Early Marriage, the Right to CHOOSE
In mid July this year (2013), the Senate of the Federal republic of Nigeria rejected the proposal to delete section 29(4)(b) of the 1999 Constitution. The section provides thus: 29. 1. Any citizen of Nigeria of full age who wishes to renounce his Nigerian citizenship shall make 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 the 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 purpose 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 From the above, it is clear that subsection 4(b) which allows married women who are below the age of 18 years to renounce their Nigerian citizenship if they so wish, is an exception to the rule that states that only a Nigerian of 18 years and above can renounce his/her Nigerian citizenship. It provides that any woman, who is married irrespective of her age, is capable of renouncing her Nigerian citizenship. This clearly shows that the subsection has nothing to do with regulating marriageable age in Nigeria. But to our utter dismay, the media has embarked on a campaign of calumny against the Senate and has been feeding unsuspecting fellow Nigerians with misinformation that the Senate has made moves to legalize underage marriage. What the Senate did, was to retain an existing subsection which has been part of our Constitution since 1979. One therefore wonders where the so called legalization of early marriage emanates. As a result of the vote by the Senate to retain the subsection, the Senate and our religion has been subjected to ridicule by so called feminist groups who have found moral support from the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Honorable Minister of Women Affairs, Hajiya Zainab Maina. This is in an attempt to blackmail and intimidate the Senate into rescinding its decision to retain the subsection. These groups have staged protests in Lagos and Abuja and have embarked on the collection of 2 million signatures in order to achieve their aim of pressuring the Senate to remove subsection 4(b). To reinforce the above position, the CAN president has promised to lead another protest to the National Assembly to press home for the deletion of the subsection. We are also aware that the Senate President made a pledge to these groups that the Senate will revisit the issue with the aim of removing the subsection. We at CPG also plan to collect at least four million signatures in support of the Senate’s decision to retain Section 29(4)(b) of the Constitution as it is. To accomplish this goal, we’ve been consulting widely with various groups across the country to sensitize them on the need to retain the subsection. We plan to collect signatures manually State by State as well as using the internet. We believe that the framers of the Nigerian Constitution were not oblivious to the fact that Nigeria has diverse religions and cultures which allows parents to give out their daughters in marriage before the age of 18 years. In fact, it is in recognition of that fact coupled with the practice of true federalism, that the framers the Nigerian Constitution leave the issue of marriageable age and indeed the entire issue of marriage, under customary and Islamic law to be a residual issue in which only the State Houses of Assembly has the power to make law on. This is in line with the best practices of federalism as obtained even in the advance democracies. In the USA, where we copy our present system of democracy, the issue of determining marriageable age is left for each federating unit (the States) to peg the age of marriage according to the practices and culture of the populace of that state. For example, in the State of New Hampshire in the United States, a girl can marry at the age of 13 years. In New York, 14 years and in South Carolina, 15 years. We are therefore appealing passionately to all peace loving Nigerians to join this movement, by kindly signing the Petition below with your details. Please sign in order to save our country. We intend to build a strong not for profit organization aimed at promoting mutual respect among the diverse groups in Nigeria by using the Nigerian Constitution to enforce legal and moral objectives represented by various communities in Nigeria. Additionally, we’ve set out to defend the choice we made to live as Muslims and Practice the religion of Islam. We are determined through self determination and institutional organizations to employ all legal means to protect our choice as well as the choice of others. We will never for any reason use any derogatory remarks against any legally recognized and protected way of life chosen by any Nigerian or group of Nigerians however repugnant it may appear from what we have chosen for ourselves. We have chosen Islam as a way of life in line with the Quran and sunna and we respect the rights and practices that others have chosen for themselves. GOD BLESS NIGERIA AND GOD BLESS THE REST OF THE WORLD.