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By: Amaka Onyeaka
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Child abuse and pedophilia can occur under many guises. Children are violated and their innocence which can never be reclaimed is lost forever.

In the Nigerian House of Senate, an outrage and abomination occurred mid April 2010. This has left many of the country’s residents disappointed and doubtful of the credibility of the legislative lawmakers in this West African country.

Many have found the case of the former governor of Zamfara State, Senator Ahmad Rufai Sani Yerima, who recently celebrated his marriage in the capital Abuja to a child bride of 13 years, reprehensible. In order to make way for his child bride, Yerima had to divorce his fourth wife, now aged 17 (whom is still below the legal voting age in Nigeria), after nearly two years of marriage (which produced a baby), after it was alleged that she was against the new union. This senator, father of many children, some of whom are much older than his new bride, has acted in a way that can only be described as perverted, with strong pedophiliac undertones, and his manner gives pause for thought. His bride is rumoured to be Marim Maged M. Eladyl, the 13-year-old daughter of his driver M Eladly in Cairo who is from an impoverished background. The reported $100,000 that he paid as bride price to her vulnerable family still does not justify his or their exploitation of this minor.

Four female Senators in the House of Senate, who are also members of the Women’s Group of Nigeria, raised a mutiny in the House when the news of Yerima’s marriage broke. Calls for the repatriation of the child bride back to Egypt echoed through the House. In addition, demands have been made for Yerima to come out of hiding and defend his case.

Senator Yerima may have suspected that his actions would not be tolerated in Nigeria, hence the need to travel across Africa to Egypt, in search of his underage bride. From time immemorial, Islamic religion has allowed that a man can take many wives (others of the Christian faith also practice polygamy), however this is not the bone of contention. The issue—and what is worrying—is that an educated and enlightened man, who sits in the hallowed chambers of a country’s legislature, can commit such an abominable act. How can the people feel safe in the hands of such a nefarious character that shows an absolute disregard for the law that he should exemplify?

The Nigerian Childs Rights Act 2003, section 21 declares “No person under the age of 18 years is capable of contracting a valid marriage, and, accordingly, a marriage so contracted is null and void and of no effect whatsoever.” Section 22(1) states: “No parent, guardian or any other person shall betroth a child to any person. (2) a betrothal in contravention of sub section (1) of this section is null and void.” Section 23 goes on to specify that “a person (a) who marries a child, or (b) to whom a child is betrothed, or (who) promotes the marriage of a child, or (d) who betroths a child, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N500, 000; or imprisonment for a term of five years or to both such fine and imprisonment’’.

The trust and unquestionable faith that the nation once placed in Yerima’s hands is tainted by doubt, scorn, and disrespect. According to the Women’s Group of Nigeria, any man, no matter his religion, marrying a child so young and engaging in intimate relations with her should be held to ransom and made to pay. Many say that penile castration will be an apt punishment for this heinous crime, as rehabilitation in a country that cannot enforce laws and due process will not work. In Senator Yerima’s case, a man with his power and wealth can still repeat the offence, hence more reason for the latter.

References have been made by the media to Yerima’s lack of vocal support for the passing of the Child’s Right Act in 2003 whilst in office as governor of Zamfara state, why that was is now open to conjecture. Senator Yerima paid $100,000 (N15 million) as bride price for this young girl. It was also reported that he had actually spent more on flying and entertaining the many relatives of his bride that he flew to Abuja. This money, many have said, would have gone to a better cause if donated towards a charity at home or abroad.

In many hospitals dotted around the Northern cities of Nigeria, girls as young as 10 to 15 years of age are been treated for incontinence due to bladder and anal prolapse (vesico vaginal fistula), they are made social pariahs because the ill health they suffer gives a constant offensive odour… Why? These are babies making babies. The health infrastructure is not there and even if it were, the female pelvic area cannot, in any way shape or form, be that well developed and ready at such a tender age, for childbirth. Hence “babies” having “babies” suffer untold trauma during labour—leading to long-term health complications.

Senator Ahmad Rufai Sani Yerima’s insatiable appetite for young flesh may still continue even if his young bride suffers the same fate. After all, there are many young girls there for his picking. The moral dilemma behind this is the sheer exploitation of a young girl who is not mentally, physically, psychologically, and emotionally prepared for marriage. The people of Nigeria ask, when will action be taken? When will the line be drawn under such atrocities?

In any developed country, such news would solicit an urgent repudiation or a public statement from the accused that the bride has reached the statutory age of marriage or that no such marriage took place. In addition, law enforcement officers would be required to start an urgent investigation as there are elements of child trafficking involved. But in Nigeria, the law enforcement agency, The National Agency for the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), whose job is it to investigate issues like this, has kept mum. The spokesperson of the Senate Committee has been reported to say that that the senator’s marriage to a child of 13 was a private matter and not the business of the senate.

At the time of going to press, Senator Yerima has not commented publicly on the furor surrounding the age of his child bride. He has shown scant regard and disdain to his critics. He has stated that he considers “God’s law and that of his prophet above any other law”. Fanning the embers of controversy, a Nigerian Federal Court in the capital Abuja heard a case filing on the 19th of July on the legality of the Senators marriage to the child bride. Interestingly, the case was not filed by Child Protection Agency, but by the Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria on behalf of the Senator as his constitutional rights have been violated. The Supreme council stated that Yerima had the right to marry up to four wives under the laws of Islam and that the National Assembly has no right to interfere with such marriages.

The trial Judge, Justice Ibrahim Auta granted the applications since they were not opposed by any of the parties involved in the suit.

“Since the applications were not opposed by the parties in the matter, I feel inclined to grant them, and so, the applications and the reliefs sought therein have been granted,” the Judge stated and adjourned till October 22, 2010. DivaScribe is speechless.ds

Quick Facts (Senator Ahmad Rufai Sani Yerima):
  • Born 22nd July 1960 in Anka town, Zamfara State.
  • Sworn in as governor of Zamfara state in May 1999, left office May 2007.
  • Allegations of mismanagement and misappropriation of Federal funds in June 2002.
  • Began the re-introduction of the Sharia Law in Nigeria.
  • Alleged unsuccessful attempts to bribe Nuhu Ribadu of EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) with N 1 million bribery made in August 10th 2006.
  • Unsuccessful attempts to clinch the presidential ticket for the 2007 elections.
  • Elected as Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
  • Presently the Minority Whip in the Federal Senate.
  • Appointed to committees on Selection, Federal Character & Inter-Government Affairs, Drugs Narcotics Anti-Corruption and Agriculture.
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