TWELVE years old Aminat Hamisu, a Class 1 student of Ansar Ud Deen Junior Secondary School in Ado Odo/Ota Local Government is in dire need of someone to save her life from impending disaster. She is a subject of a forceful marriage to a man, old enough to be her grandfather. She lost her father in the course of the confusion that ensued over her planned marriage to a septuagenarian. Aminat is supposed to be a Junior Secondary School 2 student but had to miss a whole academic session as a result of the fact that she had to escape from being forcefully engaged to a man, who should have been her guardian rather than husband. The insistence of the old man to marry her has also resulted in her missing classes.
Forty three years old Salamatu Hamisu, the mother of the 12 years old girl, while speaking with the Nigerian Tribune, appealed to well-meaning Nigerians and human rights organisations to save her daughter from forceful marriage to a man bent on marrying the girl. The mother of seven, while narrating the whole episode to Nigerian Tribune stated that it all started in 2001, when a man identified as Mallam Ibraheem Mairago, who was like a father to her insisted on marrying Aminat, who was just 11 years of age at that time.
According to her, a certain Mallam Alli had told Mairago that he had a dream that if he could marry Aminat, his riches would multiply. Meirago believed Mallam Alli and instantly approached the father of Aminat, Alhaji Hamisu Aliyu, now deceased, asking for the hand of his daughter in marriage.
“Initially my husband refused but, when Mairago promised him some goodies, he accepted the marriage proposal without telling either the girl or me. Mairago promised to give him a portion at the ram market in Mile 12. He also promised to always involve him in Quranic recitation for wealthy people in Lagos,” Salamatu narrated. She also stated that “One day, my husband brought some yards of cloth home and said that it was meant for my daughter. I asked him where the cloth was from and he said that Alhaji Mairago bought it for her. I asked her for what reason and he said he did not know. I rejected the cloth and when I prodded him further he confessed to me that Meirago wanted to marry our daughter.”
The planned marriage led to a clash between the household of the late Mallam Hamisu Aliyu, forcing him to report the case to his brother in law in Sagamu. The brother in law also initially kicked against the planned wedding but later succumbed, in a circumstance Salamatu described as suspicious. “When I refused to support the marriage proposal, my late husband reported me to my brother in Sagamu and my brother also kicked against the marriage but later he took Mairago to my brother and it was agreed that Mairago should pay N50,000 as the bride price. At this stage, my daughter was not even aware that somebody wanted to marry her,” the mother said. She also said that “When the situation got to a stage my daughter was informed and she became really devastated. Because of the marriage talk, she ran away from home for four days. On the day she ran away, I woke her early in the morning and told her to go and pray. For more than three hours, I did not see her and we looked around Mile 12 Market but she was nowhere to be found. It was after four days that we saw her. The situation grew so tense that the deceased Aliyu divorced his wife, who was then nursing a two-month- old baby. The woman said that she was sent away from her husband’s house and she had to live on menial jobs in Mowe area of Ogun State. Before the death of Aminat’s father, her suitor forced him and the mother’s brother to refund the N50,000 naira he paid to them as the bride price. Though the father was said not to have taken out of the money when it was paid, the brother-in-law collected N40,000, while a certain Alhaji Manga also went away with N10,000.
The refund of the bride price, ordinarily, should have been the end of the proposed marriage but Alhaji Meirago kept on pestering the girl’s family that he wanted to marry the underage girl. He was accused of victimising the late Aliyu, who was then working under him. “Before my husband died, he got to know that I had relocated to Sango in Ogun State, where I was staying with my cousin, Mallam Thani Bala. He even pleaded with my cousin not to allow me return to Mowe. By this time Alhaji Mairago had married another wife for him. My husband still loved me and he was coming to see me, even sometime he would sleep in my cousin’s house,” the woman claimed. She further claimed that “When Alhaji Mairago got to know that my husband was still coming to see me in my cousin’s place, he changed to him totally. Even when they told him that my husband was ill, he said that as long as my husband was coming to see me, he should die.”
The death of the father of the 12-year-old girl has, however, not changed the situation as Mallam Mairago has turned his attention to Mallam Bala, who he accused of habouring his wife. According to the mother, “Mairago has continued to insist that Aminat is his wife and that he wants the police to force Thani to release the young girl to him.” In his reaction to the issue, Alhaji Mairago, who spoke through his lawyer, Mr. Jeleel Bashir, said that the proposed marriage was in accordance with Islamic Law. He said that he had secured the approval of the bride's father and paid the required bride price as stipulated by Islamic law. The lawyer claimed that there were witnesses to the marriage between Alhaji Mairago and Aminat, adding that the only person, who had the right to dissolve the marriage was Alhaji Mairago himself.
On the claim by the girl's mother that the bride price had been returned, the lawyer said that "I am not aware that the bride price had been returned. Even if the bride price was returned, that does not mean that the marriage has been dissolved."
According to Bashir, Islamic law permits such marriage, even if the bride to be is not in support of the marriage. “Islamic law allows a guardian to choose for the girl if she is underage,” he said. He, however, said that the purpose of such marriage is not essentially for sex but for the suitor to take care of the underage girl.
The girl, while speaking with the Nigerian Tribune, kicked against the planned marriage. She insisted on completing her education before thinking of marriage and added that the man was even far older than her father. “I don’t want to marry now; I want to finish my schooling. Alhaji’s children cannot even be my friends because they are older than I am. I don’t want to marry Alhaji. He should leave me to complete my education,” the 12-year-old girl said.