BY FRIDAY OLOKOR, ABUJA
President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, on Tuesday said he would lead Nigerians to protest against the Senate resolution to amend Section 29 (4) (b) of the 1999 Constitution under which married underage girls are deemed to be adults.
The association also frowned on the comment credited to former Governor of Zamfara State Ahmed Yerima that the proposal for the deletion of the section contravened Islamic Law.
Oritsejafor, in a statement, described Yerima’s argument as offensive, saying, “It presupposes that Nigeria, a secular state, is populated only by Muslims.”
The CAN President, who urged the Senate to revisit the child marriage issue, also called on Nigerians to reject the resolution which he described as provocative and dehumanising.
He said, “By the grace of God, I will, personally mobilise Nigerians and lead the street protest against this oppressive and dehumanising resolution. Why would the Senate, after voting recoil, simply because of a point of order premised on religious basis?
“We, Christians, also have Canon Law, which frowns on marriage of girls who are not of age. Christianity abhors such marriages. The protest will be soon.
“Finally, I urge the Yerimas in the Senate to toe the path of the Holy Qur’an, which states that one who kills a person unjustly in effect has killed everyone and one who saves another has saved everyone. They should save these girls and Nigerians the agony of having their children married off at ages below 18 by unfavourable legislations.”
Oritsejafor noted that Yerima’s latest comment would stir up another controversy in the country.
Yerima as a governor introduced the controversial Sharia, the Islamic Legal code, in Zamfara State.
According to Oritsejafor, people like Yerima are approaching Qur’anic teachings from extremes and disturbing the balance.
“It makes me wonder the source of the emotions and thoughts that nurture them,” he said.
The CAN President said as a Senator, whose case of marrying a 13-year-old Egyptian girl was still fresh in the memory of Nigerians, Yerima should “only be seen and not heard in matters of this nature”.
He added, “If now Yerima is commenting on a case in which he has interest, it can only mean the action of a man frenziedly trying to get himself out of the hook through some undeserved legislations. I appeal to those individuals who have been educated along this line in the Senate not to use their rights as lawmakers to harm children below the age of 18, but to choose the interest of these children above their own.
“These girls should be allowed to develop, individually because this resolution, if implemented, would hound girls below 18 years into marriages they know nothing about. This is only one dimension of this tragic resolution.
“I feel that when individuals attain a certain way of thinking and understanding and reach certain status in life, they should be able to comprehend that it is necessary to adhere to conventions in line with best practices the world over and not harm other members of society, no matter their ages within the same society.”