Forced Marriage Booms In Niger State

… Foul Cries Follow Investigative Reports
… Govt Urged To Save Young Girls

Niger state government has been urged to rise in defence of young girls being forced into marriages by their families, as well as ensuring perpetrators of the illegal act are sanctioned.

The call for Governor Mohammed Bago-led Niger State to frontally tackle the spate of forced marriage is coming on the heels of an investigative report by the International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) exposing how young girls are married off against their wishes in villages in Gbako and Lavun Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Niger State.

Legal practitioner & gender activist Yewande Ogundipe led the call for enforcement of child rights laws and punishment of offenders during an anti-corruption radio programme, PUBLIC CONSCIENCE, produced by PRIMORG, Wednesday in Abuja.

Ogundipe lamented that despite orientation and reorientation over the years, the situation is worsening due to a lack of consequence for those forcing underage children into marriage, emphasizing that the way out is “sanctions and enforcement.”

She stressed that some sections of the Nigerian Constitution had not helped the fight against forced marriage in the country as “it on one breathe prohibits and on another supports child marriage,” allowing some people to exploit the constitutional lacuna and continue marrying underage girls.

“The constitution of Nigeria in use currently is not helping the matter. There is more to be done. There are a lot of dead letter laws. Child rights laws have expressly prohibited marrying children, but who has enforced them? Who has been jailed for marrying a child? The constitution is confused about the issue.

“Every state in Nigeria should be made to ratify and domesticate child rights law, have your own child rights law that will protect the children better, NGOs should go to the grassroots and deal directly with women and children in distress, let them know if this (child marriage) happens to call this phone number, we would come and rescue you, there is a level of fear and compliance when they know an organization is involved.

“Lawyers in Niger state, what are you doing about child marriages, have evangelism concerning this issue. It’s a fight for all,” Ogundipe advised.

Resource persons during the anti-corruption radio programme.

Similarly, Head, Investigative Desk, The ICIR, Olugbenga Adanikin, joined the call for the Niger state government to sanction perpetrators of forced marriage, stressing it will deter others with such intentions.

Adanikin called for the collaboration of faith-based organizations and religious leaders against the unlawful act, insisting that the political will of the state governor to punish offenders of child brides will send the right signal.

He added: “Niger state government can also deploy and stick approach by rewarding communities that deliberately work towards eliminating child marriage while sanctioning those found culpable.”

The journalist revealed that young girls interviewed during the investigation had terrible experiences. Some resorted to spending days in forests to escape their abusers. He said that in some cases, parents of the victims hypnotize their children to make them sleep with the man they have been married off to.

Adanikin emphasized that the abuse young girls are facing through forced marriages is worrisome and happening not only in the northern part of the country but also in other regions, hence urging that there should be a national campaign against child brides.

The investigation also revealed that both Child Rights Protection Agency in Niger state and Bida Emir’s Palace alluded that cases of child marriage are recurrent in the state.

From left: Legal practitioner & gender activist, Yewande Ogundipe; PRIMORG’s Media & Research Assistant, Esther Bassey; Investigative journalist with The ICIR, Olugbenga Adaniki and PRIMORG’s Program Manager, Dr Adaobi Obiabunmuo.

Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio program PRIMORG uses to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.

The program has the support of the MacArthur Foundation.

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