Nigeria’s Dangerously Flawed Constitution: Protecting The Helpless vs Empowering Paedophiles

By Modupe Ozolua

PAEDOPHILIA (as defined by The International Classification of Diseases, ICD): as a medical diagnosis, is a PSYCHIATRIC DISORDER in adult persons with a primary or exclusive sexual interest or sexual preference for children of prepubescent or early pubertal age. PAEDOPHILE (degenerate, pervert): a person who is sexually attracted to children.

Not to flog a dead horse, I am happy that many people have spoken against this unbelievable betrayal by the Nigerian Senate. I too am enraged. The irony of all this is that if not for serial paedophile, Senator Yarima, challenging the removal of 29 (4, b), the general public wouldn’t have known it existed in the first place! After all, how could we, the masses, have known such a dangerous self-contradictory clause existed in a sensitive document that is supposed to protect us?

This made me wonder, how many more clauses and subsections such as article 29 (4, b) currently exist in the Nigerian Constitution? How many more legally binding laws are encouraging, legalizing sexual abuse and exploitation of the girl-child in Nigeria? Seriously, what else is hidden in our laws?

yerima-and-wifeCunningly, serial sexual offender Yarima has “packaged” his practices based on his interpretation of his rights as a Muslim; so everyone opposing his views is considered to be anti-Islam. Even though this isnt an attack on Islam but the sexual exploitation of the defenseless children; if we are going to talk about this, we cannot shy away from the fact that the poster boy for sexual predators in Nigeria is a Muslim who claims his religion “empowers’ him to do it. Having said that, lets get down to it.

What I find the most disturbing is why are respected Muslim clerics not publicly condemning Yarima? Why are they only whispering; “No, its not true, Islam doesn’t encourage underage marriage?” Why didn’t the Northern leaders or fathers condemn him when he divorced the 15-year old that bore him a child so he could marry a 13-year old Egyptian child? After all, isn’t the popular excuse for the practice of underage marriage the reasoning that it’s better to marry the child young so she doesn’t become promiscuous and remains in a stable marital home? So what is Islamic in Yarima and thousands of men like him that sexually abuse children in the name of marriage, divorce them shortly after and remarry “new meat?”

If these sexual predators are such devoted Muslims, why haven’t any of them given their daughters out in marriage when they are or where 13 years? Two of Yarima’s daughters didn’t get married until they were in their mid 20s and graduated from ABU! Clearly, this practice is created to exploit the children of poor uneducated people that have been brain washed into misunderstanding their religion.

Again, why hasn’t this celebrated sexual offender been ordered to stop giving Islam a bad name…or is he? After all he has boldly perpetuated these acts, got away with them and now, even strong-armed the Senate to retain a clause that gives legal backing to the act of sexually abusing a child in the name of marriage.

Could it be that this man is a truly devoted Muslim and he is simply practicing his religion, that is why Muslim religious teachers are quiet? Could it be the founding laws of Nigeria give him legal backing to sexually molest children? Could it be that he is the good guy while we are the “busy body” people just harassing the poor man for no reason?

Personally, I am extremely disturbed by this because I have seen first hand what child marriage does to children. Sexual intercourse with children and their pregnancies lead to the development of VVF (Vesico Vaginal Fistula) this is a medical condition when during prolonged labor, the unborn child presses tightly against the pelvis, cutting off blood flow to the Vesico Vaginal wall. Thus creating a hole where the girl experiences controllable flow of urine and feces from the vagina. VVF is also caused by violent sexual intercourse with underage girls. Most times their babies die during childbirth. After developing this condition, these child brides are divorced by their husbands. Some girls are young as 9 years old while the men go off and marry other child brides. The circle continues to breed sexually abused children, divorced before they can spell their names, child prostitution, beggars on the streets and uneducated liability to their State government. Pedophiles don’t stop. They simply “recycle” these girls.

I know this because my foundation, BEARS Foundation, provided reconstructive surgery to many of them. Meeting thousands of victims of child marriages in 2006 traumatized me greatly and led me to write several articles about it in ThisDay Style. They are too many to help. Unfortunately they all cant be helped because they get treated, remarry shortly after, and develop fresh fistulas during labor; because they don’t understand that their bodies are not developed enough to endure prolonged childbirth. So they come back again. Seeking help. It’s a revolving door that hasn’t stopped and wont stop if men like Yarima continue.

These deeply disturbing thoughts made me quickly download the Nigerian Constitution and as I embarked on a 15 hour flight to Hong Kong, I started studying all 164 Pages. This led me to a critical question, if truly men like Yarima have the full backing of their religion to sexually exploit little girls in the name of marriage; how much freedom should we as individuals be allowed to practice our religions and cultural beliefs even when it translates into committing criminal acts and violation of others Fundamental Human Rights? Surely, there must be limits to everything, right?

We need to look at this issue with a magnifying glass and identify where there are loopholes in our Constitution and fix them QUICKLY. Yes, we understand the implications of leaving subsection (b) of article 29, but then what?? What are we proposing to make it better? This shouldn’t just be an issue of screaming, pointing fingers and calling names. As much as Yarima and his supporters are enjoying all this, this is much bigger than them! After all, this clause has been in the constitution for a long time.

Right now, we need to fine comb through our laws, fix them and ensure such hideous crimes cannot continue to be perpetuated and gotten away with. Although I identified quiet a few loopholes, here are some areas that can be exploited for personal interpretation and exploitation:

1. After going through the Constitution, I sadly realized there are NO SPECIFIC laws protecting the rights of Children and women in Nigeria! NONE! As a matter of fact, there isn’t any where in the Constitution that says the legal age of marriage for a woman is 18 years old. There are only references to an individual being considered to be of “full age” at 18 years.

2. 38. (1) “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion…”

as much as we all agree on this based on face value, we much examine this much closer.  If sexual predators such as Yarima are legally backed by this statement in the Constitution to sexually abuse young girls in the name of practicing their religion; in the same light, this statement also gives legal backing to a ritualist to kill people for sacrifices! After all, they are all practicing their different religions! So, why should a ritualist be arrested, prosecuted and convicted while people with a psychiatric sexual disorder like Yarima aren”t? He doesn’t have to physically kill a girl to ‘kill her”. A lot of the abandoned child brides end up committing suicide.

As I couldn’t find anything encouraging in the Constitution, I turned to the Nigerian Criminal Code Act.  This makes matters even worse! Chapter 21 (Offences Against Morality) 218 states: “Any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of thirteen years is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for life, with or without caning.” Under 13 years?! Are you as shocked as I am about this? Seriously?!?! Not under 18 years, but 13 years!?!

221.  “Any person who has or attempts to have unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl being of or above thirteen years and under sixteen years of age; is guilty of a misdemeanor, and is liable to imprisonment for two years, with or without caning.” 222A.  (1) “Whoever, having the custody, charge or care of a girl under the age of sixteen years, causes or encourages the seduction, unlawful carnal knowledge or prostitution of, or the commission of an indecent assault upon, such a girl, shall be liable to imprisonment for two years. “

223. “Any person who (1) procures (for prostitution) a girl or woman who is under the age of eighteen years to have unlawful carnal connection with any other person or persons, either in Nigeria or elsewhere; or is guilty of a misdemeanor, and is liable to imprisonment for two years.”

After going through these documents, its clear there are no laws protecting children from sexual predators. Also, its assumed that the adult marriage age in Nigeria is 18 yrs old. It isn’t.

In the State v Hassan Audu [1972] case where a High Court judge in Nigeria handed down a suspended sentence of three years’ imprisonment to a 39-year old man who had been convicted of the statutory rape of a nine-year old girl! According to the trial judge in that infamous case, “on the evidence, I am more inclined to believe that the sexual intercourse in question came about more from the deep love which the accused has for [the victim] ….”! And what did an otherwise distinguished panel of the Supreme Court have to say in their consideration of the appeal against that awful trial court decision?

That no, the law did not permit the trial judge to hand out a suspended sentence, and therefore the sentence of imprisonment should be imposed without any after qualification but, and this is the most despicable part, “We would, however, add a recommendation to mercy for consideration by the appropriate authorities provided, as he asserted before us, the [accused] takes immediate steps towards marrying [the victim].”!!

Clearly, our Judicial and Legislative bodies think its okay to commit paedophilia and statutory rape as long as the child is or ends up being the sexual predators wife!

The Constitution currently says a person is of full age at 18 years old (but obviously only applicable when it comes to voting, not marriage!); BUT also states ANY woman that is married (regardless of age) shall be considered to be of full age. THEN the Criminal Acts states it’s a criminal act to have unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of thirteen years (clearly, its permitted if she is married); THEN knowledge of a girl being of or above thirteen years and under sixteen years of age; is guilty of a misdemeanor.

We also need to address a critical question, “what laws are governing the Federal Republic of Nigeria?” As a Nigerian, I need to know this because I am confused.  Even is Sharia Laws permit child marriages and the Constitution of Nigeria says a woman is not considered to be of full age until she is 18 years…lets ignore the second statement where it contradicts itself!…which law supersede the other? Chapter VIII 262 (2) of the Constitution states that one of the responsibilities of the Shaira Court of Appeal is to interpret and answer questions regarding Islamic personal laws regarding marriage, etc. At this point the Sharia Court of Appeal should make a statement about Islamic stand on child marriages. In addition, they should also educate us if the Constitutional Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria supersede their religious laws or vice versa.

This is critical because if whispers that child marriages isn’t Islamic is indeed correct; the Sharia courts need to educate those that are victims of this practice. The Imams in the mosques need to preach during mosque gatherings, the Islamic religious leaders and Royal Muslim fathers need to do the same. This will gradually change the mindset of the poor uneducated people that have been brain washed into giving their little children away in “marriage” to sexual predators in the name of religion and poverty.

There are many other clauses left open too much room for self interpretation and exploitation. If the Legislative is genuine about reviewing the Constitution for the better good of ALL Nigerians, they need to start from the very top and not leave any stone unturned. This is the time for all interested parties to read the Constitution and the Nigerian Criminal Code Act; come up with suggestions and present them to the Legislative. We need to rectify the flaws in our Constitution for the safety of all of us.

We all know that Nigerian laws on corruption and money issues are only applicable to the poor, but it also extends to sexually, physically, psychologically and mentally abusing little girls??? Seriously?! How many poor men in Nigeria can boldly import foreign 13 yr old girls, their families, have a huge wedding reception in Abuja attended by people in sensitive government positions, openly brag about paying the in-laws $100,000 as bride price and get away with it??

Once again, it’s left to us the masses to fight for ourselves and the little girls that are turned into sex slaves and divorcees before the age of 12 years! Like I said earlier, this is much bigger than Yarima. We have to continue getting our facts straight, and present the Legislative with suggestive modification to the articles that endanger the safety of the girl child and all Nigerians.

We have to keep fighting until these changes are made because the World is watching the out come of this battle. So are other sexual predators. After all, what the current Nigerian Constitution has done is tell paedophiles all over the World that they can relocate to Nigeria, claim Islam as their religion, marry girls as young as 6 yrs old, sexually assault them and get away with it!

Sadly, based on the current laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, sexual exploitation of minors is allowed, as long she is married! Bottom line, these laws have to be modified to clearly state the legal marriage age for girls, regardless of religion and culture, applicable to ALL NIGERIANS AND NON-NIGERIANS residing in Nigeria. Harsh laws against child marriages have to be created that will be applied if the bride is under the LEGAL MARRIAGE AND AGE FOR CANAL KNOWLEDGE of 18yrs old; regardless if the marriage is with or without consent of her parents or guardians.

Ladies and gentlemen, this madness must stop now! We must all stand unified in this fight against sexual exploitation of the Nigerian girl-child. We are one; Muslims, Christians, and unbelievers. We must stand as one in our fight to save Nigeria from completely going to the dogs!

 modupeozolua@yahoo.com

Author: NewsAdmin

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