West & Central Africa

Christian under-aged girls abducted into Muslim marriages

A 16-year-old is the latest victim of an increasing practice of Christian girls being abducted and then forced into Muslim marriages.

Janet Habila Gambo has been abducted by Nasiru Yusuf, a Muslim and a tailor she was apprenticed to in in Shudna village in Shiroro, Niger State.

Her father Habila Gambo has petitioned the Nigerian Inspector General of Police (IG), Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, over the abduction and forced marriage of his 16-year-old daughter.

Abducted Chibok girls

Habila was shocked according to his petition he was summoned to to the Sharia Court, in Erena village, on 15 March 2017. He went to the court, “accompanied by his cousin, Pastor Ishaya Jagaba, without knowing the nefarious grand plan that awaited him, was shocked to hear from the judge of the Sharia Court that his daughter, Janet, had converted and embraced Islam and her name had been changed to Zainab and that she has been married to Yusuf of Erena whom she has been entrusted to learn the art of tailoring.”

Habila protested in the court that his daughter “is a minor and incapable of giving consent to marriage without her parents.” But the judge said, “He was only summoned to be informed of the marriage and nothing more.” And he was subsequently ordered him out of the court.

Habila said he had laid a complaint at the Minna Area Police Command about the abduction and Yusuf, the Muslim who abducted his daughter was called in but later released while Janet, his daughter was handed over to Yusuf, despite establishing the fact that the girl was minor and there was no parental consent for the so-called marriage.

The Petition to the Inspector general of Police dated April 24 2017 by Habila accuses the Sharia court judge in Erena of conspiring with Yusuf to secretly contract a marriage between Janet and Yusuf under unknown Islamic law without the consent of her Christian parents.

The petition demands that the Nigerian Inspector General of Police takes Janet from “from unlawful custody” and “a thorough medical examination on her should be conducted” because “she is likely to have been violated … by Yusuf.”

The petition requests the police to carry out a full-scale investigation to prosecute Yusuf and the judge.

“The abduction and forceful marriage of Christian girls to Muslim men, under Sharia law is going on Northern Nigeria and the criminal justice just turns a blind eye,” according to the Rev Musa Asake, Secretary to the Christian Association of Nigeria.

In August 2016, the Christian Association of Nigeria raised an alarm over the abduction of Habiba Isiyaku, 14, from Wawar Kaza village, Kankara Local Government Area, in Katsina state, who was abducted on her way home from school and forcefully married to her abductor, Jamilu Lawal. The marriage was alleged to been endorsed by the Emir of Katsina, Alhaji Abdulmumuni Usman who according to reports was paid 50,000 Naira [about US$160] as dowry from Lawal –  a member of staff in the Emir’s palace.

Tanko said the matter was reported to the Police Commissioner in Katsina, who arranged a meeting between him and the abductors who came along with his daughter. The police commissioner then condemned the act and simply sent the girl back to the forced marriage.

In a later statement, the police commissioner said: “It was gathered that the girl was neither kidnapped, abducted nor procured, as she was the one who willingly left her parents’ house for the house of the Chairman of Hisbah [a police force that enforces Sharia law], who took her to their village head and later to the district head of Kankara, where she explained that she had converted to Islam.”

Tanko reported that when went to the palace to demand her release, the Emir informed him that his daughter was now a Muslim therefore there was no longer any relationship between him and Habiba.

A claimed conversion of the under-age girl to Islam was repeated by the Emir of Katsina.  Abdulmumini Kabir, has denied the alleged abduction and forceful marriage of 17-year-old Habiba Isyaku at a meeting with the Katsina branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). Tanko said the emir: “Accused me of defaming him at the Police Station and I was threatened, intimidated and coerced to sign an apology drafted on my behalf in his Palace. A draft which the emir displays to anyone challenging his role in the abduction.”

The National Secretary of CAN, the Rev Musa Asake, blamed government and law enforcement agencies saying, “It is an unfortunate situation. This has been going on in the north. In fact, our Christian girls are abducted, but nothing is done about it.”

He declared: “It is so sad that, while we are praying to live in peace, the other side is not showing a sign of peace. I don’t know where it is in the religion that teaches that they can take someone’s daughter, convert her from Christianity to Islam and marry her off.

”I also want to make it very clear: If it were Christians doing this to Muslim girls, Nigerians would have been burnt to ashes. So to me, it is a total disrespect and a complete disobedience of the law of the land and the law of God.”

Yakubu Pam, chairman of the Northern States Christian Association of Nigeria (Northern CAN) said, security operatives must ensure “that those who abduct other people’s daughters and marry them were arrested and prosecuted” and called on traditional rulers who harbour Christian minors in their palaces must stop this “wicked” act. Pam said the Nigerian government must guarantee the safety of Christians.

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Zaria Branch, has condemned the recurrent abduction, forceful conversion and marrying-off of under-age Christians girls by some people in the state.  “It is becoming so alarming the rate at which under aged Christian girls are abducted, forcefully converted and are married off without parental consent’’.

Rita Ouru

On 12 August 2015 a 13-year-old girl, Ese Rita Oruru, was abducted by Yinusa, a Muslim from Kano state. Her father Charles Oruru, made several trips to Kano to secure his daughter but was told that his daughter has converted to Islam, her name is now Aisha. The father was told that her return will not be possible and all they would probably do was to pay the necessary bride price.

Child Protection Network, a civil society group, in a press conference addressed by Mr Kizito Andah said, “We strongly believe that the said Miss Ese Rita Oruru has not only has been hypnotized but also recruited as a tool in the hand of an Islamic fanatical group in Kano State.

“Civil society and youth groups in Bayelsa are ready to stage a protest and press home the demand for the release of Ese from the custody of her abductors.”

“She is only 13-years-old and cannot give informed consent to marriage and is still held hostage…  “We, therefore, call for all to join our voices to prevail on the Kano State Government, the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, to urgently release Miss Ese Rita Oruru. “We demand for the prosecution of her abductors under the appropriate law and jurisdiction as it is of urgent national security and public interest,” Andah stated.

Ese was released on 29 March, after a local newspaper launched a #FreeEse campaign on social media. On 1st March, she was flown to Abuja and reunited with her mother the following day.  Dahiru was arrest when the governor of Christian Bayelsa state intervened. In a briefing to the Governor of Bayelsa her father, Mr Charles Oruru, confirmed that Ese is five months pregnant.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has documented several cases of alleged child abduction.