23 Jul 2013


There is a general misconception of the issue at hand, and this is blamable on the nature of our propaganda-media. The stock in trade of most of our media houses is fanning the embers of controversy in an already volatile nation through rumor mongering and the parade of half-baked controversial stories, most times without taking time to get the correct gist.
From a televised session of the Senate's sitting on this issue, and corroborated by live discussions on the same issue over time on the tube, what the Senate considered for determination under the review of Nigerian constitution was 'Renunciation of Citizenship Under the Nigerian Constitution' as contained under Section 29 (4b) which provides that any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age. A Senator argued that in Islam, a married woman is deemed to be of age no matter how young she is. Section 29 (4a) of the 1999 constitution already designates 18 years as the full age for any Nigerian who wishes to renounce his/her citizenship. Clause 4b further adds that for women, despite the 18 years already prescribed in Clause 4a, marriage removes the impediment of age to this regard. Thus, a married woman can be considered to be of full age. The senate therefore voted with the aim of removing the Clause 4b which automatically qualifies a married woman as being of age to denounce her citizenship if she wishes, no matter how young she is, and which was the point of reference of the senator who raised the issue. Unfortunately, those who voted in favour of the retention of the Clause 4b out-numbered their opponents.
So, there was no new law passed in favour of child marriage. Rather, the vote to remove a clause which automatically qualifies a married woman as legible to renounce her citizenship even if she is below 18 years, which then implies the possibility of having married women who are bellow 18 years, and which may provide a weak spot in the Law for a smart lawyer’s justification of child marriage in favour of a client was lost. An effort to stamp out the clause which implies the possibility of child marriage was lost by voting. This is quite different from the question of ‘underage marriage’ as widely reported in our propaganda media. The alleged endorsement of underage marriage by the Senate was a total misrepresentation of what the lawmakers considered or voted for under section 29 (4a & b) of the 1999 Constitution, and as presented for consideration by its committee on constitution review.

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