Jigawa assembly passes Child Rights Bill, expunges age limit for marriage

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The Jigawa State House of Assembly has passed a bill to protect children from abuse, but says the legislation will not regulate the age of marriage because it is controversial to predominant religion and culture of the residents.

The decision means that though the Child Rights Protection Bill defines a child as a person below the age of 18, people who should by that definition be considered underage, can still marry.

The Child Rights Protection Bill is an executive bill forwarded to the lawamakers by the governor, Muhammad Badaru.

Sponsors of the bill say it is meant to enhance the welfare of children in the state and seek to maximize requisite care and protection for children.

Also, the bill seeks to offer higher protection to the vulnerable in the society and raise the status bar of cherished societal norms and values.

The chairperson, House Committee on Justice and Judiciary, Abubakar Muhammad, while presenting the recommendations of the committee before his colleagues on Tuesday, urged the immediate passage of the bill to end the decade long controversy on it.

After the plenary, Mr Muhammad told journalists that the technical committee on the bill had expunged child marriage.

“The issue of underage marriage is totally expunged in the bill is no longer part of the law ” he said.

The lawmaker added: “It is very difficult to determine the age of a girl that is ripe for marriage, thus, because of the controversial nature of it we expunged it totally from the bill”.

Mr Muhammad said the bill presented to the house is the Islamic compliance version of child protection bill.

He said the passage of the bill brought an end to years of misrepresentation, misinformation about it which formed part and parcel of the Islamic religion.

Any provision that was in contrast to Islamic principles and law, the culture of the Hausa and Fulani people was erased, Mr Muhammad said.

After deliberations on the committee’s report, the lawmakers unanimously passed the bill which now awaits the governor’s assent to become law.

According to a United Nations survey, 43 per cent of Nigerian girls married before they were 18.

The problem of early marriage is particularly endemic in the North-west and North-east regions.

With more than 80 per cent of its girls married off before their 18th birthday, Jigawa State has one of the highest rates of child marriage and street children (Almajiri) in the country.

The Act covers key aspects of the lives of children and adolescents. It is divided into survival rights, development rights, participation rights, and protection rights.

Long in coming

Nigeria adopted the Child Rights Act in 2003 to domesticate the International Convention on the Rights of a Child.

Jigawa passed the Child Rights Act, but later repealed it in 2012.

The lawmakers said the law was repealed due to inadequate input from citizens and ambiguous sections that needed explanations.

With the passage of the bill, Jigawa becomes one of the states in the North-west region to have done so.

Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, and Sokoto States had earlier passed the bill.

Kano and Zamfara States are yet to do so.

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