Marriage to Egyptian Minor: Senator Yerima risks five year jail plus N500,000 fine

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  If it is established that Senator Ahmed Yerima violated the child's Right Act, by marrying a 13 year old girl, the punishment is five years imprisonment or N500,000 fine or both, the National Human Rights Commission said on Wednesday .

The commission's Legal Services director, Mr. Olukayode Senbanja, made the declaration while speaking at the public hearing organised by Senate Committee on Ethics and Petitions, led by Senator Umar Hambagda, which is probing the matter.

According to him, if it is established that Yerima violated the Act, the punishment is five years imprisonment or N500,000 fine or both.

He said: "Whether she is 13 years or 14 years, under the law as operational in Abuja, which is the Federal Capital Territory, she is regarded as a child under the Child Rights Act 2003. If a marriage truly took place between Senator Yerima and the 13 years or 14 years old child, the laws are there."

Section 21 of the Act stipulates that no person under 18 years is capable of contracting a valid marriage.

Senbanja, however, maintained that if the marriage had been contracted in Zamfara where the Act is not domesticated, the Commission would not have been bothered much because it has no jurisdiction in the state.

He told the panel that the Egyptian minor is a daughter of Yerima's driver in Cairo and that the Commission has also discovered that the girl's age is 14 and not 13 as earlier disclosed when the story broke.

The director urged the committee to investigate the issue thoroughly and ascertain the real age of the girl and the mode of her entry into Nigeria.

A member of the committee, Senator Sola Akinyede, had earlier read Order 53(5) of the Senate Standing Rules and asked the petitioner, NHRC, whether the case is before any court as the Senate has no constitutional powers to investigate such an issue.

According to him, the Exclusive List of the 1999 Constitution does not permit the Federal Government to legislate on marriages for both Islamic and traditional religions.

Senator Andrew Babalola said: "The problem we have today is that of the law governing us. The Sharia law permits him to marry a child of that age. We cannot convict this man because of Sharia law. We must find a way of changing this law because