Child Marriage

Case Study on Child Marriages in Northern Nigeria: Islam and Sharia Law
(Adapted from: Child Bride and Child Sex: Combating Child Marriages in Nigeria, by Ogunniran Iyabode, LLM, Department of Public Law, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos).
Islam was introduced into Nigeria around the 11th century and spread throughout the country (Junaid, 2005). It has its own distinctive legal system, that is, Sharia law. For almost a century, the Borno Empire was the front runner of Islam and Sharia legal system. However, by the 15th century, Sharia had spread to the neighbouring states of Kano and Katsina which subscribed to its cause.
During the colonial era, the British allowed the Sharia legal system in several Northern states as a native law and custom (Fabamise, 2004). To that end, section 2 of the Native Court Ordinance provided that native law and custom included Islamic Law. The Native Courts (Protectorate) Ordinance equally empowered native courts to administer the native law and customs prevailing in the areas of their jurisdiction (Elaigwu Galadima, 2003). Hence, Sharia remained operative in Northern Nigeria as a class of customary law and was recognized under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as an existing law.
This was the state of affairs in Nigeria until 2002, when Zamfara State officially adopted the Sharia legal system. This was quickly followed by eleven other Northern states (Fabamise, 2004). Suffice to say that the Muslims believe that all other laws have human origin, but Sharia law is fixed by the Almighty Allah through his Messenger, the Holy Prophet Mohammed, who by using divine power, disseminated the message from its immediate Arab home to the rest of the world.
According to Dr. M.O. Junaid, a leading Islamic jurist:
Sharia is a legal system highly upheld by the adherents of the Islamic faith. It is comprehensive in nature, it is divine in origin and people believe it is a component part of their religion. Sharia is based...