Katsina governor, attorney general, tender letter supporting 15-year-old kidnapped girl’s marriage

The controversy over the purported marriage of Habiba Ishiaku to Jemilu Lawal has assumed a different dimension, as the Katsina State Governor and the state’s Attorney-General have expressed support for the illegal union, citing a letter purportedly written by the minor as reasons.’

Fifteen-year-old Christian girl, Miss Habiba Ishiaku, was allegedly abducted by one Jamilu Lawal Wawar Kaza, a Muslim, of Kankara Local Government Area of the state on August 16, 2016, for the purpose of conversion to Islam and marriage.

Habiba’s father, Ishiaku Tanko, and three others on Wednesday approached a Katsina High Court, requesting the enforcement of their fundamental rights as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution and international charters.

However, shortly after the court commenced sitting, the presiding judge, Justice Baraka Iliyasu Wali, tendered a signed handwritten letter and another unsigned type-written one allegedly written by Habiba dissociating herself from the application.

Following the arguments of both counsels, Justice Baraka briefly adjourned ruling till later in the day.

She said she wanted to ascertain whether or not the letter was permissible in her court.

The four applicants in the matter, apart from Habiba’s father, are Habiba herself, registered trustees of Stefanos Foundation and registered trustees of Evangelical Church Winning All.

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The six defendants include Katsina State Governor Aminu Bello Masari, the state Attorney General, the Emir of Katsina, Alhaji Abdulmumin Kabir Usman, the state Commissioner of Police and Jemilu Lawal (Habiba’s husband).

The applicants had approached the court through their counsel, Yakubu Saleh Bawa of Bawa, Bawa Associates, seeking the enforcement of their fundamental human rights.

Citing relevant portions of the 1999 Constitution as amended, and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, as well as the Child’s Right Act 2003, the applicants maintained the need to enforce their Fundamental Human Rights.

Drama however started when Justice Baraka brought out the two letters and asked Bawa to comment on them. She equally asked for the comments of the defence counsel.

Bawa categorically asked the court to discountenance the letters, maintaining that they were not brought to the court through an affidavit.

One of the letters was written in Hausa, and he said it should not be recognised by the court.

He declared, “This is a court of prime records. In the eye of the law, the document has not been brought by way of affidavit.

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“Assuming without conceding that there is even a document written by the second applicant (Habiba), it cannot defeat this action. This is because the first applicant (Habiba’s father), by exhibit A, had placed before this court a birth certificate to substantiate his claim that Habiba is a minor.

“We urge you to proceed with the substantive matter, which is the fundamental human rights issue.”

Counsel for the state, Abubakar Umar (a senior state counsel) who also represented Governor Masari and the state’s Attorney General, maintained that the court should recognise Habiba’s alleged letter.

He declared, “I have seen the letter. The subject matter is with regard to the second applicant (Habiba) regarding the suit before your lordship.

“In summary, the second applicant is dissociating herself from the case before this court, implying that the suit is not filed on her behalf.”

Counsel for Jemilu (Habiba’s husband), ABK Nasir, in adddition to aligning with Umar’s submission, added that Habiba is Jemilu’s wife and can write the letter under Order 13, Rule 1 of Fundamental Human Rights.

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Counsel for other defendants equally aligned with Umar’s submission and, in addition, urged the court to summon Habiba to come and clarify her stand, in addition to the two letters said to have been written by her.

After a brief adjournment, Justice Baraka summoned Habiba to appear in court on January 25, 2017.

She declared, “The second applicant (Habiba) should appear in court on 25th of this month to confirm whether she is the genuine author of the letters.

“I hereby adjourn this court till that date.”

Habiba’s father, Mallam Ishiaku Tanko, in a brief interview with journalists said, “All I want is my daughter. I want her back to continue her education.

“Iam fully in support of this court action to enforce our fundamental rights.”

The PUNCH observed that only Jemilu Lawal was present in court, while other defendants were absent although they were represented by their various counsels.

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