Nigeria: A Child, a Bride, a Killer?

WASILA Umar, 14, has hit fame: she allegedly killed her husband, his three friends, and injured many others. What is she doing with a husband at 14? The wise men in her community in Gaya Local Government Area of Kano State said she was ripe for marriage. Their word is law. What is a 14-year-old’s word worth when the elders have spoken?

Seventeen days into her forced marriage, Wasila took her decision. She poisoned the food she served her husband – she wanted her freedom. She did not reckon with the camaraderie her community shares during meal times. Her husband’s friends who shared his meal also became victims of the poison she intended for her husband.

Her story is pathetic and reflects a revolt of children being forced into early marriages. Their guardians think children have no opinion. Wasila wanted to be educated, nobody listened to her.

“I have never enjoyed the opportunity of going to Islamic school or acquiring Western education. My father forced me into this mess by stubbornly forcing me into a relationship I was not prepared to live in,” she said of the marriage to her 35-year-old husband, Sani.

Kano State Police Command Public Relations Officer, ASP Magaji Musa Majia, said, “The case has been referred to appropriate authorities for the next line of action. I am assuring you that Wasila would appear in court soon because we have limitation on the number of days we can keep a suspect no matter the perceived weakness of the case or the personality involved”. Millions of children like her have been denied opportunities to improve their lives and make meaningful contributions to society.

Wasila should not be charged to court without those whose disobedience of our laws resulted in this tragedy. Section 29. (4) (a) of the 1999 Constitution, states, “full age” means the age of eighteen years and above; (b) any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age.” Those who married off Wasila at 14 broke the law. Will the law punish them? Will the law support their lawlessness?

The Child’s Rights Act of 2003 prohibits child marriages and betrothals. In Section 21, any marriage contracted by anyone under 18 years is invalid. Under Section 22: “(1) No parent, guardian or any other person shall betroth a child to any person. (2) A betrothal in contravention of subsection (1) of this section is null and void”.

Both provisions are in the Criminal and Penal Codes, though they are hardly enforced.

Where the law would stand on Wasila is crucial to the hopes and aspirations of other endangered children who her action has granted voices. They are waiting.

A link to the article can be found here.