We Won’t Allow Married Underage Girls To Vote, Says Senator Gaya

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The Senate committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has rejected a suggestion that underage married girls should have the right to vote.

The committee chairman, Kabiru Gaya, disclosed this on Tuesday in Abuja at the flagship interview programme of the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN.

According to Gaya, the ongoing amendment to the Electoral Act No 6 of 2010 would not confer voting right on underage married girls, referred to as child-wives.

He said the issue raised a lot of dust when it was presented in a memorandum submitted to a technical committee set up on the reforms.

He said someone had made the suggestion that underage married girls should be allowed to vote and this was dismissed with justifiable reasons.

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“One of the people who came to the public hearing submitted the memorandum, and argued that the word underage was not his, but that any woman or man that is married should be considered as an adult.

“That was his reason. Our own resolve is that if a woman is at the age of 16 and she gets married, she should not be allowed to vote.

“Generally, there was a lot of noise about it. It was in a memorandum submitted by a group of people and they have their rights as Nigerians.

“But when we came to the committee, we discussed a lot on that and at the end of the day, we felt we could not go along with that suggestion and it was dropped,’’ he said.

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Gaya said there was another suggestion not to hold elections on Saturdays as some faithful observe the day as their holy day.

He added that the same argument would be made if elections were fixed for Fridays or Sundays.

“If we move elections to Fridays, some people will say it is their worship day; if we move it to Sundays, some other people will say it is also their worship day.

“So, that suggestion was also thrown out,’’ Gaya said.

SaharaReporters had earlier quoted the lawmaker representing Ekiti South Constituency at the Senate, Biodun Olujimi, who kicked against the purported move to grant underage married girls the right to vote.

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In an earlier interview with SaharaReporters, Olujimi had said it was better to stick to the minimum age (18 years) recognised by the Nigerian constitution rather than giving voting rights to underage married girls.

She said, “The fact that they are married does not make them adults. That is what I believe. Even if you get married at 13, you can’t be said to be an adult even though you have gone through some experiences meant for adults. We should stick to our minimum age which I believe is good for everyone.”

If such a right is given to married underage girls, it will increase the number of voters in Northern Nigeria, where child marriages are common.