From NOAH EBIJE, Kaduna
Former Governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Makarfi has said that the issue of child marriage would not even cross his mind, not to talk of contemplating going into it as a suitor to an underage girl.
Senator Makarfi, who is representing Kaduna North senatorial zone of the state, told some Journalists in an interview in his Kaduna residence at the weekend that a girl who married at 13 would not be able to give birth, pointing out that what the Senate wanted to do was to ensure parity and equality for boys and girls relating to the age of marriage.
He, however, noted that child marriage issue was messed up by different proponents of the matter, stressing that if a girl is married at 13 and she could renounce her citizenship, a boy cannot until he reaches 18, an indication that there is no parity and equality between a girl and a boy.
“I am not for underage marriage, I will never support it, I will never engage in it, I will never encourage it, but for God’s sake, lets talk based on facts.
“It is unfortunate, it is very unfortunate that it got messed up in a way. The legislation for the amendment that the Senate wanted to do was to bring parity and equality in terms of renunciation of citizenship.
“If a girl is married at 13 and she can renounce her citizenship, but a boy cannot until he reaches 18, is there parity, is there equality, which is the whole issue, and can a girl, even if she marries at 13 give birth? She cannot, so why are we not saying that it is not electoral act, so it is a driving licence even if she marries at a lower age. But the electoral act does not stop Islamic marriage anyway. Then if the driving licence law regulation does not stop Islamic marriage, but it stipulates that before you do certain thing you have to be at a particular age.
“So, both sides, for me, are guilty of mixing up all issues. All those who are looking at it from religious angle and those who are looking at it from human rights or child marriage have nothing to do with at which age a girl gets married. And when we confused issues, we end up not making progress.
“You asked how I voted; the first vote, I voted for deletion, but when the entire issue became confused, I was one of those who abstained from voting because if I was to vote I know where my conscience will take me, but when you confused the entire thing all, I withdrew my ascent to vote. Again even if it comes to age of 18, marriage or consent, there is a difference in age of consent between France and UK, two years different.
“I think UK is either 17 or 18, France is either 15 or 16. The English people run away with 16 years old to France so that they can marry them and live with them. Some developed countries have different ages, it is not uniformed there, it has to be 18. If in Nigeria we feel that it has to be 18, so be it. But we must not begin to behave as if this is a world standard, that once you fall below that, you are uncivilized, you are undeveloped, you are uneducated. Again, those who are looking at it this way are mischievously or ignorantly making comment over what they don’t even have wider view about this situation.
“Even in the west, two months back when non individuals engage in the entertainment world in the US, they were even campaigning for lowering the age of person to 13, of course, they were criticized, majority will criticize, but that is their personal opinion, they were suggesting lowering the age to 13 in US, that will not, but nobody will stop them from airing their views. At the end of the day, the society will decide what is best, but please, when we are debating and talking about this, we should look at what is happening in other parts of the world so that we do it with respect, we don’t begin to malign and call people names.
“But there is no uniform age or consent; there is no uniformed age for marriage the world all over. I am not a supporter of underage marriage in any way, so when we are debating what is good for Nigerians, we should not be holier than thou. Even those who are professing war against what we are trying to profess against, we should have a balanced, matured and well informed discussion, so that we can make progress.”