Ahmed Sanni Yerima may soon be arraigned in court for alleged child abuse and marriage to a minor. The former governor, who is now a senator, may be prosecuted over his marriage to an Egyptian minor, a 14-year old school girl, Eladly Maryam Maged Saleh.
NEXT investigation in Abuja showed that the federal government is currently studying a report which detailed the offences of Mr. Yerima. Sources at the Ministry of Justice headquarters in Abuja disclosed that the report recommending the prosecution of the senator, is ready for the approval of federal government.
The Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Bello Adoke, told our correspondent in his office yesterday that the file has been returned to him to properly advice the government.
Mr. Adoke had before directed our reporter to the office of the Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary of the ministry, whom he said was handling the investigative report submitted by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and Other Related Matters (NAPTIP).
Attorney General breaks silence
Yesterday, the minister said, “I cannot answer your question right now. This is the file on my table (he raises the file for the journalist to see). I am reading it with a view to working on it and aligning it with the position of the Constitution..” Explaining his position, Mr. Adoke said: “The issue is that the man who contracted the marriage said he did so under the Islamic rites, which is at variance with the Constitution. The Constitution, on the other hand, recognises marriages under the Marriage Act and Customary Laws. So, as the chief law officer of the country, I have the duty to read the report and align it with the position of the Constitution, which supersedes any other law and which I swore to uphold. I am still in the process of doing that. As soon as I finish doing that I will let you know. But I will not act against the Constitution by playing to the gallery just because I want to become a hero in the eyes of the public.”
According to NAPTIP, and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Mr. Yerima’s marriage breached Sections 21, 22 and 23 of the Child Rights Act, 2003.
The Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria has sued the NHRC and NAPTIP over the matter asking the court to stop his prosecution.
However, sources at the Ministry of Justice say he will still be prosecuted irrespective of what comes out of the case by the Sharia council because he clearly breached some of the laws of the country.
The case, which is presently being heard before Justice Adamu Bello, president of Court 5 of the Abuja High Court, has been adjourned for hearing.
The case has already attracted the attention of some international organisations including the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), which General Counsel, Joel Sollier, last week contacted its national central bureau in Lagos for relevant information.
According to legal experts, one of the issues that is central to INTERPOL’s interest is the possible link to terrorism of the family of the under-aged girl, whose father was found in possessing of two different international passports.
A copy of the NAPTIP investigative report obtained by NEXT revealed that the girl’s father, Maged Saleh Mohammed Eladly, who is a driver to Mr. Yerima, had two Egyptian passports: A01086511, issued on 17/10/2009 in Egypt, valid till 16/10/2016 and A01403462, issued on 07/03/2010 in Egypt, valid till 06/03/2017.
Recommendation for Yerima’s prosecution
According to the report, “The first passport issued in 2009 has the father’s profession as workman while the second passport issued in 2010 referred to his profession as export and import office owner.” Miss Eladly, a 14-year-old student with passport number: A01385736 issued in Egypt on February 28, 2010, was born on January 9, 1996 in Kalyobiya, Egypt and was accompanied in her marriage to 49-year-old Mr. Yerima by her father, ten relations and many well-wishers - 58 in all- sponsored by the senator who paid $100, 000 dowry or Sadaqi on the girl.
The marriage was conducted by the Chief Imam of the Central Mosque, Abuja with a general form of sworn affidavit deposited at the Sharia Court of Appeal, Abuja.
The report before the justice minister notes that, “Senator Ahmed Rufai Sani Yerima’s action contravenes Sections 12 (a & b), 13 (1 & 2), 14 (1) and 17 (a & b) of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act 2003 as amended. His refusal to disclose the age of the minor (victim), the school she attends, and her class amounts to willful obstruction of lawful enquiry contrary to Section 58 (A & B) of TIP Act.
His refusal to disclose the exact amount of money paid as dowry is with intention to deceive the agency (NAPTIP) by using Islam as a cover up. The above section could be invoked as an offence under the Act which he is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years as the case may be. The Senator also breaches Sections 21, 22 and 23 of the Child Rights Act 2003, which is operational in FCT and liable on conviction to a fine of ₦500, 000.00 or imprisonment for a term of five years or both.”
Considering that Mr. Yerima was also alleged to have encouraged foreigners to breach the laws of Nigeria, raising the need to share intelligence with the government of Egypt, the Nigeria Police was urged to join in the prosecution. Asked what the police was doing on its end, the Public Relations Officer, Nigeria Police Force, Abuja, Emmanuel Ojukwu, said the police do not have to duplicate the duties of NAPTIP, which is in charge of the case.