A formal investigation into Nigerian Senator Ahmed Yerima’s alleged marriage to an underage girl was launched yesterday by Nigeria’s parliament. A local newspaper reported yesterday that Yerima claimed his new wife is older than 13, but did not specify her age, according to the Washington Post. He reportedly paid a dowry worth $100,000 to the girls’ parents and brought her from Egypt to Nigeria, though reports indicate the girl is still in school in Egypt. Yerima is 49 and has three other wives.
Yerima told the BBC, “I don’t care about the issue of age since I have not violated any rule as far as Islam is concerned…History tells us that Prophet Muhammad did marry a young girl as well. Therefore I have not contravened any law. Even if she is 13, as it is being falsely peddled around.”
Senator Eme Ufot Ekaette, Chair of the Nigerian Senate Committee on Women Affairs and Youth Development presented a petition from 11 groups to the body on Wednesday. The petition said that “the human rights community in Nigeria and beyond has expressed concern and consternation at the alleged actions of the distinguished Senator which are considered both condemnable and patently illegal, especially as they relate to Nigeria’s statutory and case law as well as its international status,” reported Agence France Presse. The petition further alleged that the marriage violates Nigeria’s Child Rights Act of 2003, which bans marriage to those under 18 years of age, and referenced that Nigeria signed the UNICEF Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Nigerian Women Affairs Minister Josephine Anenih told reporters that “If it is true then it is very objectionable, very obnoxious, very condemnable. It is something we cannot condone or allow to happen in this country,” reported Agence France Presse.