How Nigeria’s Gutter Media Misconstrued The Yerima “Underage Marriage” Senate Proceeding

July 19, 2013

NewsRescue- It is not unusual for Nigeria’s media, which consists of many highly unprofessional scripters, to present junk and trash for public consumption. NewsRescue was created among other things, for this very purpose. Cleaning a filthy and propagandist, dangerous media.

Here are the facts of the senate proceedings in question:

  1. The topic voted on in the senate was not, “age of marriage,” as it has been made to appear.

  2. The presentation by senator Yerima, was not, the age a woman should marry.

  3. 35 Nigerian senators who voted against the deletion of the segment, did not vote for age of marriage, rather they voted to uphold women’s unaleniable rights, even over men.

  4. Senator Yerima did not introduce any thing new, rather he simply pointed out in upholding Nigeria’s constitution, that segments can not simply be deleted without proper vote and due process.

  5. And finally, underlined: the segment to be deleted threatened to deprive women of their rights.

We proceed to review the section 29 of the constitution that was to be deleted without proper process:

rescuedCitizenship renunciation Rights

(1) Any citizen of Nigeria of full age who wishes to renounce his Nigerian citizenship shall make a declaration in the prescribed manner for the renunciation.

(2) The President shall cause the declaration made under subsection (1) of this section to be registered and upon such registration, the person who made the declaration shall cease to be a citizen of Nigeria.

(3) The President may withhold the registration of any declaration made under subsection (1) of this section if-

(a) the declaration is made during any war in which Nigeria is physically involved; or

(b) in his opinion, it is otherwise contrary to public policy.

(4) For the purposes of subsection (1) of this section.

(a) “full age” means the age of eighteen years and above;

(b) any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age.

It is immediately seen from the above, that the section deals with conditions under which a Nigerian citizen is considered eligible to make a declaration to revoke his citizenship.  “full  age” to denounce/revoke/renounce Nigerian citizenship is used in reference to being allowed to make decisions, including this revocation. For both sexes, “full age” is 18 and above, however according to this section of the constitution, a woman is given greater and exclusive rights and authority, being regarded of “full age” to make decisions as serious as the revocation of her citizenship, once she is married.

When we think of what the Nigerian feminist forum created a petition to contest, it is very scary. They acted “hormonally,” without even taking a read of the constitutional segment in discussion. This constitutional permission, actually safe-guards women’s rights by allowing for instance, a married woman or girl, who feels cheated or otherwise deprived by Nigeria, the right to denounce her citizenship. This section is not related to and does not address what age a woman can marry.

It simply addresses what age a woman is eligible to make full fledgeling decisions, which of course can include divorce. If this section was deleted, then if for instance a 16 year old is married, she will not be considered “of age,” to challenge the marriage in court, or to revoke her citizenship if she wishes to seek asylum  via the United Nations, or to any single citizenship nation. Such married young woman will have to wait and bear the pain till she is 18.

Senator Yerima had pointed out, that in Islam, once a woman is married, she is automatically of age to make all adult life decisions, including the right to divorce, this is as obtains in Nigeria’s constitution. Only the 35 senators listed below, voted to uphold these fundamental women’s rights of age unlimited choice, including the choice to denounce citizenship:

List of senators who upheld a woman’s right of choice once married

1. Sen. Abdulmumin M. Hassan (Jigawa South West, PDP)
2. Sen. Abdullahi Danladi (Jigawa North West, PDP)
3. Sen. Adamu Abdullahi (Nasarawa West, PDP)
4. Sen. Ahmed Barata (Adamawa South, PDP)
5. Sen. Akinyelure Ayo (Ondo Central, Labour Party)
6. Sen. Alkali Saidu A. (Gombe North, PDP)
7. Sen. Bagudu Abubakar A. (Kebbi Central, PDP)
8. Sen. Dahiru Umaru (Sokoto South, PDP)
9. Sen. Galaudu Isa (Kebbi North, PDP)
10. Sen. Garba Gamawa (Bauchi North, PDP)
11. Sen. Danjuma Goje Mohammed (Gombe Central, PDP)

Sen. Ugbesia Odion (Edo Central, PDP) stands out among the wise senators who voted for women’s rights

12. Sen. Gobir Ibrahim (Sokoto East, PDP)
13. Sen. Gumba Adamu Ibrahim (Bauchi South, PDP)
14. Sen. Hadi Sirika (Katsina North, CPC)
15. Sen. Ibrahim Bukar Abba (Yobe East, ANPP)
16. Sen. Jajere Alkali (Yobe South, ANPP)
17. Sen. Jibrilla Mohammed (Adamawa North, PDP)
18. Sen. Kabiru Gaya (Kano South, ANPP)
19. Sen. Lafiagi Mohammed (Kwara North, PDP)
20. Sen. Lawan Ahmad (Yobe North, ANPP)
21. Sen. Maccido Mohammed (Sokoto North, PDP)
22. Sen. Musa Ibrahim (Niger North, CPC)
23. Sen. Ndume Mohammed Ali (Borno South, PDP)
24. Sen. Sadiq A. Yaradua (Katsina Central, CPC)
25. Sen. Saleh Mohammed (Kaduna Central, CPC)
26. Sen. Tukur Bello (Adamawa Central, PDP)
27. Sen. Ugbesia Odion (Edo Central, PDP)
28. Sen. Umar Abubakar (Taraba Central, PDP)
29. Sen. Usman Abdulaziz (Jigawa North East, PDP)
30. Sen. Ya’au Sahabi (Zamfara North, PDP)
31. Sen. Zannah Ahmed (Borno Central, PDP)
32. Sen. Ahmad Rufai Sani (Zamfara West, ANPP)
33. Sen. Ahmad Abdul Ningi (Bauchi Central, PDP)
34. Sen. Bello Hayatu Gwano (Kano North, PDP)
35. Sen. Ibrahim Abu (Katsina South, CPC)

Sadly, it is evident that many of Nigeria’s senators are slightly more than barely literate and the Nigerian press is no better. See error and daft journalism in Punch, AllAfrica, Dailypost, Naij, SaharaReporters, to point out a few irresponsible editorials.

Quoting other sources:

The Section 26 of the 1999 Constitution defines who is a Nigerian citizen and how same may be acquired by naturalization and by registration. The Constitution makes no provision for the process by which non-Nigerian men married to Nigerian women and who are so desirous, may become Nigerian citizens. The silence here has continued to wreck untold hardship on the stability of many marriages.

Furthermore, section 29(4) (b) of the constitution provides for the renunciation of citizenship and thus allows an under aged woman to revoke her citizenship even when she has not attained the age of majority or the constitutional voting age.

Update: July 20, 2013; Ayo Turton, a US based lawyer explains the same:

Ayo Turton is a USA based lawyer
Ayo Turton is a USA based lawyer

The clause that is really causing this unnecessary hullabaloo is Section 29 (4) (b). That clause has always been part of our laws, but the Senate moved to remove it as infringing on child’s right by making every married woman an adult. At the taking of the vote for the first time, they got two-third to remove it from the Constitution. But Yerima stood up and whipped up religious sentiment by galvanizing his Muslim brothers who ignorantly believed him into action. When the peace was threatened, David Mark, the Senate President capitulates and asked that the vote be taken again, at this point they were no longer able to garner two-third votes to remove the provision from the Constitution, so it remains.

Now to the legal issue: Section 29 (4) CLEARLY states: “for the purposes of subsection 1” Section 29 subsection (1) CLEARLY states: “Any citizen of Nigeria of full age WHO WISHES TO RENOUNCE HIS NIGERIAN CITIZENSHIP (emphasis mine) shall make a declaration in the prescribed manner for the renunciation”

This is called “narrow definition” Subsection (1) narrowly defined under what circumstances the definitions stated at clauses (a) and (b) would be applicable. Therefore clauses (a) and (b) of section 29 (4) are only relevant to “renunciation of citizenship” alone. What made this clearer and should leave no one in doubt is the fact that clause 29 (4) (a) re-emphasized that “full age” shall be 18, but if you are already married, for the purposes of renunciation of citizenship you shall be automatically qualified to do so even if you are not 18 yet. Because you are deemed of “full age” for renunciation reason based on the unambiguous definition given by subsection 29 (1) In any case S. 29 (4) (b) is referring to someone already married not about-to-marry.

As a matter of fact, if you ask me, the Constitution as it is, threatens Yerima status than support it.

Additional update, July 20, from intellectual blog:

Yerima and The Nigerian Senate Did Not Change The Age of Marriage

Myne Whiteman
Myne Whitman

Posted by Myne Whitman, Romance meets life

…In conclusion, it is said that a large number of Nigerians don’t really know the law or their rights, and I think the lawmakers fall into this category. Those who pushed to delete section 29(4)(b) did it on the grounds that it contradicts 29(4)(a) and infringes the right of a child by allowing early marriage. I think otherwise. I believe section 29(4)(b) of the constitution deals with the age of a woman after the fact of marriage, and what rights she has at that time.