A former Zamfara State governor, Senator Ahmad Sani Yerima, says the $100,000 he paid for his then 14-year-old Egyptian girl’s hand in marriage “is not dowry.”
Yerima, now 62, sent shockwaves across the globe when reports emerged that he had married a minor at the National Mosque in Abuja in 2010.
Other reports gave the girl’s age as 13; and, according to Al Jazeera, Yerima paid $100,000 as dowry for the Egyptian.
Speaking on Channels Television’s Politics Today programme on Friday night, Yerima explained that, “All other things” stipulated as conditions for the marriage were computed to arrive at that figure.
“Provision of the house, provision of dowry, the dresses that she had to wear, everything [in] total. At that time, it was just N15 million.
“One can give as much as is requested of them in marriage by Sharia Law. Whatever you have to do in marriage is clearly stipulated under the Sharia Law. You have to provide for a house for the girl if you’re marrying her, like, from the condition the Egyptian government’s law provides,” he said.
Yerima was accused of marrying the child-bride from Egypt and was investigated for having violated Nigeria’s Child Rights Act of 2003.
He predicated his action on the provisions of Article 61 Second Schedule of the Nigerian Constitution, saying the Federal Government has no power to legislate on “marriages under Islamic and Customary laws, including matrimonial causes relating thereto.”
He also maintained that he had not violated sharia, saying, “History tells us that Prophet Muhammad did marry a young girl as well. Therefore, I have not contravened any law.”
Yerima also said his marriage to the minor had not stopped her education. “She is doing her Master’s degree now. I told you my own daughter who was married at the age of 16 is doing her PhD. Marriage does not stop people from getting educated,” Yerima said.
The ex-governor also criticised the Child Rights Act (2003) and the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (2015), saying whatever act is passed at the National Assembly has to be domesticated by the state assemblies.
“And once they have not done that, it’s no longer a law,” he added.
The former governor alleged that former President Olusegun Obasanjo manipulated the National Assembly to pass the Act.
“He passed it at the National Assembly through some manipulations, but I don’t think any state in the North domesticated it and passed it,” Yerima said.
Asked to share his views on whether children deserve the right to education and other freedoms enshrined in the Child Rights Act, he argued that marriage could not stop education.
Probed further on the level of education of his Egyptian wife, he said, “She’s doing her master’s degree now.”
Yerima also noted that his daughter whom he had given away in marriage at the age of 16 “is doing her PhD in London.”