By Ene Osang
Even though it is yet to be officially included in the Nigerian constitution, the federal government has directed that marriage age should be from 18 years, while condemning the marrying off of minors, particularly girls below 18 years of age.
Vice President Yemi Osibanjo gave the directive yesterday at the national campaign launch of ending child marriage in Nigeria, held at the Sheraton Hotels in Abuja.
Osinbanjo blamed the increasing rate of child brides on poverty, saying there was an urgent need to tackle this issue even as he assured that the federal government must take concrete steps to ensure the compulsory education of Nigerian girls.
“There is a positive correlation between child marriage, poverty and Illiteracy. The states with the lowest level of illiteracy have the highest rate of child brides. Nigeria has made fairly poor progress in ending child marriage, 24 states out of the 36 states have passed the Child’s Rights Act but implementation is yet to be done fully,” he said.
He regretted that there “is no penalty for child marriage in the Constitution,” stating, however, that “laws and institutions are only effective as the society believes and consent to them.”
“We must persuade all Nigerians to stop this through advocacy and more campaign against it. States without provisions for girl child education should consider this and also enroll girls who dropped out of school due to early marriage,” he said.
Earlier, the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Senator Aisha Jummai Alhassan, said six million girls were married by the age of 15 in 2015, adding that child marriage “is extremely prevalent in the North-west and North-east geo-political zone of Nigeria.”
According to her, northern girls have one of the highest rates of early marriage in the world with an estimated 65% of children married off below the age of 18 years.
“The detrimental consequences of child marriage on children, women, families, communities and nations at large are evident. There are always high maternal mortality and morbidity, illiteracy, lack of skills, unemployment, low income and wide spread misery among the victims of child marriage, especially female victims.”
Representing the children, Speaker of the Children’s Parliament, Oralgrandour Nweke, called for the prosecution of parents who give out their children in marriage before 18 years, while appealing to parents and the society to encourage children achieve great heights to enable them add value to the society.