Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The Paediatric Association of Nigeria (PAN) yesterday asked the Kano State Government to review the conviction of a 13-year-old minor, Omar Farouq, who was sentenced to 10-year imprisonment for committing blasphemy.
The association made this plea in a letter its President, Prof. Edward Alikor and Secretary, Dr Petrolina Tabansi addressed to the state governor, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje, pleading for mercy on behalf of the convict.
It copied the Grand Qadi, Shariah Court of Appeal, Kano State; the Chief Judge, Kano State; the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Kano State; the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and Country Representative, UNICEF, Nigeria.
The letter, which dated October 2, noted that Omar was tried as an adult based on the appearance of secondary sexual characteristics on his body.
The letter said the association “is a non-political and non-religious professional group of all paediatricians and other health workers looking after the health of Nigerian children with the primary objective of advocacy for children health and welfare.
“Based on the training, expertise and experience of our membership, which cut across persons within the teenage age group of 10 to 20 years, we considered it our professional and national responsibility to draw the attention of the Grand Qadi and other stakeholders to some biological and neurodevelopmental processes occurring in the child at this period.
“This is as relevant to this case. The earliest changes at puberty are the physical secondary sexual changes which, these days, appear in many children by 10 to 12 years. These changes signal the beginning of the transition period from childhood to adulthood that spans over eight to 10 years.
“Within this period, many children would question adult norms and may become rebellious even as normal child development. Therefore, in our opinion, the appearance of physical secondary sexual characteristics is consistent with age of 13 years.
“Furthermore, a child in early to mid-teenage age has not acquired sufficient mental and psychological development to understand the consequences of many of his expressions. Omar is reportedly in early teenage age.”
It said while it is not its intention to interfere with the ongoing judicial process, it appreciates that the lad was not sentenced to death.
“PAN appreciates the fact that Omar was not sentenced to death, but calls for review of the case in view of the biological and scientific realities,” it said.