Federal Government has directed that the new marriageable age across the country be put at 18 years, even though it is yet to be included in the constitution.
The directive was given by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the national campaign launch of ending child marriage in Nigeria, held at the Sheraton hotels in Abuja, in an effort to put an end to the menace of girl-child marriage.
Osinbajo blamed the increasing rate of child brides on poverty, saying there is an urgent need to tackle this issue even as he assured that FG must take concrete steps to ensure the compulsory education of Nigerian girls.
“There is a positive correlation between child marriage, poverty and Illiteracy. The states with the lowest level of illiteracy have the highest rate of child brides.
“Nigeria has made fairly poor progress in ending child marriage, 24 states out of the 36 states have passed the Child’s Right Act but implementation is yet to be done fully.
He regretted that their is no penalty for child marriage in the constitution, stating however that laws and institutions are only effective as the society believes and consent to them.
To this end he urged the citizenry to change their mindsets especially as it concerns child marriage, stressing that the FG will never support any marriage below the age of 18.
“We must persuade all Nigerians to stop this through advocacy and more campaign against it. States without provisions for girl child education should consider this and also enroll girls who dropped out of school due to early marriage,” he said.
Earlier, the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development Senator Aisha Jummai Alhassan, said six million girls were married by the age of 15 in 2015, adding that child marriage is extremely prevalent in the northwest and northeast geo-political zone of Nigeria.
According to her, northern girls has one of the highest rates of early marriage in the world with an estimated 65% of children married off below the age of 18years.
“The detrimental consequences of child marriage on children, women, families, communities and nations at large are evident. There are always high maternal mortality and morbidity, illiteracy, lack of skills, unemployment, low income and wide spread misery among the victims of child marriage especially female victims,” she lamented.
Representing the Nigerian children, Speaker of the Children’s parliament Oralgrandour Nweke, calls for the prosecution of parents who give out their children in marriage before 18, while appealing to parents and the society at large to encourage children achieve great heights to enable them add value to the society.