THE leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Northern Chapter, has raised the alarm over rising cases of abduction of young girls and minors forced into marriage in some Northern states.
Chairman of CAN, Northern Chapter, Mr Yakubu Pam, who led a delegation to President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday, told State House correspondents after the closed-door meeting with the President that urgent steps should be taken by the authorities to forestall crisis brewing in the North over the alleged cases of abduction of young girls.
Pam, said they were at the Villa to protest the rise in the abduction of underage Christian girls in the north in the guise of marriage.
The Christian body warned that if that unpleasant development was not reversed immediately, it could lead to a serious crisis in the north.
It would be recalled that the Emir of Katsina, Abdulmumini Usman, had been accused of marrying off a 14-year-old Habiba Isiyaku to her kidnapper, Jamilu Lawal.
Habiba’s father alleged that his daughter was kidnapped from school, Government Senior Secondary School, Kudun Kankara, Kastina State, by Jamilu and has been forcefully converted to Islam and married off by the Emir without her parents’ consent to Lawal.
There was also a case of 14-year-old Ifesinach Ani, who was abducted in Abuja and taken to Maiduguri, then Zaria, where she was said to have been married off and 13-year-old Blessing Gopep, who was stolen at age 12 in 2015, by two people, Iliyu and Umaru from Bauchi motor park. Her name has been changed to Mariam.
Others reported cases are: Patience Paul a 15-year-old school girl who was forcefully abducted in Sokoto State by two men ,Ifeoma Nichodemus, 16, who was allegedly kidnapped and reportedly left her parents’ home in the Hausa community in Zaria, Kaduna in May, 2014, after a fight with her mother and 16-year-old Linda Christopher, who was abducted at age 16 in November, 2015, by a certain Shagari in Bauchi and amongst others.
Pam said they came to present themselves as the Northern CAN chapter to the President and tell him some of the challenges that Northern Christians were passing through.
According to him, the child abductors should take a cue from President Buhari, who married off his daughter properly last weekend.
Pam said: “We also talked on the Issue of girl child abduction in the North, in some Northern states, some young girls and children are being abducted at 12 years old and the parents will just hear that the girls have been married to traditional rulers and emirs.
“This is gathering a cloud of crisis already and if that is not taken care of it will lead to a serious crisis. These are the issues we told the President.”
He also noted that one of the challenges confronting them was that Christians were having difficulties in expressing their faith in some parts of Northern Nigeria.
“We have also told him some of the difficulties we are passing through, the Fulani herdsmen and the farmers need to be protected and in fact, we told the President that we have been encouraging our youths to go into farming and they need to be protected and when they come into the city, there is no employment, that is why farmers must be protected.
“We congratulated him on the wedding of his daughter, the fight against corruption, Boko Haram war, as people have started returning to their homes and the return of the Chibok girls,” Pam said.
He, however, noted that President Buhari responded positively to their petition, promising to look into the matter.
But a statement by the Special Adviser to the President, Mr Femi Adesina quoted Buhari as saying that he would keep faith with the oath of office he swore, and treat all Nigerians equitably.
Receiving the Executive Committee Members of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) from 19 Northern States, the President equally pledged to restore peace to all parts of the country, noting: “Restoring peace is top priority. We will enable the law enforcement agencies to combat all forms of violent crimes, and ensure that our people live in peace.”
He urged the clerics to promote religious harmony, by “enhancing understanding among different faiths.”
He also disclosed that the government would maintain the priority it has placed on agriculture and mines and steel development, “to kick-start the economy.”