Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka and human rights lawyer and activist, Femi Falana have criticized individuals masking Ese Oruru’s abduction with religion, adding that the perpetrator should be prosecuted so the victim could get justice.
Both men spoke during a joint press conference titled ‘Justice At Bay: The Long, Twisted Road to Ese’ held on Sunday, March 6, in Lagos.
“Culture is not static; it is dynamic and evolves. It is humanity. Ther is no culture without human beings. If you say you are religious, there are others who could come to say they are holier than you are. We should take religion out of Ese’s abduction. We are talking about criminality. Nobody should say people are Islamaphobic. We are only against criminality. Who invokes religion in criminal matters? Who brings religion into issues of government and constitution? If you want to bring religion into a criminal matter, then let us talk about other things. When we are talking about crime, don’t diffuse it with religion.” Soyinka stated.
He also berated Ishaq Akintola, a professor of Islamic Eschatology and Director of Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) who claims that Islam has no age barrier in marriage and compared Ese’s case to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
“I want to ask him who invoked religion in the first place? What everybody was screaming was that this was a crime, a criminal act. Who brought religion into a purely criminal act? People should be very careful when they speak. They should take care not to worsen an already inexcusable situation by dragging religion into it. Soyinka said.
“People bring their own intelligence into matters and think others are fooks. Dont quote Shakespear when we are discussing criminality. The welfare of a child is more important than the money stolen. If you steal money, you commit crime against the society by when you force a child into marriage, you have ruined her for life. When criminality is in the public domain, it becomes everyvody’s business,”
The eminent playwright said society failed Ese and it was the responsibility of the government to protect other underage female from child marriages like the one conducted with a teenager by a former governor.
“Until we make an example of people like Yerima, there will be thousands of Yunusa,” he added.
On his part, Falana said under Section 38 (2) of the 1999 Constitution, no child of school age should be forced to convert to another religion other than his parents.
The section says: “No person attending any place of education shall be required to receive religious instruction or to take part in or attend any religious ceremony or observance if such instruction ceremony or observance relates to a religion other than his own, or religion not approved by his parent or guardian.”
“The abductor did not only violate Ese’s rights to religion as enshrined in Section 38 of the constitution but also broke the laws contained in the Child Rights Act which Nigeria is a signatory” Falana added.