Just 24 hours after the PUNCH newspapers inauguration campaign, 14-year-old Ese Oruru was rescued from Kano State where she was taken to by her paedophile captor, Yinusa, known as Yellow.
Ese, who was abducted on August 12, 2015, converted to Islam and forcefully married by Yinusa, was on Monday released to the police in Kano State.
The minor was released to the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 1, Kano, Shuaibu Gambo, by the Kano Emirate Council.
The Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase, who confirmed this to one of our correspondents via a text message, said Ese would soon be reunited with her parents.
He said, “She is safe with us. She will be reunited with her parents.”
The Force Public Relations Officer, Olabisi Kolawole, also confirmed that Ese had been released to the AIG Zone 1, adding that she would be brought to Abuja on Tuesday along with her parents.
She said, “Ese has been released and as I speak with you, she is with the AIG, Zone 1, Kano. She will be brought to Abuja tomorrow (Tuesday) along with her parents.
“The AIG Zone 1 has taken over the matter. The police swung into action and they are investigating at the moment. Investigation is still ongoing.
“All those involved in the saga would be dealt with according to the law. Any person indicted in the incident will be made to face the law.”
Asked if the police would conduct medical tests, including HIV/AIDS test on Ese, Kolawole stated that “all the necessary tests would be carried out.”
The Police Public Relations Officer, Zone 1, Kano, Rabiu Ubayi, also confirmed that Ese was with them in Kano.
The police spokesperson added that Yinusa had also been invited for questioning, and he was writing his statement when our correspondents called him separately on the telephone.
He said, “Presently, we are in action. We have found the girl. The police have invited all the parties. We invited the people who are holding her, including Yinusa himself.
“The girl and the man are here. They are writing statements. They are all in police custody. We have not concluded investigation at the moment. But they are all with us.”
Ese had been abducted in 2015 by Yinusa, who was a longstanding customer of her mother, Mrs. Rose Oruru, a food vendor in Opolo in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital.
Yinusa, a tricycle rider, took away the minor to Kano from her mother’s shop. Rose had gone out on the day, leaving Ese and her siblings in the shop.
Yinusa subsequently took Ese, who was 13 years old at the time, to Kano, where she was allegedly converted to Islam and forcefully married.
Rose’s attempts to get the girl released had met a brick wall until PUNCH newspaper’s campaign.
Prosecute Ese’s abductor, Yinusa
Nigerians are demanding sanctions for those who held 14-year-old Ese Oruru captive for eight months.
Ese was released to the police on Monday, 24 hours after PUNCH newspapers inaugurated a campaign to free the minor.
One Yinusa, aka Yellow, had abducted Ese in August 2015, taken her to Kano, had her converted to Islam and forcefully married her.
It took eight months, trips to Kano by her parents, a campaign by PUNCH, and outrage among Nigerians to secure her freedom.
Many Nigerians, who were shocked by Ese’s ordeal, have called on the Federal Government to ensure such an incident does not recur by dealing decisively with those that have contravened the country’s laws.
The Minister of Women Affairs, Jummai Alhassan, made it clear that laws had been broken, promising to prosecute those involved.
“Our laws are very clear on the case; Ese Oruru is 14 years and as such cannot consent to marriage. Any such union she’s in is illegal,” she said in a tweet.
Alhassan explained that since Ese was a child, her right to freedom of movement was subject to parental control.
“The Act also clearly states that anyone who marries a child is liable to a fine of N500,000 or five years’ imprisonment or both,” she said, adding that her ministry would ensure the full prosecution of anyone found to have contravened the law.
A former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili, also called for the prosecution of those involved.
She called for an investigation into the incident and publication of findings about why Ese’s release was allowed to linger for so long.
Senator Ben Murray-Bruce had also, while calling on the Inspector-General of Police to free Ese, stressed that the IG must ensure that those involved did not go free.
A PUNCH reader, Obazee Osas, had while celebrating the news of Ese’s release, explained that his joy would not be complete if Yinusa was not prosecuted.
He said, “Yes, PUNCH, we did it! But this should not be the end of the case. That Yinusa of a man who took that girl from Bayelsa has a lot of people like him, who are looking for young girls to prey on and elope with.
“Won’t it be right, if he is used as a deterrent to others who might be contemplating such act? Please, raise the hastag #YinusaMustBeArrestedAndProsecuted.”
Several other Nigerians also called for the prosecution of those involved.
A twitter user, Yomi, who tweets via the handle @akintonmide, said, “This cannot be let off.”
Another user, Yemi, tweeting via @ScarTissue101 said, “Ese isn’t really free till Yinusa is made to face the law for his crimes.”
Prominent legal practitioners also called for the prosecution of Yinusa.
The lawyers wanted the police to prosecute Yinusa for abduction and rape.
They also urged the police to arrest and prosecute others mentioned in the abduction mess and policemen involved in the lackadaisical handling of the case.
Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Mr. Femi Falana and Sebastine Hon, told one of our correspondents on Monday that the abductor of the girl and those who helped him had committed a criminal offence.
They called on the police and the governments of Bayelsa and Kano states to prosecute the culprits.
Falana said regardless of the rescue of the girl, Yinusa and his helpers should be prosecuted by the Bayelsa State Government.
Falana said, “I have just got the assurance of the IGP, Mr. Solomon Arase, that Ese has been freed and will be released to her parents tomorrow (Tuesday).
“While thanking The PUNCH newspaper for campaigning for the release of Ese, and the police authorities for ensuring the release of the girl, the matter should be pursued to a logical conclusion.
“The abductor and his helpers should be arrested and prosecuted to serve as a lesson to others. We call on the Bayelsa State Government to file charges against the suspects without any further delay.”
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Felix Fagbohungbe, said what Yinusa did was criminal and condemnable and called for his prosecution according to the law.
Fagbohungbe said, “It is a criminal act and Yinusa should be prosecuted. The law of the land is very clear on that. In fact, the young girl is not a Muslim in the first place; so, she cannot be affected by any provision of the Quran. And even at that, a 13-year-old girl, who is supposed to be in school, how can she give consent, when we know that the age of maturity is 21, and the voting age is 18? So, this is a criminal act.”
She is a minor
A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Wahab Shittu, also called for Yinusa’s arraignment for abduction, stressing that Ese, being a minor, could not give a valid consent to marriage.
Shittu said, “She is still a minor. If you look at the provisions of our Constitution, the age to vote starts from 18 years. The implication is that the Constitution envisages that you do not attain adulthood until you reach the age of 18. The girl is a minor.
“He (Yinusa) took away the girl from the custody of her parents without their consent outside the jurisdiction of the state and even without the consent of the girl, expressed or implied; so the man should be arraigned for abduction.”
Another Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Jiti Ogunye, said Yinusa acted contrary to the provisions of Section 361 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria and the analogous provisions of the Criminal Code, Law of Bayelsa State and should as such be prosecuted.
According to Ogunye, the charges against Yinusa will also include rape as he was likely to have slept with the girl.
Ogunye said, “Section 361 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria and the analogous provisions of the Criminal Code, Law of Bayelsa State, define the offence of abduction and provide that ‘any person, who with the intent to marry or carnally know a female of any age, or cause her to be married, or carnally known by any other person, takes her away or detains her against her will, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for seven years. And of course, it can be imagined or assumed that the offence of rape would have been committed against the young girl. The punishment for rape, under sections 537 and 358 of the same Criminal Code Act, is life imprisonment.
“The abductor and his accomplices should be prosecuted in Bayelsa State. That is where the crime originated.”
Mr. Emeka Ngige, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said the Bayelsa State Governor, Siriake Dickson, should also be held accountable for the incident.
He said, “The Bayelsa State Governor should tell the public why he would allow such a thing to happen in his domain. All the police personnel, who failed in their duties of rescuing the girl, including the Inspector-General of Police, should be appropriately sanctioned.”
Human rights lawyer, Festus Keyamo, said Ese could not make a decision for herself until she reached the age of 21.
He said, “It is worrisome that the girl was taken away without the consent of her parents. Any girl that is under the age of 21, no matter the religion involved, should not be married off without the consent of her parents. If anyone is saying it is tradition, then that tradition is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience and should be rejected.
“In law, 21 is the age of maturity and consent, while 18 is the voting age. To sign a contract or enter into any other agreement, you must be 21.”
A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Yemi Omodele, said Ese’s parents had a valid cause of action and urged them to approach a high court in Bayelsa State to enforce their daughter’s rights.
“If it is true that the age is 14, the parents have a legal right to approach the appropriate court of law within the southern region of the country, particularly in Bayelsa. They can approach the state high court in Bayelsa to protect the girl’s rights,” he said.
Ahmed Adetola-Kazeem, another counsel, said the forced marriage of Ese was wrong both from the Islamic religious point of view and the constitution.
He advised her parents to sue Yinusa and the police.
Adetola-Kazeem said, “Quran 4:25 states that a man can only marry a lady with the permission of the parents. So, the step he (Yinusa) has taken is a very wrong step. Secondly, the Quran also says that there is no compulsion in religion, so, you can’t force your religion on someone else.
“The parents of the girl should sue Yinusa and join the police or whichever law enforcement agency that is involved or complicit.”
The Executive Director of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said any supposed consent given by a person below the age of 18 years was invalid in the face of the Nigerian law and urged the parents to seek redress in court.
Mumuni said, “The law does not reckon with a consent given by an underage person. For a person to consent, he must be 18 years and above. As far as Nigeria is concerned, the lowest age of maturity in terms of contract and consent is 18 years. In the law of contract, a person below the age of 18 is still regarded as a minor; under that age you cannot enter into a contractual agreement and marriage is a contract.”
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Gowdwin Obla, said the excuse of elopement was not tenable and would not shield Yinusa from being prosecuted.
Obla said, “Elopement at what age? Can a girl who cannot give consent for marriage give consent to elope? It is wrong. Even if the girl elopes with him, there are enough public outcries to make any reasonable person return the girl to her parents. The man did not mitigate the extent of his criminality and sadly, it looks like he has some support from governmental institutions. It is not a matter to be negotiated.
“It is a case of what is called statutory rape because the girl is below the age of 18. She cannot give consent for sexual relationship. That is statutory rape.”
As to whether the excuse of elopement would prevent Yinusa from being prosecuted, Obla said, “No, it is not an excuse. In fact, he could have mitigated his punishment by promptly returning the girl when he became aware of her true age. But he did not; he persisted in his criminality.”
Blame the police, not me
The Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II, has described the abduction of 14-year-old Ese Oruru from Bayelsa State by one of his subjects as an embarrassment.
Sanusi spoke on Monday after a meeting with members of his council over the issue.
He explained that he had received two calls from people in far away South Africa on Monday over the matter.
The emir further explained that when the matter was first brought to his attention in September 2015, he ordered her immediate return to her parents after it was established that she was underage.
He, however, expressed surprise that the matter still lingered months after he gave the instruction.
Sanusi said, “I ordered her return since September 2015, through the Office of the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone 1.
“But to my surprise, the issue was still with the Sharia Commission, Hisbah (religious police) and the Police.
“The matter is worrisome, to the extent that two people phoned me in the morning today from South Africa over the matter. I told them clearly that I had directed her return since the last six months.
“I can also remember that I ordered the district head of Kura, the Sharia Commission and Hisbah, to investigate the allegation she (Ese) raised that her mother wanted to kill her.
“They confirmed to me that the allegation raised by Ese was true. I requested police intervention just to get her a cover to take her back home.
“I think it was the police authorities that caused the delay. I have done my best for her and even directed for action. It’s unfortunate that the police delayed this matter which has embarrassed us.
“Ese is underage and she can’t be married off as an underage girl. Every Muslim also knows that marriage can’t be without guidance. She must be taken back to her parents; she can only marry when she reaches the age of 18.”
The Emir further said, “It is un-Islamic for someone to marry a lady without guidance. This abduction of Ese by my subject to Kano is bad because it will cause disunity among our people.”
Sanusi reiterated his directive to the Sharia Commission to immediately return the girl to her family, adding that “this issue is something that is unbecoming among our people”.