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Against Ahmed Sani Yerima


SIR: The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) hereby calls on the Senate leadership to activate the relevant rules of the upper chamber to immediately suspend Ahmed Sani Yerima, Senator representing Zamfara West senatorial zone from participating in its proceedings. This is because of his contempt of our constitution and his action as law breaker.
It will be recalled that the Senator recently took a 13 year-old Egyptian girl as his fourth wife after paying her family the sum of $100,000. This act which not only smacks of child slavery is a clear violation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) of 1989 and the African Union Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (CRCW) of 1990. Nigeria is signatory to both International Instruments and had ratified them in 1991 and 2000 respectively and further enacted a domestic equivalent – the Child Rights Act, 2003. These make his action illegal and indeed a crime and to say the least, condemnable.

Having come under a lot of criticism, Senator Yerima, according to newspaper reports, and a BBC interview, has not only lied to the nation by denying the reported age of the little girl, but also justifying his action as being permissible under his own understanding of Islamic law, which he claims is his guiding principles. This is a clear contradiction because as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the constitution of Nigeria must be binding on him and in fact all his actions in the Senate have to be guided by Nigerian Constitution not Sharia as he claims.

CISLAC finds this position frivolous, baseless, deceptive and misleading and an attempt to introduce religious sentiments into a purely legal and constitutional matter. We remind Alhaji Yerima that as a senator of the Federal Republic, he is bound to abide by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which he swore to uphold and defend, laws enacted by the National Assembly of which he is a member and international conventions which have been ratified by Nigeria. These he has clearly violated and his reliance on some Muslim practice to justify this notorious action is misguided, dubious and mischievous. This is more so because there are indications that the marriage could not be formalised in Egypt because child marriage is prohibited under the Islamic law which they practise. It is therefore untenable, ridiculous, totally unacceptable and condemned in the strongest terms.

CISLAC recognises that he has a right to privacy and freedom of religion, but insists that as long as Senator Yerima neither contested elections under Islamic Law nor was sworn in as a senator of the Federal Republic to defend any other statute, he is bound to obey the Constitution and Laws of the Federation of Nigeria in the exercise of those rights.

CISLAC therefore calls on the all members and the leadership of the Senate to decisively facilitate his exit by declaring him unfit to participate in proceedings meant for law makers and truly distinguished persons.

By this, the Senate would demonstrate their readiness to rise above destructive comradeship and blind loyalty and uphold the Constitution and the tenets of human and child rights, justice and rule of law upon which democracy rests.

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