Senator Ahmed Sani Yerima, under fire over marrying a 13-year-old Egyptian girl, justified his actions yesterday by saying he was following in the footsteps of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed. “I am only following Prophet Mohammed’s footsteps who married a nine-year-old girl, Aishatu,” Yerima told journalists shortly after his opposition ANPP party paid a visit to President Goodluck Jonathan. Yerima, 49, who was governor of northwestern state of Zamfara when it became the first of 12 Muslim-dominated northern states to introduce Sharia law in 2000, spurned Nigeria’s Child Rights Act of 2003 which forbids marriage with anyone under 18. “I do not work with such law that runs counter to my religion. For clarity, I do not have to obey the Child Rights Act so long as it contravenes my religious belief and I’m sick and tired of repeating myself all the time. I hope I can be left alone now.’’ The Nigerian Senate has ordered a probe after the national rights watchdog and 10 other groups accused him of shaming the country. Media reports have alleged Yerima paid a 100,000-dollar dowry and married the girl at the National Mosque in the capital Abuja.
There are reports indicating that the petition may die a quiet death at the hands of the committee. The ethics panel, headed by Umar Hambagda (ANPP Borno State), has received four public petitions in the last 12 months, but has not submitted a report on any of them. Last week Yerima emphasised that he had done nothing wrong. In an interview with the BBC, he said his fourth wife was not 13, but would not say how old she was. He denied breaking the law but said he would not respect any law that contradicted his religious beliefs. A spokesman for the Egyptian embassy in Nigeria had said the girl is still at school in Egypt. ‘’As a Muslim, as I always say, I consider God’s law and that of his prophet above any other law. I consider all those complaining about this issue as detractors, because since 1999, many people have been waging different kind of wars against me. I don’t care about the issue of age since I have not violated any rule as far as Islam is concerned. History tells us that Prophet Muhammad did marry a young girl as well. Therefore I have not contravened any law. Even if she is 13, as it is being falsely peddled around. If I state the age, they will still use it to smear Islam,” he said.
An officials of the Egyptian embassy in Abuja Mohammed Saber yesterday said the mission “will follow the issue” because it is illegal in Egypt to marry an underage girl.
Newspaper reports have also accused the senator of having previously married a 15-year-old girl in 2006.
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