The story of a female teenager, Habiba Isyaku Tanko, who hails from Wawar Kaza community in Kanakara Local Government Area of Katsina State, is enmeshed in controversies and generating ill feelings among families and religious bodies in the state. Dominated by issues of age disparity, alleged abduction, forceful conversion to Islam and marrying her off without the consent of her parents, Habiba’s story will continue to occupy centre stage.
Habiba, a Christian, and Jamilu Lawal, a Muslim, allegedly met and fell in love at Wawar Kaza community. Her father, Isyaku Tanko, was not favourably disposed to their union; hence he tried all he could to separate them. He persistently persuaded his daughter to rethink, and asked Jamilu to keep off from any relationship with her.
Disturbed by the situation, Habiba was said to have run to the district head of Kankara to report the matter. She had also reported to the village head. It was gathered that the district head had assigned the Hisbah Council to look into the matter. Following this action, the matter was brought to the state Hisbah, where it was handed over to one Ashafa Abubakar for further action.
It was also gathered that Habiba’s father lodged a formal complaint to the police, accusing Jamilu of abducting his daughter. He also petitioned the Inspector General of Police through the Commissioner of Police in the state. Jamilu was subsequently arrested and detained for four days at the Criminal Investigation Department of the police.
It was further gathered that as a mediator, Abubakar took the matter to the palace. It was said that Habiba had indicated interest to convert to Islam and get married her heartthrob, Jamilu. Subsequently, she was accommodated at the palace, where her father was invited and told of the development.
Consequently, the Emir of Katsina, Abdulmumin Usman, forwarded the matter to the Commissioner of Police in the state, Usman Abdullahi. The commissioner equally invited all the parties for a discussion on the way out. After the discussion, the commissioner sent the matter back to the palace, with the belief that it would be best handled there.
Habiba’s parents also took the matter to the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for intervention. Consequently, a press conference was held in Abuja, during which the Emir of Katsina was accused of abduction and forceful conversion of their daughter to Islam and marrying her off without their consent.
The Inspector General of Police and the commissioner of police, Katsina State command, were equally accused of mishandling the case.
Speaking through their lawyer, Yakubu Bawa, Habiba’s parents said she needed to be rescued “because she is still under the guardian and control of her parents until she gets to the age of maturity and accountability, which is 18.’’ They added that the Emir of Katsina did not have the right to forcefully convert their daughter to Islam.
Bawa said, “He has no right to do that. When the Commissioner of Police summoned the parties concerned to his office, what baffled me was the fact that a security detail said he was under instruction to bring the girl back to the emir’s palace. Unfortunately, the commissioner, who has the entire state command under his control, obeyed that instruction and released the girl to the palace. He instructed the man to go to the palace and take his daughter. With due respect, the Commissioner of Police failed in his constitutional duties as enshrined in the Police Act.
“When they got to the palace, the emir, through his aide, the Kilishin Katsina, told them that since their daughter had already converted to Islam, there was a big barrier between them. She had come out in a hijab and couldn’t look at her parents.
“Habiba’s father demanded that his daughter be released to him to practise her newly found faith in their home, but the emir refused, saying it was impossible.”
The 17-year-old Habiba said she did what she did because of threats from her parents. “I was neither abducted nor forced to convert and marry my husband. I took all decisions on my own volition. I willingly converted to Islam without interference from the palace or the person I married,’’ she said.
For Jamilu, 26, it is love at work. In a telephone interview with Daily Trust on Sunday, he said, “I didn’t abduct her; she herself had said it severally. It is all documented at the Criminal Investigation Department of the police, where I spent four days behind bars. I was found innocent and released after investigation. It all started at our village. I went to her house once and the next thing I heard was that she ran to the district head and wanted me as a husband. We are deeply in love, no doubt about it.
“After my detention, I wanted to seek redress in court, but I was advised otherwise.’’
For the palace, since Habiba embraced Islam, the emir is duty bound to protect her since she is now governed by Islamic injunction. The Kauran Katsina, Nuhu Abdulkadir, said the palace was disturbed by several unwelcome remarks by the CAN and the parents of the girl. He said it was the Commissioner of Police who asked for the intervention of the palace. Abdulkadir said that in Islam, inasmuch as a girl has started seeing her period, she is deemed mature and free to take decisions on her own.
“A number of Muslims have converted to Christianity and nobody raised an eyebrow. If you want us to continue to enjoy the peace, you should also apply justice as you have urged us to apply justice in this matter.
“I want the chairman of the CAN to know that there is no going back because the girl admitted that she willingly converted to Islam. So all Christian rules and regulations she followed no longer apply to her.
“Her father wanted to take her but she refused. She has the right not to follow her father because she is now a Muslim. If her father dies, she has nothing to inherit from him, and if she dies, her father is not entitled to get anything from her property. That is Islamic law. So you cannot stand before us and say that you are not happy over her marriage. She is no longer a Christian,” he said.
The palace produced a copy of an earlier agreement duly signed by Habiba’s father and other witnesses accepting her decision.
In his reaction during the meeting at the palace, the state chairman of CAN, The Very Reverend Nelson Onyekachuku, said, “In my religion you cannot give out somebody’s daughter in marriage without the consent of her father and mother.
“We don’t do that; and no father will be happy that his daughter is given out in marriage in his absence or without his consent. It is wrong. I spoke with her parents yesterday and they were not happy. Our people are not happy that our girls are given out in marriage without our consent.
“I speak the minds of all the Christians in Katsina, and I can tell you that they are not happy over the marriage of this girl. We want justice to be done. If the girl decided to convert to Islam we do not have a problem with that, but she can stay in her father’s house and practise her new religion.
“Her parents said she was 14 years old. And at 14 she is supposed to be in school and not to be married off. Her future is at stake. We want justice to be done in this matter.”
Speaking to our correspondent Abubakar, who mediated in Habiba’s case, said it’s not the first and would not be the last of such cases. He said they had married off over 100 persons with similar cases, and they have been living peacefully with their respective husbands, with many children.
Investigation by Daily Trust on Sunday revealed that the palace usually bears the cost of such marriages after recommendations from the Hisbah and Abubakar.
Abubakar said they had records of several correspondences with Habiba’s parents through their district, wards and village heads. “We have procedures we abide by. We don’t just do things on our own. We investigate matters thoroughly by involving all the concerned parties. We do this to know if the suitor is capable,’’ he said.
According to him, presently, seven persons are being screened to be married off any moment from now. He said some of them were from Niger State, the Tiv nation etc.
“We never had any problem until this Habiba’s case. We don’t force anyone. In this case, we even returned her to the CAN leadership in her area, but she came back,’’ he added.
(Culled from Dailytrust)