…Converts her to Islam
■ Teenager’s mum beaten up by daughter’s hubby’s relations
From JOHN ADAMS, Minna
there is disquiet in Erena district of Shiroro Local Government Area, Niger State, following the decision of a Sharia court sitting in Erena to forcefully marry out one Janet Habila, a Christian girl to her Muslim boss, one Nasiru, a tailor.
This decision by the court is generating tension in Shundra village, a quiet and peaceful community where different ethnic groups have co-existed without rancour.
The parents of Janet have vowed to challenge the court decision with their last drop of blood.
Janet Habila, 16, was an apprentice in Nasiru’s tailoring institute in Erena, where her father had enrolled her to learn the trade after she refused to further her education beyond primary school.
Janet’s father, a devoted church leader with the United Mountain of Grace in Shundna village and Janet herself, until recently was the leader of the Sabo Rayi (new life) group in the church.
Janet was enrolled in the tailoring institute in 2016 by her parents as a way of empowering her, but rather than learning the trade, the parents were shocked to receive a notification of her marriage through a Sharia court in Erena.
Nasiru, a Nigerien national who settled in Erena, was said to have approached the court to join him and Janet as husband and wife without seeking the consent and approval of the parents.
According to a source close to the family of the girl, Nasiru was said to have craftily organized some Muslim men and women in the area to stand as the parents of Janet in court to enable the marriage to take place.
Habila Gambo, Janet’s father told Sunday Sun that unless the decision by the Sharia court, presided over by Umar Shehu to forcefully marry his daughter out to her Muslim boss without his consent was reversed, “it will eventually lead to a possible religious crisis in Erena.”
Gambo warned that even if such illegality had happened elsewhere and they get away with it, “Erena and its environs would be thrown into confusion and possible anarchy by the practice of forced conversion and marriage.
Narrating what happened, Gambo said: “Sometime in 2016, I enrolled my daughter, Janet in Nasiru’s tailoring institute as an apprentice to learn fashion design since she refused to continue with her education. She never disclosed to me that Nasiru was asking for her hand in marriage.
“But to my surprise, on March 16, 2017, I came back home and met a court summon, asking me to report at the Sharia Court, Erena. On getting to the court, I was told that my daughter had converted to Islam and that her marriage had been fixed for 2:00pm that same day.
“I told the Sharia court judge that as a father of Janet, I was not aware of such arrangement because my daughter never discussed anything like that with me. Therefore, I was not going to accept it and I would not be part of it.
“But to my surprise the judge told me that the court only wanted to inform me and that was all. He said that the marriage would go on as planned even without my consent.
“My daughter had never told me that she wanted to convert to Islam not to talk of marrying a Muslim, I paid a lot of money to train her and I would not allow this to happen while I am alive.”
He promptly reported the matter to the Niger State Police Command through a formal letter, urging the police to intervene and rescue his daughter from what he called “unlawful marriage” to Nasiru.
“I am urgently appealing to the police command to intervene to stop any religious crisis that may erupt as a result of this abuse of office by the judge and the criminal act of this Nasiru,” Gambo said
Sunday Sun gathered that following the complaint by Gambo, and to prevent a possible breakdown of law and order, the police promptly arrested Nasiru and detained him at the State Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Minna.
However, when asked to narrate what transpired, Janet told the police that she could not recall what actually happened but that she discovered that she was taking every instruction from Nasiru.
Janet who looked sober when she was first brought to the police headquarters, said in Hausa: “I was confused, I didn’t know what happened, but I was taking every instruction from him (Nasiru).”
When asked why she didn’t inform her parents of Nasiru’s intention to marry her, Janet said: “I was afraid to let my parents know because of the consequences and I was equally afraid to turn down Nasiru’s love advances even though inside me I didn’t like the idea.”
After taking her statement, Janet was handed over to the parents and were asked to return to the police after five days while investigation into the matter continued.
However five days later when Janet and her parents returned to the police headquarters, there was a mild drama as Janet demanded that she should be allowed to say something, which, according to her, had been bothering her since she was handed over to her parents.
When she was given the opportunity to express herself, Janet took her parents by surprise when she declared that she was not returning home with her parents as she was ready to join her husband, Nasiru.
A visibly shaken father of Janet broke down in tears and wept uncontrollably as he watched his daughter being handed over to Nasiru by the police because the court had earlier pronounced them husband and wife and it was only the same court that could dissolve the marriage.
“This will never happen in my life time. My daughter is not a stray animal, and even a stray animal has owner. Nobody can take my daughter from me for free without my consent, I will challenge this with the last drop of my blood.”
Meanwhile the mother of Janet, Asabe Gambo got the beating of her life when she went to visit her daughter in the home of Nasiru by his relations, who described the mother as an unbelievers who came to poison the mind of Janet.
Narrating the experience, Asabe said: “I only wanted see my daughter when the women in the house gathered and started beating me and calling me unbeliever who should not be welcome into the house.
“They told me that my daughter was now a Muslim and, therefore, did not need any unbeliever around her. They didn’t allow me to even sight my daughter with my eyes. I am seriously in pain, as a mother who carried her pregnancy for nine months,” she lamented.
“I want God to take my life instead of experiencing this kind of situation as a mother. This is quite unfortunate, I don’t want to believe that this is happening to me. My daughter’s sudden change of attitude is not ordinary. As a Christian, I strongly believe that God will surely pass his judgement over this unfortunate experience. My daughter will surely regain her senses and return back home.”
Forceful conversion of Christian girls and marrying them off to Muslim suitors through the Sharia court in the state without the consent of their parents remains a great concern and a threat to peaceful co-existence among the two major religions in the state.
Back in 2013, 24-year-old Charity Uzoechina, a student of Federal Polytechnic, Bida and a daughter of a pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, suffered a similar fate when she was taken into custody in the palace of the Etsu Nupe and married off to a Muslim without the consent of the parents.
Charity had left her parents in Abuja to further her studies at the Federal Polytechnic, Bida, Niger State, unknown to her parents that it was the beginning of many days of sorrow.
Instead of the formal education she had gone to Bida to acquire, the young Christian girl was allegedly pursuing her new faith of Islam at the palace of the Etsu Nupe.
For the parents, the pain was not just that Charity abandoned her Christian faith, but that she was completely separated from them.
She was alleged to have converted to Islam on her own volition and changed her name to Aisha. However, contrary to these claims, Pastor Raymond Uzoechina had insisted that his daughter was a victim of forced conversion to Islam.
Like in the case of Habila Gambo, the RCCG pastor, called on security agencies to investigate activities at the palace of the Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, to ensure that many people there had not been forced to convert to Islam and then held against their will.
“Apart from my daughter, there are so many people at the palace. There is need for the police to investigate and ensure that the people are not suffering the fate of my daughter,” Uzoechina had said, stressing his belief that his daughter was kidnapped and hypnotized, making her to lose her sense of reasoning.
As happened in the case of Gambo, Uzoechina had received a phone call from an aide of the emir, asking him to come to the palace.
Recalling that agonizing experience, Uzoechina said: “On getting to the palace in Bida, the man said two women brought my daughter to the palace saying that she had embraced Islam and withdrawn from school. Those women even claimed they had taken her through the rudiments of Islam and had also started looking for a school for her. At this juncture, I demanded that I am going home with her. But the man declined, saying only the emir had the power to allow the girl go with me. They took me to the emir but the emir refused my plea, saying I should come back the following week.”
Pastor Uzoechina got the greatest shock of his life when he tried to take his daughter but was told that she had been placed under the custody of the Sharia Court, which ordered that Charity be entrusted to the Etsu Nupe, who should employ a qualified Islamic scholar to teach her Islamic customs.