Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Femi Falana, on Sunday, rebuked individuals attempting to use religion to justify the action of one Yunusa Dahiru, aka Yellow, who had abducted a 14-year old girl, Ese Oruru at her mother’s food shop, last year August in Opolo, Bayelsa State, and taken to Kano without her parents’ consent.
Soyinka and Falana at a press conference in Lagos, said the matter was purely criminal and not religious, and the crime offender should be dealt with under the law of the country.
Soyinka faulted the claim of the Director, Muslim Rights Concern and Professor of Islamic Eschatology, Ishaq Akintola, who had claimed in a newspaper publication on Sunday that Islam had no age barrier for marriage.
Sotinka said; “Culture is not static; it is dynamic and evolves. It is of humanity. There is no culture without human beings. If you say you are religious, there are others who could come to say they are holier than you are. We should take religion out of Ese’s abduction. We are talking about criminality.
“Nobody should say people are Islam-phobic. We are only against criminality. Who invokes religion in criminal matters? Who brings religion into issues of government and constitution? If you want to bring religion into a criminal matter, then, let us talk about other things. When we are talking about crime, don’t diffuse it with religion.”
He continued, “Did Shakespeare tell you that a court wants to grab Romeo and prosecute him? People bring their own intelligence into matters and think others are fools. Don’t quote Shakespeare when we are discussing criminality.
“The welfare of a child is more important than the money stolen. If you steal money, you commit crime against society but when you force a child into marriage, you have ruined her for life. When criminality is in the public domain, it becomes everybody’s business.”
He also mentioned how the society has failed Ese and said the government must protect other underage female from child marriages like the one conducted with a teenager by a former governor and now a Senator.
“Until we make an example of people like Yerima (Senator Ahmed), there will be thousands of Yunusa,” he stated.
While speaking, Falana on his part, said Yunusa did not only violate Ese’s rights to religion as enshrined in Section 38 of the Constitution, but also broke the laws contained in the Child Rights Act which Nigeria is a signatory.
The SAN added that the likes of Yerima and Akintola would not allow their teenage daughters to go into child marriage.
Falana said, “Attempt to bring religion into the matter is sheer hypocrisy. People like Akintola are playing on the intelligence of the poor. “