29 Jul 2013


By Ezim Osai. Monday, July 29 2013

We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Having firmly and solemnly resolve, to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and
Indissoluble sovereign nation under God, dedicated to the promotion of inter-African solidarity,
World peace, international co-operation and understanding
And to provide for a Constitution for the purpose of promoting the good government and welfare
of all persons in our country, on the principles of freedom, equality and justice, and for the
purpose of consolidating the unity of our people
Do hereby make, enact and give to ourselves the following Constitution:

-The Nigerian Constitution

About a week ago, there was nationwide outrage about the legalization of child/underage marriage in Nigeria. A number of Nigerians on social networks as Twitter and Facebook expressed disdain for the idea and some even moved to sign petitions against the supposed bill.

The truth of the matter however is that the Senate did not vote on child marriage or something of the sort like a number of Nigerians seemed to think. An interview of Senator Abaribe which I read in the Vanguard says that a committee was set up by the Senate to amend the constitution and found that 4b of Section 29 [ “any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age.”] Was not meant to be there as it had nothing to do with renunciation of citizenship (which is the central issue of the section) and is in conflict with section 42 of the constitution which talks about discrimination. 

The committee added that 4a of section 29 [4(a) "full age" means the age of eighteen years and above;] is gender neutral and that 4b should be deleted; this was what the Senate voted on.

Section 42 (1) A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political

opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person:-

(a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical

application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any

executive or administrative action of the government, to

disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of

other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex,

religions or political opinions are not made subject; or

(b) be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical

application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such

executive or administrative action, any privilege or

advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of

other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex,

religions or political opinions.

(2) No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reason

of the circumstances of his birth.

(3) Nothing in subsection (1) of this section shall invalidate any law by reason only that the

law imposes restrictions with respect to the appointment of any person to any office under

the State or as a member of the armed forces of the Federation or member of the Nigeria

Police Forces or to an office in the service of a body, corporate established directly by any

law in force in Nigeria.

After the vote, it was seen from the majority that subsection 4b of Section 29 be deleted. However, Sen. Yerima raised a constitutional Point-of-Order under Item 61 of the second schedule of the constitution and as is stipulated by Senate rules, the presiding officer had to take it up. [Item 61, Second Schedule – [Exclusive Legislative List]61. The formation, annulment and dissolution of marriages other than marriages under Islamic law and Customary Law including matrimonial causes relating thereto.”]

When the vote was counted again (the vote whether or not to delete subsection 4b of Section 29), 60% of the Senate was of the opinion that 4b of Section 29 should not be deleted and 35% were of the opinion that it should be deleted and under Section 58 Subsection 5; two-thirds of the Senate has to be in favor of a bill for it to become a law without presidential assent. [Section 58 (5) “Where the President withholds his assent and the bill is again passed by each House by two-thirds majority, the bill shall become law and the assent of the President shall not be


The summary of this whole legal jargon is that a woman can get married at any age if that marriage is under Islamic or customary law.

A lot of people used the hashtags #ChildNotBride on Twitter and Facebook, some created pictures and texts and articles on the issue, condemning the practice. In Islam (and Christianity as far as I know) there is no stipulated age for marriage but this does not mean one must marry a child does it? More so, in Nigeria under section 38, we enjoy freedom of religion, thought and conscience and the fact that a number of us are taking stands on this issue based on sentiment and religion is really appalling. [ Section 38.(1) Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in

private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.]

I mean, a lot of us were screaming blue murder when a couple of years back Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Ladda Awatih wal Jihad alias Boko Haram demanded the total islamization of our nation. If we want to live in peaceful coexistence with Muslims, should we not learn tolerance and humility? Besides, nobody is going to come into our homes and say “Give me your daughter or I will kill you” or something of the sort. It is not by force but by consent by the parties involved, their parents or guardians.

We say what would happen if popular musicians or actors or writers were married off by their parents at infancy and the answer is “Only God knows”. We live in a country where there is a lot of diversity religiously and we must learn tolerance or anarchy will be the order of the day. We must also learn to pry deeper into issues before we start screaming Child Not Bride and things of the sort. And lastly, we must not judge others based on our own beliefs, religion, morals, thoughts or conscience. We must take into account the other party’s religion and beliefs as well and we must take into account the constitution which we all accept as our supreme book as seen in section 1 subsection 1. [Section 1. (1) This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on the authorities and persons

throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria].

I am Ibo and Christian but I recognize the religion that is Islam and its’ followers that are Muslims and their beliefs as holy and sacred to them. I am Nigerian and I believe in the law and in the supremacy of the constitution thereof, what about you?

For more reading:  #CHILDNOTBRIDE : RESEARCH - NOT - RANT (PART 2)

Ezim is a 200L Physics major at the University of Ibadan. A Taoist and a Christian, he loves Cooking, Travelling, Reading, Writing, and loves to absorb nature.

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