acts on the image of Nigeria."

Wonen Affairs Minister Josephine Anenih however stressed that it had not been established if the alleged marriage had taken place.

"If it is true then it is very objectionable, very obnoxious, very condemnable. It is something we cannot condone or allow to happen in this country," Anenih told reporters.

Yerima was governor of Nigeria's northwestern state of Zamfara and he was the first to introduce the controversial Shariah law.

The National Agency for Prohibition of Traffic in Persons on Wednesday ordered Yerima to appear at its office, saying it was in connection with the alleged marriage, which if true, would tarnish Nigeria's image.

This article was found at:


Daily Trust - Nigeria May 5, 2010

Yarima's Abuse of Religion

by Mohammed Haruna Ndajika | Columnist

Roughly 10 years after he pioneered the contentious Sharia criminal law as governor of Zamfara State, Senator Ahmed Sani, Yariman Bakura, is back in the headline news. This time he has provoked controversy by his recent marriage to an allegedly under aged Egyptian girl in Abuja. And as was the case last time the controversy has, so far at least, generated more heat than light.

On the one hand, the vast majority of newspaper pundits, human rights organizations and not a few of his legislative colleagues, many, if not all, of them sworn enemies of his "political Sharia," have charged him with cradle snatching and called him all manner of names. Yarima, many of them have said, should be sacked from the Senate at the least. Better still, some have said, he should be prosecuted for violating Section 21 of the Child Rights Act of 2003 which provides for up to five years jail for anyone found guilty of violating the law.

On the other hand, many an imam who made the issue the subject of their khutbah in mosques last Friday in Kaduna and elsewhere during the Juma'a prayers, have rallied behind the senator. They all seemed to agree with his counter-charge that his critics have merely been hiding behind his so-called cradle snatching to ridicule Islam. After all, he said, he has not violated any of Allah's injunctions on wedlock nor has he violated any of the traditions of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) on the same subject.

In his interview in the Daily Trust of April 29, for example, the senator said in effect he did not care to be judged by Nigeria's Constitution and laws that he once swore as governor, and now as senator, to uphold. "Whatever the Qur'an and the hadith of the Holy Prophet authorizes," he said, "I try my best to live up to it. Whatever they forbid I try my best not to do it. These are the guiding rules of my life. So if anyone decides to judge me according to rules other than those prescribed by Allah and the Holy Prophet, then he is wasting his time, because they are not my guiding principles."

The senator said pretty much the same thing in his widely quoted interview with the BBC Hausa Service mid last week.

Technically the senator and his supporters are right that he has not violated any Islamic injunctions in marrying a girl-child. He has denied that she is 13, as has been widely claimed, but he would not say how old. Press enquiries about her age at the Egyptian Embassy in Abuja have drawn a blank. Even then it is almost certain that she is below the so-called age of consent - 18.

The Qur'an has a long list of what women a man can marry and what women he can't. The list does not include girls under 18. Indeed Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) married Ai'sha at the age of seven, some say six, and consummated the marriage at nine.

If this sounds scandalous in this day and age it is because we have come to believe that women mature only at 18. Nothing can be more fallacious. The almost universal choice of 18 as the age of consent has little or no scientific basis. Eighteen may be the age the bone structure of a girl is assumed to be fully developed to withstand the rigours of childbirth but in Islam, as in most other beliefs and cultures, a girl is considered mature both physically and psychologically when she starts to menstruate. Most do so well below 18. And many can, and do, bear children safely at well below that age.

Eighteen as the age of consent is essentially a Western concept. Yet as last week's London Economist (April 24) pointed out in an article on British education, four in every 100 British girls under 18 get pregnant every year. For all we know the figure for Nigeria is worse. Yet it is a safe bet that Yarima's critics who take their cues on ethics mostly from the West see nothing wrong with such a phenomenon. If they do the fact is that they have never raised as much hell about under age sex, even that outside wedlock, as they have since Yarima's wedding to his Egyptian girl-child.

Therefore Yarima and his supporters do have a point when they accuse at least some of his critics of hypocrisy.

This, however, is as far as I would go in defence of the senator. Technically he may not have breached any Islamic injunction in marrying a girl-child, but the issue here is not merely technical. It is also moral in at least two aspects.

First, the context of the marriage. It seems certain that he divorced one of his four wives so as to marry the Egyptian and still keep within the limit of four allowed by Islam. The poor local child was reportedly in form two in a secondary school when he married her and kept her out of school. She had a child for him at the time he divorced her. Islam, unlike, say, Catholicism, condones divorce as a last resort but unequivocally forbids it just to marry another woman or just for the hell of it, which amounts more or less to the same thing.

In this sense Yarima's controversial marriage was as dubious technically as it was immoral.

Second, there is the apparent immorality of the cost of the wedding. In Islam, my malam friends say, there is a minimum bride price but there is no ceiling. When, according to one of them, Umar, one of the first four successors of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), tried at one time to fix a modest ceiling for bride price because he thought its size was making it difficult, if not impossible, for men to marry, he was successfully challenged by a woman who reminded him the prophet never set any ceiling.

Technically speaking, therefore, Yarima did no wrong by paying 100,000.00 dollars or roughly 15,000,000.00 Naira as bride price. Here again, however, the devil is in the context.

Islam unequivocally condemns and forbids profligacy and enjoins modesty and restrain in whatever a Muslim does or says, especially when, like Yarima, he is a leader or considers himself a role model.

Paying a bride price of 15,000,000.00 Naira in a country where the vast majority is said to live on less than a dollar a day is certainly worse than profligate. It borders on the criminal. And that was not the only cost. Because Egypt, even though a Muslim country, forbids marriage of any girl below 18, Yarima reportedly imported at least 30 of the girl's relations into Abuja for the wedding. That must have cost another, possibly bigger, bundle.

Whatever the imams and Yarima's supporters may say, his controversial marriage to a girl-child, not for the first time, is essentially an abuse of religion for personal pleasure. It is hard, if not impossible, to defend completely.

This article was found at:


1 comment:

  1. Child and bride

    The Stream speaks with Nigerian Senator Ahmad Yarima about his support of child marriage.

    Al Jazeera September 3, 2013


    The hot button issue of child marriage has once again polarised Nigeria. This time at the hands of Senator Ahmad Yarima who successfully fought to uphold a clause in the constitution that deems all married women as “full age”, including those under 18. He is a controversial figure who, himself, has an underage bride and claims banning child marriage goes against Islamic law. He’ll be joining us on The Stream to take your questions. Join the conversation with him at 1930GMT.

    Nigerians rallied around the hashtag #ChildNotBride after a controversial senate vote in July failed to define the maturity age of women as 18. Many perceive the vote as an endorsement of child marriage, after Senator Ahmad Sani Yarima argued that defining the maturity age violated cultural and religious norms.

    Yarima is infamous for his marriage to a reportedly 13-year-old Egyptian girl in 2010. His controversial position sparked debate among Nigerians as explained in this Al Jazeera English report.

    Immediately after the vote, netizens and activists began an online campaign calling for a clear definition of the maturity age in the constitution.

    The campaign got heated as it took to the streets and images were shared on social media.

    Famous Nigerian actress and singer Stella Damasus added her voice to the conversation.

    The #ChildNotBride movement still garnered criticism for its failure to draw crowds on the streets.

    Even Stella Damasus' viral video received a negative response:

    Yet early marriage continues to generate concern. According to UNESCO, one out of every five Nigerian children is out of school. Nigeria also has 10 per cent of the world's VVF patients, three quarters of whom are young girls suffering from early pregnancy trauma. Twitter users discussed these issues.

    We asked our community why they think it is important to set a clear age of consent for marriage. Some spoke in favour of this.

    To view the links, videos and twitter comments embedded in this article go to: