The Jigawa State Hisbah Board said it has annulled no fewer than 312 underaged and forced marriages in the last four years.
The board, which is also referred to as the Sharia police, also said it has successfully reunited 25 street children, known as almajiri, with their parents.
Ibrahim Dahiru, the head of of the state’s Hisbah Board, told PREMIUM TIMES his organisation discovered that the parents of the street children were capable of taking care of the children but chose to allow them to roam the streets, begging for food and alms.
Mr Dahiru added that the underaged marriages were annulled and the street children united with their parents amicably without recourse to a court.
“In any reported case of forced marriage, the board do invite the parents/guardians of the victim because the children are underage, thus cannot comprehend the message,” Mr Dahiru said.
“We parley with both the parents and the victims of the child marriage, we preach to them and inform them about the right of the girl child, as well as the right of parents on their children. We reconcile them. We succeeded by preventing the parent from conducting the forced marriage, and urged the parents to take them to school,” he added.
According to a United Nations survey, 43 per cent of Nigerian girls are married before they are 18. The problem of early marriage is particularly endemic in the North East and North West regions.
With more than 80 per cent of girls being married off before their 18thbirthday, Jigawa State has one of the highest prevalence of child marriages in the country.
Under the Child Rights Act 2003, the minimum legal age of marriage is 18 years. However as of May 2017 there were still 12 Nigerian states yet to include the Child’s Rights Act in their internal legislation.
Jigawa State domesticated the Child Rights Act in 2012 but later repealed the law the same year. The deputy speaker of the state legislature, Ahmad Garba, told PREMIUM TIMES last October that the law was repealed because it did not follow due process before it was enacted.
Also speaking about the prevalence of underage marriages, Aminu Waziri, the Chief Iman of of Takur-Adua Mosque, said educating the girl child instead of marrying them off was imperative. According to Mr Waziri, forced marriages are alien to Islam.
He said parents must seek the consent of their daughters before giving them out to marriage. He added that parents who give their children good education and upbringing would be rewarded with paradise in the hereafter.
“Islam teaches parents to seek the consent of their daughters before giving them out to marriage. And the husband must be a responsible adult that will value the lady.
“Marriage must not be a reason to truncate the girl child’s education. So also, education must not be a reason for parents not to give out their daughters in marriage once they’re matured for that.
“Some parents are ignorant of Islam by giving out their daughters in marriage at a tender age, saying that it’s the teaching of Islam. It’s not. There’s no specifications on age when it comes to marriage, parents should marry their daughters off in marriage when they’re matured for that.
” It’s unfortunate that some parents see their girl child as a burden on them. They hurriedly give them out in marriage because they want to ease up themselves from the girl’s responsibilities, which at the end, the girl child ends up being a victim,” the cleric said.
The danger of almajiri
Mr Dahiru said his organisation, apart from reuniting street children with their parents, also takes time to educate the parents about the dangers of allowing underage kids to roam the streets begging for food and alms. He said many of such children will end up being “nuisances to the society.” He added that “there is no Islamic law that gives parents the right to do so.”
He said children at a particular stage of their life need the protection and guidance of an adult. They need care and love, which will later manifest in their later life, if we don’t care about their right and well-being.
Similarly, the Head of Department of Sociology at the Federal University, Dutse, Ali Siro, said the rampant cases of child abuse in the North West was as a result of poor governance, corruption and non-existence of laws to protect the children’s welfare.
Mr Siro said children roaming the streets begging for food are supposed to be with their families for proper upbringing. He said children need parental guidance, love and caring, with these they will grow to be a responsible adult.
“The government needs to establish more schools that will cater for the growing population. If the government is committed to the well-being of the children, they should hold erring parents responsible for the cases of child abuse.
“If proactive measures are not taken, those children will grow heartless to become hardened criminals. They will see any member of the society as an enemy because they lack the proper parental upbringing,” he added.
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