A family court sitting in Akure, the Ondo State capital, has stopped an Imam, Yusuf Lateef, from forcefully marrying a 16-year-old girl (names withheld).
It was gathered that the defendant approached the girl’s parents to marry their daughter in 2019 when the girl was 15 but the girl refused. The parents had allegedly forced her to accept the proposal and a day was fixed for the marriage.
Lateef allegedly wanted to take the minor as his ninth wife.
Protesting against the development, the teenager reportedly fled their home in Ore, Odigbo Local Government Area of Ondo State on the day fixed for the marriage with support from her brother who lived in Akure.
She was said to have been advised to report the matter at the Ondo State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development where she was sheltered for some days. It was thereafter that the matter was charged to court in Akure.
Both Lateef and the girl’s parents were later arraigned before the family court for breaching the part three of the 2007 Ondo State Child Rights Law.
After hearing from both the defendants and the plaintiff, Magistrate Aderemi Adegoroye ruled that the girl be returned to her parents and Lateef be made to sign an undertaking to stay away from her and ensure that she came to no harm.
Asked what she wanted to do, the girl said she intended to further her education and be a good woman in future.
Reacting to the development, the state Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs Titilola Adeyemi, described the judgment as a victory for children in the state.
She said, “We are excited at the way the matter went. It will be a warning to everybody that it is a no to child marriage in Ondo State. Child marriage is denying the girl child her future. We must make sure we work for the girl child to realise her future.”