Crime

14-year-old bride confesses to killing husband

A 14-year-old girl reportedly killed her 35-year-old husband with rat poison. The said girl admitted to committing this crime before a Nigerian court and signed a police confession with a thumbprint because she could not write.

The incident as confessed by Wasila Tasi'u, who hails from a poor and deeply conservative Muslim family, took place just some days after their marriage in northern Kano state.rr

Homicide investigator, Abdullahi Adamu translated her statement from Hausa language dominant in the area and gave her to sign because she did not understand any other language.

The lawyers who are seeking the death penalty, also called to stand Tasi'u's "co-wife", Ramatu, whom the deceased had married previously in the region where polygamy is widespread, to testify.

Ramatu said that she got along well with Tasi'u and that the two had prepared the food together on April 5, the day their husband, Sani died. She testified that because it was Tasi'u turn to share a bed with Sani, she was also entitled to serve him his meal.

"After putting the food in the dish I didn't see anybody put anything in it," Ramatu said.

The next thing she saw sometimes later, is where their husband was being helped back to the house by a neighbor. He started forming from the mouth and that's how he finally gave up.

The case however, is receiving some mixed reactions as it has sparked outrage among human rights activists who say Nigeria should be treating Tasi'u as a victim, noting the possibility that she was raped by the same man that later married her.

But others in the region, including relatives of the defendant and the deceased, have rejected the notion that Tasi'u was forced into marriage.

The relatives have said that 14 is a common age to marry in the impoverished region and that Tasi'u chose Sani from among many suitors. A motion to have the case moved to juvenile court by a defense lawyer was rejected despite claims by human right lawyers that she is too young to stand trial for murder in a high court.

Another complicating side to it is the role of Sharia (Islamic Law) in northern Nigeria, which allows children to marry according to some interpretations.

While sharia is technically in force in Kano, law enforcement officials have no guidelines concerning how it should be balanced with the secular criminal codes, creating a complex legal hybrid system.

According to Human Rights Watch, Nigeria is not known to have executed a juvenile offender since 1997, when the country was ruled by military dictator Sani Abacha.

The trial has been adjourned until February 16.

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