Nigerian Senator Ahmed Yerima is in the process of redefining “political scandal.” That’s because Senator Yerima just got engaged to his fourth wife, who just happens to be a 13-year-old girl he’s importing to Nigeria from Egypt, despite the fact that she’s not old enough to consent to marriage and such an act is against Nigerian law. Mover over Mark Foley, there’s a skeezier politician in town.
Senator Yermina has been married at least four times (simultaneously) before. He recently divorced his first fourth wife who, despite years of marriage and a baby, is still well below legal voting age in Nigeria. Her age at marriage is unclear, but she was very young. To replace her, he arranged to import a 13-year-old girl from Egypt into Nigeria and marry her. Since directly transporting a child from Egypt to Nigeria for forced marriage is illegal, Yerima allegedly used his political connections to route her through neighboring countries. He also allegedly paid her family around $100,000 as a bride price. If that’s not buying a child for sex, I don’t know what is.
Because no political scandal comes without a hearty dose of irony, it turns out Sen. Yermia has served on the anti-corruption committee of the Senate for a number of years. Hmmm … a member of the anti-corruption committee using his political clout and money to traffic a child across international borders so he can illegally marry her? That sounds preposterous. Almost like dozens of members of a political party that runs on a homophobic, family values platform cheating on their spouse with a series of gay sex scandals. Oh, wait … that’s the U.S. I’m thinking of.
Nigerian citizens and politicians alike are outraged at Sen Yerima’s actions. Senator Eme Ekaette, Chair of the Senate Committee on Woman Affairs and Youth Development, promised that the Senate as a whole would address his actions, and said she couldn’t imagine how a public servant would stoop so low. Advocacy groups have stated that the marriage was clearly against the law, violated the Egyptian girl’s human rights, and is a serious personal and professional morality issue for the Senator.
I can only hope Nigeria takes swift action to free this girl and hold Senator Yerima accountable. Because if the GOP hears you can get away with illicit sex-related hypocrisy in Nigeria, we might have a mass defection. Then again …
Photo credit: Rikie Rizza