Habiba’s family says denial a big mistake, may head to court
Paul Obi in Abuja and Ibrahim Shuaibu in Katsina
Katsina Emirate on Thursday denied reports that it had forcefully converted 14-year-old girl, Habiba Isah Tanko, from Christianity to Islam.
The emirate which spoke through Kauran Katsina, Alhaji Abdulkadir Nuhu, said the girl willingly converted to Islam and was not forced to do so.
He said the girl’s parents had come to the emirate where she was asked if she was in anyway forced to convert and marry; but she replied in the negative.
Nuhu also said the girl on her own decided to get married to Jamilu, and had decided on her own not to go back to her parent’s home.
The emirate also denied that it had forcefully married out the girl to one of its staff, Jamilu Lawal.
The girl, Habiba, was also brought before members of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), and emirate council members where she was asked to speak on her conversion and marriage.
She maintained that she willingly converted to Islam from Christianity, and decided to get married on her own volition and was already seeing her menstruation before she got married.
In his remarks, the CAN chairman, Reverend Nelson Onyekachukwu said the parents of the girl were not happy about her alleged conversion and forced marriage.
Onyekachukwu said the girl was married out without consent of the parents, and that she was not the first case of such incident in the state.
“There have been complaints from several local governments that Christian girls were being forced to convert to Islam and married out without their parent’s knowledge.”
He said CAN was not happy with the conversion of Christian girls in the state, and that some children in such category had been recently released to them.
The CAN chairman called on the emirate to ensure justice in Habiba’s matter, and that putting into consideration that she was still a little girl that didn’t know her right from left, was paramount.
It would be recalled that Habiba was reported to have been abducted August 16, 2016 in Kankara council area by Jamilu Lawal, a staff of the emir’s palace.
On Tuesday, Habiba’s father, Mr. Isiyaku Tanko, through his lawyer, Yakubu Bawa accused the emir of forcefully abducting, converting and marrying out the 14-year-old.
Bawa had alleged that by doing so, the emir erred since she was not yet 18 years old, and that she had been denied her constitutional rights.
It also alleged that the girl’s father was manhandled when he went to the emir’s palace to get back his daughter, and that the police was not serious in assisting him get back his daughter.
But the Habiba family has said the denial by the emirate that Habiba was not forcefully abducted and married out was a big mistake and holds no water.
Speaking through their lawyer, Yakubu Bawa, the family maintained that under the law, Habiba was not of ripe age to take any decision regarding her conversion to Islam and purported marriage.
Bawa said: “That is a big mistake they are making. One, considering the age of the girl, 14 years old girl, she cannot convert to Islam. Secondly, she cannot enter into any marriage, that’s why we said it’s a forceful marriage. She can’t take decision. All these are violation of Child Rights Act and the rest of it.”
“Their denial is nonsense; there are three issues to take note. One she is 14 years old girl, if you say she converted, she has no right under the law to convert, because she is under her parents. Two, under the law, you can’t force her to marry. So their denial doesn’t hold water, we are looking from the legal perspective, it doesn’t work like that.”
On the next line of action should Habiba not be released, Bawa said: “Certainly if by the end of this week, there is nothing, they have not release her, then, by that next week, we are filing a case. We are just going to use this weekend, latest by Monday, if there is nothing concrete, we will file the matter.”
On the health of Habiba’s father, Tanko, Bawa stated: “The man is hypertensive, he has already been taken to the hospital and he is taking some drugs. His coming to Abuja has brought some relief in his life and some succour, because he has seen how people are fighting for his family.”