Nigeria’s hybrid “federalism” kills a gender-equality legislative issue – Tola Adenle

September 15, 2016


This replaces the last posting. Error regretted. TOLA.

The Gender-Equality Bill (GEO Bill) was supposed to give muscle to the following:

  1. Chapters II and IV of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
  2. The International Covenants on Human Rights which affirms the principle of  non -discrimination and proclaim  that all human are born free and equal in dignity and rights, and that everyone is entitled to all the rights set out without distinction of any kind including distinction based on sex;
  3. The domestication of certain aspects of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa and the National Gender Policy.

ender age marriage

Photo of Yerima, a former Northern governor and now a Nigerian “lawmaker” & his Egyptian child bride gets a ‘SAY NO’ makeover. [, July 23, 2013.]

It was a disgraceful setback when the Equal Opportunity Bill failed to pass through the legislative arm in March this year, and worse was a senator telling a BBC reporter that “in Islam, women get half of men’s share in inheritance and it is unacceptable for anyone to change that”!

Do Islamic tenets hold a superior position to Nigeria’s Constitution that holds Nigeria as a secular country? If Islam allows its adherents certain rights, must Sharia law cancel the rights of people of other faiths? This is one of the major fault lines in Nigeria’s growing schism whose end does not bode well for the country. The issue of the GEO Bill not being in line with Nigeria’s culture and religion is absurd because Nigeria is a multi-religious country peopled by many cultural groups of differing value systems. A Yoruba Christian, for example, would possibly feel at home in a mostly Christian European country than at Zamfara, Katsina or any of the Islamic states of Northern Nigeria.

I need to back up a bit on the “Islam” reference because there were Christians who were opposed to the Bill citing Biblical support for their position just as two or three Christians joined the Northerners to vote for child bride Bill back in 2013. The Bible can, and is often cited as bases for various stands, including devilish ones but in Nigeria, things are never as straightforward as they may look. Who knows exactly what Akinyelure  had in mind that made him and his fellow “I-choose-child-bride-vote” break ranks with other Southern lawmakers?

Breakdown of those who said ‘yes’ to child bride bill back in 2013  showed 2 Southern Nigerians who are Christians and perhaps 1 of the 33 from the North who saw the world through Yerima’s prism of marrying pre-pubescent little girls and therefore saw nothing wrong in one of their own, Yerima in above photo, who married a girl reportedly 13+. [there are 109 senators among whom 35 voted.]

Of the 2 Southerners, “Ayo Akinyelure who is in the Senate as one of Ondo State’s three senators reportedly wept:  “I’m very sorry … I voted in error …  my voting ‘NO’ was in clear error of misinterpretation …” –

In 2010, Yerima made news of the wrong type all over the world when Al Jazeera reported his “marriage”to a kid – for which he reportedly paid $100,000 dowry: “Nigerian Senator marries girl of 13”.


Despite protestations by human rights organizations that Yerima had broken a law of the land and should be arrested, nothing ever happened. Nigeria’s “federal” government controls ALL law-enforcement agencies, including the Police, a situation about which calls continue to be made by majority in the South for placement in the hands of states. The center has remained deaf to the calls despite President Buhari’s campaign promise of returning the country to true federalism, a governance destroyed through long military rule. Once he got elected, he reneged.

As of this writing, the 1999 Nigeria’s Constitution, which first brought Yerima to national infamy when he first p–d on the document and tore it into tatters when he declared Sharia Islamic Law in Zamfara State (formerly part of old Sokoto State) where he was state governor. It was in effect a declaration of secession but then president, retired General Obasanjo under his own brand of “federalism” – a unitary government in all but name – went mute while his attorney-general became tongue- (and brain-) tied, and the decline into religious mayhem has never abated since: countless murders of Christians, burning of churches,  birth and growth of Boko Haram …

The “Federal” Government, headed by a Christian who had his own grand design of a so-called 3rd Term which he probably believed would go through once he did not send his attorney-general straight to court to challenge Sharia, dropped the governance ball in a big way.

In fact, the Sharia issue became very contentious in the South as the North grew emboldened in its determination to practise Sharia, secularism or not. While Yerima, governor of Zamfara State (part of old Sokoto State) first used the Constitution to wipe the floor in 1999 soon after the return to civil rule, the North’s challenge to the Constitution through a back door approach stunned Nigerians as a seeming agenda emerged. At widely-quoted declaration credited to the present president, a former head of state, retired General Buhari, a former head of state, supported the Islamic Law in 2001 at an Islamic gathering.

The news report by a leading newspaper,  The Vanguard aptly titled Buhari’s public declaration, INSURGENCY AND BUHARI’S CALL FOR FULL SHARIA:

“In 2001 at an Islamic seminar in Kaduna, Buhari was given an opportunity to choose between Nigeria’s secularism and fundamentalist Islam, this is what he said; ‘I will continue to show openly and inside me the total commitment to the Sharia movement that is sweeping all over Nigeria … God willing, we will not stop the agitation for the total implementation of the Sharia in the country’”.


Of course, the deluge followed as other states followed the Zamfara example, including Buhari’s Katsina State; there are twelve states that practise Sharia in Nigeria now despite a standing secular Constitution, and Christians in those states have often been subjected to Sharia laws.

The same way that Akinyelure could “mistakenly” vote for a child bride bill would explain how Obasanjo would let the Nigerian Constitution be torn into shreds by a state governor under his watch, a man who, to this day, remains a member of the country’s highest “law-making” body. The former president and Akinyelure are not just both southerners but Christians.

In Nigeria, things are never straightforward as mentioned earlier.


POSTSCRIPT: As of this writing, Sani Yerima has divorced the child bride from 2013 and replaced her with another Egyptian, this time, a 15-year old. I am not aware of the amount he paid to own the new wife, the dowry, this time.

Below is an essay on the discarded GEO Bill, an essay that led to this write-up. The Bill not being passed has resulted in a situation that now means a Nigerian woman married to a non-Nigerian cannot pass citizenship to her children. Ms. Ọdọaje’s essay references a similar situation in Senegal, an Islamic State, that first passed such a Bill before rescinding it after protestations by various civil groups.

Only a true federalism can save Nigeria. TOLA.

“Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill” first appeared in


Earlier this year, Nigeria senators tossed out the proposed bill that was put together by well-meaning Nigerians on the ground that the bill was not in line with Nigeria culture/religion. Yesterday and today, I learnt that the bill did not pass the second reading. From what I read we have a document with significant edits to the one that was presented in March this year, gender_and_equal_opportunities_bill_national

Edits to the original proposed bill means that section 19 of the original document about moving the age of marriage to 18 years old so that both parties involved in a relationship are matured enough to consent to the union is now out of the window.

To that I say, only last week was Alhaji Dangote soliciting for international help to feed the internally- displaced people in the northeast. Amongst many things he spoke about was the recent 9 year-old girl’s marriage event he witnessed. Aftermaths of child bride have never been the problem of the north alone, it is all of our problem.


Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2016. 11:35 p.m. [GMT]



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2 Comments on “Nigeria’s hybrid “federalism” kills a gender-equality legislative issue – Tola Adenle”

  1. folakemiodoaje Says:

    I hope many forward thinking Nigerians will join in and lend their voices so these law makers can do the work they are paid to do – reading and analysing every points put across. That’s a wishful thinking.



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