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Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa

The alleged forced marriage and conversion to Islam of a 14-year-old Bayelsa girl Miss Ese Oru resident in Baylesa last year, by one Yinusa, a Kano State indigene continued to attract condemnation from a across section of human rights groups yesterday.

While the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Bayelsa State chapter, described the marriage as “barbaric and criminal”, the Nigeria Child Welfare Fund (NCWF) and the Centre for the Vulnerable and Underprivileged (CENTREP), both based in the Niger Delta, termed it a “clear case of abduction”.

THISDAY gathered that Miss Oru, an indigene of Delta State, but based in Yenagoa, was forcibly picked up by Yinusa without the consent of her parents on August 12 last year and has declined all pleas to release the minor, who was 13 at the time.

Entreaties to the Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II, the Inspector General of Police (IG), Mr. Solomon Arase, and several other traditional rulers to expedite action on the release of the teenager were also said not to have yielded any positive result.

Mother of the girl, Rose Oru, who has travelled to Kano more than once to seek the release of her daughter, told journalists in Yenagoa that the Emir of Kano advised her to approach the Sharia Court for a resolution, an idea she said she rejected.

At the end of an emergency meeting yesterday, a communiqué signed by the chairman of the CLO in Bayelsa, Nengi James and secretary, Timo Igoli, noted that Yinusa’s action and the refusal of the authorities to help, “contradict all known national and international laws and practices”.

The rights body called on the Attorney General of the Federation, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the IG, and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) to intervene.

“The CLO wants to state unequivocally that underage marriage is alien to the people, culture and traditions of the Niger Delta under any guise and therefore will reject such perpetration of crass injustice and desecration of its esteemed values and norms.

“The CLO will not fold its hands to watch a helpless minor sentenced to a life of slavery and will do anything to ensure that the poor innocent girl is freed to re-unite with her family to continue her education,” part of the statement read.

On his part, Mr. Joshua Omorere, who heads the Child Welfare Fund, told THISDAY that he and his team would mobilise and visit the authorities in Kano so as to put an end to the agony of the parents of the girl.

Omorere, who is a member of the Delta State Working Group on Anti-Human Trafficking, added that it was unfortunate that the lawmakers representing Delta and Bayelsa States had not liaised with their counterparts in the National Assembly to resolve the issue.

“To be candid, we are highly disappointed at the inability of the Senators and House of Representatives members representing the areas where the girl comes from, at joining hands to meet with the lawmakers from the area the man comes from to return the girl to her parents.

“If this organisation had in the past returned a boy who was trafficked from Benue State to the Niger Delta back to the north central state, we see no reason why this case cannot be resolved in record time,” Omorere said.

The National Coordinator of CENTREP, Mr. Oghenejabor Ikimi, said that though the south is governed by the criminal code and the north by the penal code, the “crime” was committed in the south and therefore the laws in the area should apply.

“It is indeed very sad. A girl of that age should be in school and shouldn’t be talking about marriage. It’s a clear case of abduction.

“But in the north, they have the penal code while the south practises the criminal code, but this was a clear case of abduction of an underage girl and it is punishable under the law,” the human rights lawyer said.