n African Human Rights Law Journal - Child marriage in Northern Nigeria : Section 61 of Part I of the 1999 Constitution and the protection of children against child marriage




Although the Nigerian government has tried to stamp out child marriage with the enactment of the Child Rights Act of 2003, the practice of child marriage is still prevalent among the Hausa-Fulani tribe (predominantly Muslim) who occupy Northern Nigeria and where Shari'a law is in force. While the Child Rights Act has sharp teeth, it has no bite because each state in Nigeria has to enact the Act under its own state laws before it is enforceable. This means that a social evil such as child marriage can be practised in a state that is yet to pass the Child Rights Act as domestic law. The article presents arguments outlining the reluctance of some of Nigeria's northern states to enact the Act. The author maintains that the right of the girl child in relation to marriage is not adequately protected, due to Part 1 Section 61 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. As a result, the article proposes three steps to ensure the legal protection of a girl child against child marriage: Firstly, Part 1 Section 61 of the 1999 Constitution should be modified; secondly, there should be a uniform age set for a child to marry in all of Nigeria's legislation that deals with children; thirdly, while pressure should be put on all Nigerian states which are yet to domesticate the Child Rights Act, there is a need for a new Act (Prohibition of Child Marriage Act) which, if enacted, should automatically apply to all states in Nigeria in order to protect the girl child.


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