Senate President David Mark and Deputy Minority Leader Senator Ahmed Sani Yarima (ANPP, Zamfara) yesterday sharply disagreed over a recommendation by the committee to limit for marriage.
Trouble started immediately when votes were taken on a clause in proposed constitution changes that says: “Any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age”. Subsection (a) defines “full age” as “the age of 18 years and above”.
When the votes were taken, 75 voted for, 14 against while only 2 abstained.
Immediately, Yarima raised a point of order under matters personal explanation drawing the attention of his colleagues to item 61, under part 1 of the second schedule to the 1999 constitution which barred the National Assembly from legislating on any matter that has to do with Islamic and Customary laws.
“Under Islamic law, any woman that is married is of age and if you say 18 years you are going against Islamic law,” Yarima said.
Mark rebuffed him, arguing that the clause has already been voted upon and as such the Senate cannot go back on it.
Not long after that, votes were taken on whether to allow states establish prisons and 56 Senators voted against, and 34 voted for thereby rejecting it. Apparently dissatisfied with the voting, Mark held back the gavel and cautioned his colleagues to desist from noise making, advising them to go to the Senate tea room to make chat and stop distracting proceedings.
The senate president then directed that another vote be re-taking on the item. This infuriated Yarima who challenged the decisions to allow for vote on an item which has already been passed whereas his request for a second vote on the marriage age clause was rejected, and threatened to stage a walk out from the Senate chamber if his request was not granted.
Mark remained adamant saying, “Senate can revisit it once more but not now because Islamic scholars can argue it and we can revisit later”.
Senator Mohammed Danjuma Goje (PDP, Gombe) raised a point of order accusing Mark of “double standard” saying, “why do we have double standard in this Senate? On two occasions you allowed votes to be re-taking on other clauses but you disallowed Senator Yarima.”
“I take serious exceptions to say that I am doing double standard,” Mark fired back at Goje.
Yarima then demanded that another vote be taken on the controversial item. Mark then accused Yarima of not doing his job as a member of the committee by not raising the matter at the level of the committee before the report was brought to the floor. “Because of the sensitivity of issues on religion I am revisiting it. It is serious enough for us to revisit,” Mark said.
When votes were re-taking, 60 Senators voted in support of Yarima’s position for retaining the constitutional provisions while 35 voted against.
Yarima generated huge controversy in 2010 when he was alleged to have gotten married to a 13-year old Egyptian girl. Although he was investigated by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP), Attorney General of the Federation Mohammed Bello Adoke said the Federal Government could not prosecute him because he contracted his marriage base on Islamic law which is protected by the constitution.