The Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Aisha Alhassan, says about 65 per cent of children below 18 years were forced into marriage in the Northern region.
Ms. Alhassan made this known in Abuja at the launch of national campaign on ending child marriage in Nigeria.
She said that the detrimental consequences of child marriage on children, women, families, communities and nations at large were evident.
“There are always high maternal mortality and morbidity, illiteracy, lack of skills, unemployment, low income and widespread misery among victims of child marriage, especially female victims.
“Child marriage, a formal or an informal launch union of a child before full maturity, which is the age of 18, is associated with various challenges,” Ms. Alhassan said.
She said that Nigeria faces the daunting task of harnessing its vast natural and human resources to effectively reduce this harmful practice.
According to her, in 2015, an estimate of six million girls were married by the age of 15 years.
“Child marriage is prevalent in the North-West and North-East geo-political zones of the country.
“The launch is the beginning of a process as the ministry proposes to establish a National Coordination Unit, and a steering committee will oversee the monitoring and evaluation for implementation of the National Strategic Plan.
“All of us need to join hands to achieve this through the provision of adequate services and comprehensive preventive efforts, so that our girls and boys can access and have quality education.
“This will include ensuring that their sexual and reproductive health and rights are protected as well as engagement of boys and men in the society in the promotion of gender equality in various communities,” the minister said.
Also, the High Commissioner of Canada, Christopher Thornley, said, “Child marriage occurs more frequently among girls who are the least educated, poorest and living in the rural areas.”
Mr. Thornley said that it was better to delay marriage to adulthood to enable the individual to develop mentally and physically.
In his remarks, Mustapha Hussain, an Associate Professor of Classical Arabic and Modern Literature, said, “A child below 18 years of age should not be forced to marriage.
“Marrying a girl to man she does not know is unIslamic,” Mr. Hussain said.
The Representative of Christians Association of Nigeria, CAN, Supo Adekunle, said that there were no places in the Holy Book where a child should be given out for marriage.
Mr. Adekunle said that child marriage should be totally discouraged by everyone who wants the development of the country.
The Speaker, Children Parliament, Grandour Nweke, said child marriage deprives a child from childhood and education, adding that it could lead to domestic violence as well as health challenges.