Child Marriage in Northern Nigeria: Section 61 of Part I of the 1999 Constitution and the Protection of Children Against Child Marriage
(2014) 14 AHRLJ 474-488
15 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2013 Last revised: 20 Feb 2015
Date Written: August 13, 2013
Although the Nigerian government has tried to stamp out child marriage with the enactment of the Child Rights Act 2003 (CRA), the practice of child marriage is still very prevalent among the Hausa-Fulani (predominant Muslim tribe) who occupy Northern Nigeria and where Sharia law is in force. While the CRA is a law with sharp teeth, it has no bite because each state in Nigeria has to enact the CRA under its own state laws before it is enforceable. What this means is that a social evil such as child marriage can be practised in a state which has yet to pass the CRA as a domestic law.
While this article presents arguments outlining the reluctance of some of Nigeria's Northern states to enact the CRA, the author maintains that the right of the girl child in relation to marriage is not adequately protected. This inadequacy lies in Part 1 Section 61 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. As a result, this article proposes three steps to legally ensure the protection of a girl child against child marriage: firstly, Part 1 Section 61 of the 1999 Constitution should be modified; secondly, there should a uniform age set for a child in all of Nigeria's legislation that deals with children; thirdly, while pressure should be put on all Nigerian states which are yet to domesticate the CRA, there is a need for a new act (Prohibition of Child Marriage Act) which, if enacted, should automatically apply to all states in Nigeria in order to legally protect the girl child.
Keywords: Child marriage, Nigeria, Child Rights Act, 1999 Constitution, Ahmed Yerima
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