Yesha Callahan

Nigerian Senator: We Didn’t Legalize Child Marriage


In response to the backlash Nigeria received from a possible law allowing child marriage, the two Nigerian senators attempted to clarify the basis of the bill that was not passed. Senators Akin Odunsi (Ogun West) and Atiku Abubakar Bagudu (Kebbi Central) expressed concerns over the outrage against the Senate over its perceived move to legalize child marriage.

From All Africa:

Odunsi claimed that the Senate was misrepresented over the issue, explaining that the alleged under age marriage provision as contained in Section 29 clauses 4(b) had been in existence in the 1999 Constitution, stating that “any woman that is married in Nigeria is of full age.”

He explained that: “What the Senate attempted to do that day was to expunge that clause but couldn’t do so due to shortage of 13 votes because 60 senators voted for its removal as against 73 required votes, while 35 voted for its retention. Therefore, from what happened on the floor of the Senate last Tuesday, the Senate attempted to expunge the somewhat archaic clause and not in any way created the law as it is now wrongly portrayed by Nigerians.”

On his own part, Bagudu expressed regret that the Senate had been put on the spot by the allegation of endorsement of under-age marriage in Nigeria, describing it as terrible misrepresentation of what the Senate considered or voted for under Section 29 clauses 4(a) and (b) of Nigeria constitution and as presented for consideration by Senate Committee on Constitution Review.

According to him, it was renunciation of citizenship that was considered and voted on as contained in Section 29 clauses 4a and b, insisting that it was not anything about marriage.

“Clause 4a of section 29 of the 1999 Constitution defines a full age for any Nigerian who wants to renounce his or her citizenship to be 18 years and above while clause 4b states further that in the case of women, aside the 18 years prescribed in clause 4a, any woman that is married can be considered to be of full age,” he noted.

He also claimed that in many places around the world, marriage below the age of 18 years for girls is allowed by parental consent, since according to him, the Holy Bible, the Quoran, the Torah and the like, all view full age for women from the age of puberty.

But what if puberty starts at 11 for girls? Does that make it OK, according to the Bible, Quran and Torah? It was only 3 years ago that members of the Nigerian senate defended a senators marriage to a 13 year old Egyptian.  In addition to the child marriage confusion, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) called for the prosecution of Senator Ahmed Sani Yerima at the International Court of Justice at The Hague for alleged child abuse, having married a 13-year-old Egyptian girl.

  1. July 24, 2013 - Reply

    They tried it. Funny thing is, I knew a WOMAN from this kind of culture that actually tried to defend this practice.

    The whole bride selling thing is just about money anyway.Whatever cultural posturing people use to excuse it, it’s simply one less mouth to feed.

  2. July 24, 2013 - Reply

    All this is very confusing… Simple plain English please… What caused this misunderstanding in the first place??

  3. July 24, 2013 - Reply

    LOL…reading the statement reminds me so much of conversations with my Nigerian uncles…adding all of these words that don’t add to the meaning of the sentence….I think they are just saying, with the exception of young girls under a certain age who are married, a Nigerian must be of 18 years of age in order to renounce their citizenship. What I gather, if I am interpreting correctly, is that these senators did not consider the full meaning of the implications of this clause.

    • July 24, 2013 - Reply


      Thank you for the translation 🙂
      I read it three times & all my brain could say was “too many words! too many words!”

    • July 24, 2013 - Reply


      Yeah, I really had to go to AllAfrica, and THEN I had to find the actual PDF of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution. It really looks like they wrote the subclause as an afterthought, like, “Any full-aged adult who wants to renounce their citizenship can do so…OH, and by the way, in this case if a girl is married then that counts as adulthood too!” It’s still an archaic clause though… the guy who suggested keeping it (Ahmed Yerima) married a girl who was 13 years old at the time of marriage.

  4. July 24, 2013 - Reply

    It sounds as if someone is backpedaling. Surely a citizenship provision can be confused for child marriage. That any married female is automatically considered an adult is a back door to child marriage, or not.

    • July 27, 2013 - Reply


      “That any married female is automatically considered an adult is a back door to child marriage…”

      Thats why I said, “They tried it.”

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