A notification pops up “Former Zamfara governor and presidential aspirant under the All Progressives Congress (APC), Sani Yerima, says he did nothing wrong marrying a 13-year-old Egyptian girl.”, clicked it to read.
I then began to wonder, why is it this not trending at all. Chrisland’s case has been trending for weeks and so many Twitter lawyers have said a lot about the case so why are they not talking about this or is it because the person in question is an APC member? we all know that once you are that party member, you automatically become a saint you don’t even need to be born again.
Started making my research on the core reason why this man is not jailed, I mean Omo odún metalá (13 years), and got to realize that technically according to the law, he is right to do so but to understand how this is possible we have to go back in time and justify this properly.
THE CONCEPT OF SHARIA LAW
The spread of Islam in Nigeria dates back to the eleventh century and according to further analysis, it was 1108/09 when it first appeared in Borno in the northeast of Nigeria. Later Islam emerged in Hausaland in the northwest and its influence was evident in Kano and Katsina.
In the latter part of the eighteenth century, a Muslim revival took place in western Africa, in which Fulani cattle-driving people, who had settled and adopted Islam, played a central role in spreading throughout the rest north and part of the west. If you are interested more in the history of the law, you can do further research.
Going back to the time when colonial masters came to Nigeria, the northerners couldn’t differentiate between Sharia law and their way of life. They thought Sharia law was their ‘culture’ so it was pretty hard and still pretty hard to pull them from it.
As of now in Nigeria, Sharia has been instituted as a main body of civil and criminal law in twelve Muslim-majority states since 1999, when then-Zamfara State governor Ahmad Sani Yerima began the push for the institution of Sharia at the state level of government.
We have some states in the country where the laws are fully practiced and when I mean fully, Sharia laws are applied in full, including personal status issues and criminal law. While there are some states that. Sharia applies only to personal status issues (such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and child custody), but otherwise, the legal system is secular.
States that practice sharia lawfully is:
Zamfara State, Kano State, Sokoto State, Katsina State, Jigawa State, Kebbi State, Kaduna State, and Niger State.
While states that sharia only applies to personal status are:
Gombe State, Borno State, Yobe State, Bauchi State.
It’s only in the above states that Sharia laws are applied, so if you commit a crime in Lagos and expect that Sharia laws will be used to judge you, you and ‘Kiri Kiri’ should have memorable times together.
The question then comes, what is the content of the law and how is it different from the laws will practice in other parts of the country.
WHAT SHARIA LAW IS
There are four distinct legal systems in Nigeria, which include English law, Common law, Customary Law, and Sharia Law.
English law in Nigeria is derived from colonial Nigeria, while common law is a development from its post-colonial independence.
Customary law is derived from indigenous traditional norms and practices, including the dispute resolution meetings of pre-colonial Yoruba land secret societies and the Èkpè and Okónkò of Igboland and Ibibio land. Sharia Law (also known as Islamic Law) is used in Northern Nigeria, where Islam is the predominant religion.
Nigeria then has The Nigeria Criminal Code which is currently chapter 77 of Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990; it applies only to the southern, Christian-dominated states since 1963, and also The Nigeria Penal Code which is currently chapter 89 of the Laws of Northern Nigeria 1963; it applies only to the northern, Muslim-dominated states since 1960.
Sharia law is based on two major things, the Quran and Hadith. If there is any complicated case that is not spoken of in these two books, then Islamic scholars will be called upon for the evaluation.
Examples of some of these laws,
Tobacco or smoking, in general, is not explicitly mentioned in the Quran or Hadith, it has been condemned as potentially harmful or prohibited smoking outright as a result of the severe health damage that it causes by contemporary scholars, that’s why you’d see Hausa guys not smoke in the north but when they come to the south or southwest states, they turn to ‘sango olukoso’ smoking by the slightest opportunity available.
Another example is, in the south or states where Sharia law is not practiced, if you are married and you beat your wife…. you can be charged for gender-based violation and we have so many associations that have taken responsibility for all these kinds of crimes but in states where sharia is practiced, Section 55(1)(d) of the Penal Code of Northern Nigeria provides that an assault by a man on a woman is not an offense if they are married if native law or custom recognizes such “correction” as lawful, and if there is no grievous hurt. So you can beat your wife in these states.
MR. ZAMFARA’S CASE
Back to the former governor of the state, Sani Yerima is not going to be jailed because it is legally right to marry the girl at that age. How is this possible?
According to the child’s rights law of Lagos 2007, a child is someone that is below the age of 18’ so marrying someone below this age in law is a crime but according to the Penal code, as long as the child is in the age of puberty they’re allowed to marry. Due to pressure exerted on children to marry young in Northern Nigeria, 48 percent of Hausa-Fulani girls are married by age 15, and 78 percent are married by age 18.
So he is in Zamfara, they practice Sharia law so he can marry a 13-year-old as long as she has attained the age of puberty.
Practicing Sharia law doesn’t make them bad people, it’s their way of life and who they are themselves, and they have the backing of the law. Unrelated, the concept of feminism would not exist in these states. We have similar cases in Afghanistan but it’s a story for another day.
Thanks to my good friend Adeola for setting the pace for these write-up, and onto the next one.