Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), discussed the threat of Islamic child marriage facing Nigeria during two successive Washington, DC, briefings on July 25, 2013. Stating that banishing this danger will require a “huge outcry” from women’s groups and others, Oritsejafor declared, “We need strong voices from this nation.”
Representing a claimed 80 million Nigerian Christians, Oritsejafor spoke along with his associates at the Rayburn House Office Building and the National Press Club (NPC). At issue is a Nigerian constitutional amendment setting the age of consent for citizenship renunciation at 18, but simultaneously stating that any married female shall be considered of age. Efforts in the Nigerian senate to eliminate the latter provision seemingly sanctioning child marriage failed due to the opposition of Senator Ahmed Yerima.
Thus Oritsejafor speculated that this law could give support to marrying even three-year olds, something that has caused intense controversy in Nigeria. In addition to protests around the nation, activists have been tweeting and hash tagging #ChildNotBride. An online petition against the amendment’s marriage provision has already garnered over 28,000 signatures.
A former governor of Zamfara state in Nigeria’s Muslim-majority north instrumental in introducing sharia law into nine northern Nigerian states in 2000-2001, Yerima called opposition to the marriage provision un-Islamic. Yerima is infamous in Nigeria for his 2010 marriage to the 14-year old daughter of his Egyptian driver, whom Yerima paid $100,000. In order to comply with Islam’s limit of four wives for one husband, the then 49-year old Yerima at the time divorced his 17-old wife, married when she was 15.