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State Moves to Drop Murder Charges Against Nigeria Child Bride

State prosecutors in northern Nigeria say they will not go ahead with murder charges against a child bride accused of killing her husband and three others.

Wasila Tasiu faced murder charges in the northern state of Kano for killing her husband and three others with a poison-laced meal last year. A prosecutor announced Wednesday, however, the state would move to drop charges against Tasiu.

Attoney general for the state Maliki Kuliyu Umar said, “We considered the age of the girl. We also waited until after we were able to speak to the families of the deceased persons. I think each of them is being protected as well. Justice is not a one way traffic.”

Tasiu’s lawyers said the girl admitted last year to putting rat poison in a meal she cooked for her recently-wed husband. He shared that meal with three other people in a remote village outside of Kano. All four of them died.

Her lawyer said she did not love her husband, who already had another wife, and was forced to marry him against her will. Tasiu’s exact age remains unclear, but she was charged as a minor. That means that, under state law, even if she was convicted, she wouldn’t necessarily be imprisoned.

Umar said a deal was reached with family members of the deceased where they would receive money, but he declined to elaborate on the exact terms of the deal. Tasiu is still in custody. The state is expected to formally dismiss charges at a hearing next month.

Tasiu’s attorney Hussaina Aliyu said once she was released, the plan was to get her into a school rather than sending her home to the village of Kaura, where the nearest classroom is kilometers down a dirt road and many girls learn nothing more than the Koran.

“If we allow her to go, there is no school in that place, what is she going to do? Nothing! So if we do nothing, the parents now will be, they will be tempted to marry her off again,” said the attorney.

Nigeria has some of the highest levels of child marriage in the world. It’s particularly common in the country’s northern half.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF, 76 percent of girls in the country’s northwest are married by the time they turn 18. In the northeast, it’s 68 percent.

Nigeria’s National Assembly passed a law mandating a minimum age of 18 to marry, but Kano State hasn’t adopted it. Neither have many others. Aliyu said laws weren’t enough to solve a problem rooted in poor education, tradition and poverty.

"Enacting law will not stop it. Because you can enact a law and nobody will implement it. As it is now, there is Child Rights Act. And Child Rights Act has taken care of all this.

But our people refuse to domesticate it, that is one. Because they realize even if they domesticate it, implementation is not going to be easy for them. So it’s better if you persuade, you employ means of persuasion. Show them the importance of education,” said the lawyer.

Nigeria’s incoming first lady has indicated her support for a renewed push against child marriage. Local media reported she spoke out against the practice at a conference in Argentina earlier this month.