Groups: Stop NASS from making underage married girls voters

Lawan and Gbajabiamila

Two civil rights groups, the Campaign for Democracy and Women Arise, have condemned the proposal before the Joint National Assembly Technical Committee on Electoral Act amendments seeking voting power for underage married girls.

The leadership of the two groups, in separate interviews with our correspondent in Abuja, accused the federal lawmakers of encouraging child marriage with such a proposal.

But the head of the technical panel, who is also the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission, Senator Kabiru Gaya, has allayed the fears of Nigerians over the controversial proposal.

Gaya, a former governor of Kano State, in an interview with our correspondent, said the proposal might not go beyond the technical panel.

The Joint National Assembly Committee on INEC had last week presented the proposal before the technical committee, which has as members the INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu; Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN); lawmakers; and civil society groups.

Reacting to the proposed amendment, the CD, through its National General Secretary, Rev. Ifeanyi Odili, alleged that the proposal was a ‘smart way’ of legalising child marriage.

He said, “Although the Nigerian government has tried to stamp out child marriage with the enactment of the Child Rights Act of 2003, the practice of child marriage is still prevalent among the Muslim Hausa-Fulani in northern Nigeria and where Sharia law is in force.

“While the Child Rights Act is important, it has not taken effect because each state in Nigeria has to enact the Act under its own state laws before it is enforceable.

“This means that a social evil such as child marriage can be practised in a state that has yet to pass the Child Rights Act as a domestic law.

“Majority of the states in the North which see it as an evil thing to do are reluctant to enact the Act. The right of the girl child in relation to marriage is not adequately protected, due to Part 1 Section 61 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. As a result, there should be steps to take to ensure the legal protection of a girl child against child marriage.

“Since the practice of early betrothals are only common among the Muslim Hausa-Fulani, and the Child Rights Act has yet to be applied to all states, it will be best described as illegal, unreasonable to have underage voters in our electoral laws.

“It cannot be inserted through the back door into an electoral law since it does not enjoy the full support of all the 36 states.

“I am not daft, moronic and foolish not to see between the lines that the whole idea is aimed at perpetrating certain electoral fraud in the North in the coming presidential election.

“It is indescribable and unreasonable to have a child who is emotionally unintelligent, who cannot form a genuine opinion of herself, in our election process.

“This proposal is criminal, unreasonable, myopic and totally uncalled for, and should not be entertained in our electoral laws.

“Any Senator or Reps who appends his or her signature to this nefarious bill or proposal, or whatever they call it, will receive some stripes from Nigerians in subsequent elections.”

Also, the President of Women Arise, Joe Okei-Odumakin, wondered why the federal lawmakers were trying to worsen the issue of child marriage in the country with the controversial proposal. Punch


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