Friday, 26 July 2013

Underage marriage: Senate to revisit report

Following intense pressure, the Senate on thursday promised to revisit the controversial Section 29(4)(b) of the  report of its Constitution Review Committee which the lawmakers were deemed to have voted in favour of underage marriage.
The section which the lawmakers had in the report  recommended for deletion,  deals  with the denunciation  of citizenship upon the attainment of 18 years of age.

During the clause  by clause consideration of the report,  the lawmakers at first okayed the deletion with 85  votes with 7 abstaining out of the 101 senators in attendance.

But when the issue was revisited following a point of order raised by Senator Ahmed Yerima,  the votes dropped to about 60, a number that was 13 short of the expected two-third the proposal should enjoy before sailing through.
But overwhelmed by the reactions that greeted the decision, Senate President David Mark yesterday assured Nigerians that the issue will be revisited by the upper chamber.

He gave the assurance while receiving in audience Gender Constitution and Reform Network(GENCRN), a coalition of women and civil society groups led by the Minister of Women Affairs, Hajiya Zainab Maina  at the National Assembly in Abuja.

Concurring with the group’s demand for a deletion of the clause, Mark said: “I agree with all you have said here., so do all senators here today. Why we voted publicly is for everybody to know the position of every senator. But besides, the whole thing is been misunderstood.”

Explaining  how they got to this stage, the lawmaker recalled that at first voting it was 85 which favoured deletion, adding that when some religious dimension was added to it, the earlier position was defeated , hence the clause’s retention.

He said the lawmakers voted publicly so that “everybody will know the stand of every senator on every issue. He added: I think the problem is not whether we can delete this section 29(4) (b) or not. That is not the issue; it is whether we can get the number to be able to delete it.
“With all due respect, the entire Senate is being castigated because there was and there is still a complete misunderstanding of what the Senate had tried to do. We are on the side of the people, that was why we put it that we should delete it, that was what the people wanted.
While reiterating that the aspect had nothing to do with underaged marriage, the senate president however agreed that “if we take a wrong step we can retrace it.”

Earlier, the group in a position paper presented by Hajiya  Saudatu Mahdi, Secretary, Women’s Right Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA),  called for the deletion of  the clause, describing it as discriminatory.

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