A packed Kano State High Court, yesterday, heard testimony that a 14-year-old girl admitted to killing her 35-year-old husband with rat poison, and signed a police confession with a thumbprint because she cannot write.
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The girl, from a poor and conservative Muslim family, has been charged with murdering her husband, Umar Sani, days after their marriage in Kano State.
Because she does not understand English, homicide investigator Abdullahi Adamu translated her statement from the Hausa language.
She could not write her name, so “she had to use a thumbprint,” he told the court, during his testimony on the last day of the prosecution’s case.
The state’s lawyers, who are seeking the death penalty, also called to the stand Tasi’u’s co-wife, identified as Ramatu.
Ramatu said she got along well with Tasi’u and that the two had prepared the food together on April 5, the day Sani died.
She testified that because it was Tasi’u’s turn to share bed with Sani, Tasi’u was also entitled to serve his meal.
“After putting the food in the dish, I did not see anybody put anything in it,” Ramatu said.
She said later her husband was helped back to the house by a neighbour, unable to walk and foaming at the mouth.
The court overflowed, with crowd spilling out of the gallery door and people peering in through the open windows.
The case 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 man she married.
However, others in the region, including relatives of the defendant and the deceased, have rejected the notion that Tasi’u was forced into marriage.
They have said that 14 is a common age to marry and that Tasi’u chose Sani from among many suitors.
A motion by defence lawyers to have the case moved to juvenile court was rejected, despite claims by human rights lawyers that she was too young to stand trial for murder in a high court.
Further complicating the case is the role of Sharia, 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.
The trial has been adjourned until February 16, 2015.
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