AMINA Idris kept her phone inside her underwear for over a week to maintain contact with her lawyer and other people assisting her in her plan to quit a forced marriage.
As earlier reported by The ICIR, Amina is one of the underage girls forced into marriage in Niger State. The ICIR report revealed frantic efforts being made by the girls to come out of the forced marriages.
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The ICIR interviewed four victims who narrated their ordeals, including how they were chained while resisting marriage, hypnotized by a herbalist, scolded by relations, forced to marry in court, and fled to the bush and allegedly lived in the mountains for days in order to escape being compelled to wed.
The girls’ parents also shared their views in the report. While some regretted the actions, others condemned their girls for rejecting their decision and going against tradition and the prevalent Islamic religion in the state.
The girls interviewed are Amina Idris, from Edogi, Lavun Local Government Area (LGA); Balkisu Abubakar, Ebugi, Gbako LGA; Hajara Mohammed, Lenfa-Boro, Edati LGA; and Amina Abubakar, from Saganuwan-Kulla Village, near Etsu Audu, Gbako LGA.
Stakeholders, including community and religious leaders, lawyers, and health officials, said child marriage was rife in the state and condemned the practice.
The sources – all Muslims – said forced marriage was against Islam. They also spoke on the need for children to receive education, at least until they complete secondary school, before marriage.
Three of the four girls never attended a formal school. Only one got to primary four before her parents pulled her out to wed.
None of the girls knew her age, and their parents could not categorically state how old their daughters were.
Sharing her experience with our reporters, Amina (Idris) said she was underage, and her parents forced her into marriage.
Amina’s father is late, but her mother is alive. The mother divorced her father when the girl was very young. The mother now has five other children for the husband she later married at Zhigichi community in Lavun LGA.
The girl lived with her husband, Usman Haruna, with whom she was married in May, for 13 days before fleeing the husband’s home.
She said she slept in the bush for two nights before finding her way to the Child Rights Protection Agency’s office in Bida town. The office treats at least 100 cases of girl-child forced marriage yearly.
While seeking an end to the marriage, she told our reporters, “I am not interested in getting married to the boy. I can’t even stand close to him because I don’t love him.”
After escaping to the Child Rights Protection Agency in Bida, the Agency’s Desk Officer in the town, Mariam Abdulmalik, took charge of her care.
But a Sharia court in the Dokko community, Lavun LGA, ruled that the girl should move to the House of Chief Imam of Bida, Adamu Liman-Yakatun.
Rather than remain in the Liman-Yakatun’s custody till Wednesday, August 2, the next court hearing date for her matter, her family, allegedly backed by Mohammed Mohammed, a Sharia court judge, took her away, said Abdulmalik (the Desk Officer).
The ICIR could not confirm the allegation against Mohammed, though he supported Amina’s marriage when The ICIR crew met him.
“If Islam says 15 years, and the marriage is conducted when she is 19 or 20, there is nothing wrong with that. Even in the constitution of Nigeria, it’s not wrong,” he had said.
He refused to give his phone number and denied he was a judge after mentioning three times in a recorded interview with our crew that he was a judge.
The reporters also confirmed from many sources, including Mohammed’s friends and family members, that he is a Sharia court judge in Gbara, Lavun LGA.
Speaking on the girl’s travails, Abdulmalik told The ICIR on Tuesday, August 1: “She has been in the family house for nine days with just the only cloth she took out of my house. You know her father is already late. She is there with her uncle.
“She has a small phone that she keeps inside her pant whenever she moves out of the compound to call anybody. If they see her with the phone, they will seize it, believing she will use it to call her lawyer and other people helping her since she ran away from her husband’s house.”
Amina is not the only child bride facing the confiscation of her phone by her family. Hajara, one of the four girls interviewed, had her phone forcefully snatched from her by her family.
The girl is currently in Abuja, where she fled to after escaping from forced marriage on Friday, July 28.
Meanwhile, a director at the Federal Ministry of Health in Abuja, who pleaded anonymity, saw The ICIR’s report on the forced marriages on Monday, June 31 and promised the government’s prompt intervention into the incidents.