Is every married woman of full age?

The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN) recently reviewed some of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFRN); section 29(4) was one of such provisions. It provides that for the purposes of renunciation of Nigerian citizenship, a married woman is deemed to be of full age. Senator Ike Ekweremadu moved the House for the deletion of that provision and 75 senators voted “aye”. However, Senator Ahmad Sani Yerima argued against the motion on the ground that such amendment would violate Islamic law, which, according to Senator Yerima, provides that any married woman is of full age. A repeat voting was demanded and the result was that section 29(4) be retained.

So, what’s the blawg about: is every married woman really of full age?

This discussion shall delve into matters of international law, federal law and Islamic private law and the correlation between them. Details to follow shortly.

In the interim, what’s your take?



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  4. Naga

    I think the only logical reason a woman would want to renounce her citizenship is to take up the one of her husband(I don’t know why she should want to anyways). I also think that’s why “full age” and “marriage” might have been used in that section. AFOMA OFODILE has said the rest.


  5. F.O

    I stand to be corrected but I think strictly speaking,at least by law…the answer is yes,every married woman is of full age..The key words/phrases are ‘woman’ and ‘full age’.Full age as defined in the constitution and as can also be understood from the Child Rights Act is eighteen years and above and while there is no express definition of the word ‘woman’, the definition as can be gleaned from other legislation e.g Child Rights act,Marriage Act and other legislation would be a female over 18 years of age.So for you to be recognized as a ‘woman’ under the law, you would have to be at least 18.If that is the case,there is no you can be a ‘married woman’ and be validly recognised as such in the eyes of the law(at least for codified legislation applying to all citizens) without also being ‘of full age’ under the law.I stand to be corrected though

    Custom and religion may say otherwise but the truth is custom and religion are still subject to the laws of the land and for all intents and purposes, can only get their validity from the law,which is why a custom has to satisfy some certain tests stipulated by law for its validity.Custom and religion cannot be the ones defining who a ‘married woman’ is when there is codified law doing so…..again,I stand to be corrected…..


    • Thanks F.O for your comment. I kinda see your point from a very technical perspective. In response however, I’ll say that although you are right that customs and religion are subject to the laws of the land (in this context, I’ll use the Constitution as the grundnorm of Nigeria), one must note that the Constitution preserves the intricacies and tenets of Customary and Islamic law to a large extent, especially when it is on matters concerning personal law. Classic examples are: inheritance and marriage.

      Even if you have the Marriage Act and Matrimonial Causes Act, to the best of my knowledge and from section 35 of the Marriage Act, the Act itself does not apply to customary law (and by implication, Islamic Law). As such, the age restriction contained in the Act does not apply to such marriages. As I stated in the piece, the Constitution expressly provides that NASS has exclusive legislative competence over marriages EXCEPT marriages contracted under Customary or Islamic Law. Another context is that of inheritance, in which some State Administration of Estates Law provides expressly that the Act does not affect the disposition of property under customary law (see for example, section 1(3) of the Lagos State Administration of Estates Law). These are both areas in which customary law is respected and not necessarily subject to the laws of the land.

      So, though custom and religion are subject to the laws of the land, in certain circumstances such as marriage, they are practically untouchable; this is sanctioned by the Constitution. For them to be subject to the laws of the land, that provision of the Constitution (Item 61 on the Exclusive Legislative List) has to be amended.


      • F.O

        If you read item 61 of the constitution which excludes marriages contracted under Islamic and Customary law,it only implies that such areas are not within the area where it is only by an Act of Assembly that laws are made.Those areas are not in the concurrent legislative list as well.It falls in the residual list.It therefore means that a State can still pass a law in relation to Islamic and Customary Marriage and it will be binding on the individuals of the State and their customs and religious rules will also have to be subject to their state law.Furthermore,even if NASS touches those areas,the State can still ‘domesticate’ it and boom,problem solved.Therefore looking at it from that angle,I will disagree that they are untouchable.It just means that Constitution has left it to the States to choose to touch those areas or not.

        I will also disagree with the need for item 61 to be amended.Why?Because of what I understand to be the ‘spirit’ behind item 61.The drafters most likely recognised the fact that because of cultural diversity and differing religious affiliations of States,it would be difficult to leave the NASS with the prerogative in that area.So it is better for each State,knowing its peculiarity in terms of ethnic representation,cultural practices and religious affiliations to either create laws or domesticate existing laws which would regulate the custom or religious practice without necessarily obliterating them.So in my own view,item 61 does not actually render any area of custom or religion untouchable.It just makes sure that even if the NASS touches such an area,the States retain the discretion as to whether they will accept it or not.It also gives the State the power to touch those areas if the need arises without having to wait for the NASS.

        Again,I stand to be corrected.


  6. Pingback: Is the Senate really endorsing child marriage? | Mavi's bLAWg

  7. Afoma Ofodile

    My answer to your question is: Of course not – maturity comes with time and with experiencing a series of events which happen with time and not just upon being pronounced a wife. If a 60 year old man wants to play around with a 25 year old girl, that’s their business but please leave 8, 12, 14 year old girls out of that mess. That is not religion or culture (or whatever name ‘elders’ in Nigeria like to call actions that they want to get away with without being questioned), that is paedophilia, sir.



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