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The lawful age of marriage in Nigeria is still 18 years. We did not vote to reduce the marriage age - Senate
| July 24, 2013
Reacting to the huge outcry that followed the news that the Senate had voted to removed the clause that limits the age at which girls can get married, the Senate clarified its stance on the issue. A note by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information, Media and Public Affairs, Senator Enyinaya Abaribe, said “For the avoidance of doubt, at no time did the senators vote, neither did they ever deliberate on any clause that has to do with marriage age. They also did not vote to introduce any new law on underage marriage. “The senators only voted to amend some clauses in the articles that were already in the constitution. What is important is for the issue to be put in its proper perspective. This clarification has become necessary because of the wilful and deliberate act to distort and misinform the general public on what was never discussed nor contemplated by the distinguished senators. “At no time was marriage as a section of the constitution discussed or voted for.” The Senate also gave details on the activities that occurred during last week's consideration of proposed amendments to the 1999 Constitution, saying ,“It is pertinent for the public to know that the section up for amendment had to do with persons qualified to renounce Nigerian citizenship. “The 1999 constitution as amended in Section 29, (which has suddenly become a hot issue for both informed and uninformed interpretation in the press and social media) states in Section 1 S29(1): ‘Any citizen of Nigeria of full age who wishes to renounce his Nigerian citizenship shall make a declaration in the prescribed manner for the renunciation”. S29(4): ‘For the purposes of subsection (1) of this section, (a) ‘full age’ means the age of 18 years and above; (b) ‘any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age’ “The prevailing view of the committee before the initial vote was that Section 29(4) (a) was gender-neutral but with section 29(4) (b) specifically mentioning ‘woman’, it now looked discriminatory and, as such, is in conflict with Section 42 of the constitution, which prohibits discrimination of any form. The committee thus sought for it to be expunged from the constitution. “Senators therefore voted earlier to expunge that sub section and it scaled through by 75 votes. Note that under the constitution, to amend any clause you will need 2/3 of the members of the Senate, which translates to 73 votes. “However, the revisiting of the voting on that section was to take care of objections raised by distinguished Senator Ahmad Sani Yerima, among others. He pointed out that removing the clause 29(4) (b) contradicts section 61 of the second schedule of the constitution which restricts the National Assembly from considering matters relating to Islamic and Customary law. “Revisiting the section was pure and simple a pragmatic approach. It had to be so, considering that the Senate as the representative of the people, represents all interests and all shades of opinion. “Therefore, a fresh vote was called and even though those who wanted that section expunged were more in number, they failed to muster the needed votes to get it through. What it meant was that majority of senators voted to remove it, but they were short of the 2/3 majority or (73) required to alter an article of the constitution. “Had voting in constitutional amendment not been based on the mandatory two-third or (73) votes of senators at the sitting, perhaps the issue would have been rested by now, but be that as it may the outcome of the voting remains the position of the Senate. S29 (4) (b) still remains part of the constitution.” The Senate also emphasized that The Child Rights Act, which states that the lawful marriage age in the country is still 18 years saying, “The National Assembly in 2003 had passed ‘The Child Rights Act’ which specifically took care of the fears being expressed in a cross section of the media. The Act clearly states in Section 21: “No person under the age of 18 years is capable of contracting a valid marriage and accordingly, any marriage so contracted is null and void and of no effect whatsoever.” 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. While Nigerians seem to have been misinformed about the Senate's action, the issue of under-age marriage seems to have touched off a firestorm in the country and the ideological issues with the conflict between Sharia Law and the constitution still remain. Although the Reacting to the huge outcry that followed the news that the Senate had voted to removed the clause that limits the age at which girls can get married, the Senate clarified its stance on the issue. A note by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information, Media and Public Affairs, Senator Enyinaya Abaribe, said “For the avoidance of doubt, at no time did the senators vote, neither did they ever deliberate on any clause that has to do with marriage age. They also did not vote to introduce any new law on underage marriage. “The senators only voted to amend some clauses in the articles that were already in the constitution. What is important is for the issue to be put in its proper perspective. This clarification has become necessary because of the wilful and deliberate act to distort and misinform the general public on what was never discussed nor contemplated by the distinguished senators. “At no time was marriage as a section of the constitution discussed or voted for.” The Senate also gave details on the activities that occurred during last week's consideration of proposed amendments to the 1999 Constitution, saying ,“It is pertinent for the public to know that the section up for amendment had to do with persons qualified to renounce Nigerian citizenship. “The 1999 constitution as amended in Section 29, (which has suddenly become a hot issue for both informed and uninformed interpretation in the press and social media) states in Section 1 S29(1): ‘Any citizen of Nigeria of full age who wishes to renounce his Nigerian citizenship shall make a declaration in the prescribed manner for the renunciation”. S29(4): ‘For the purposes of subsection (1) of this section, (a) ‘full age’ means the age of 18 years and above; (b) ‘any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age’ “The prevailing view of the committee before the initial vote was that Section 29(4) (a) was gender-neutral but with section 29(4) (b) specifically mentioning ‘woman’, it now looked discriminatory and, as such, is in conflict with Section 42 of the constitution, which prohibits discrimination of any form. The committee thus sought for it to be expunged from the constitution. “Senators therefore voted earlier to expunge that sub section and it scaled through by 75 votes. Note that under the constitution, to amend any clause you will need 2/3 of the members of the Senate, which translates to 73 votes. “However, the revisiting of the voting on that section was to take care of objections raised by distinguished Senator Ahmad Sani Yerima, among others. He pointed out that removing the clause 29(4) (b) contradicts section 61 of the second schedule of the constitution which restricts the National Assembly from considering matters relating to Islamic and Customary law. “Revisiting the section was pure and simple a pragmatic approach. It had to be so, considering that the Senate as the representative of the people, represents all interests and all shades of opinion. “Therefore, a fresh vote was called and even though those who wanted that section expunged were more in number, they failed to muster the needed votes to get it through. What it meant was that majority of senators voted to remove it, but they were short of the 2/3 majority or (73) required to alter an article of the constitution. “Had voting in constitutional amendment not been based on the mandatory two-third or (73) votes of senators at the sitting, perhaps the issue would have been rested by now, but be that as it may the outcome of the voting remains the position of the Senate. S29 (4) (b) still remains part of the constitution.” The Senate also emphasized that The Child Rights Act, which states that the lawful marriage age in the country is still 18 years saying, “The National Assembly in 2003 had passed ‘The Child Rights Act’ which specifically took care of the fears being expressed in a cross section of the media. The Act clearly states in Section 21: “No person under the age of 18 years is capable of contracting a valid marriage and accordingly, any marriage so contracted is null and void and of no effect whatsoever.” 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. While Nigerians seem to have been misinformed about the Senate's action, the issue of under-age marriage seems to have touched off a firestorm in the country and the ideological issues with the conflict between Sharia Law and the constitution still remain. Although the Child's Rights Act still stands and states that "no person under the age of 18 years is capable of contracting a valid marriage ..", each state must adopt it and so far only 24 out of the 36 states have adopted it.

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"The views and opinions expressed in these comment(s) or article(s) do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of NGEX, its partners or its affiliates."
scopey    Dallas, U.S.A    July 25, 2013
liar... no smoke without fire
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