KANO, Nigeria – A child bride forced into marriage in Nigeria killed a groom and three of his friends with a poisoned meal, police said Thursday.
Fourteen-year-old Wasila Umaru was married last week to 35-year-old Umaru Sani, according to assistant superintendent Musa Magaji Majia.
Over the weekend, the groom invited a dozen friends to celebrate at his Ungwar Yansoro village, about 60 miles from the northern city of Kano.
The teenager told police she bought rat poison at a village market and used it to prepare a dish of rice.
"The suspect confessed to committing the crime and said she did it because she was forced to marry a man she did not love," Majia told The Associated Press.
The groom and a friend died the same day, and two other victims died later in the hospital.
Umaru is cooperating with police and likely will be charged with culpable homicide, according to Majia.
Child marriage is common in Nigeria and especially in the mainly Muslim and impoverished north, where the numbers increase in times of drought because a bride price is paid and it means one less mouth to feed. Fifty percent of Nigerian girls living in rural areas are married before they turn 18, according to the U.N. children's agency. That's a lot of child brides in a country of some 170 million people of whom half are under 18.
Child brides often suffer difficult pregnancies — the leading cause of death worldwide for girls aged 15 to 19 — and are much more likely to contract AIDS and be subjected to domestic violence, according to the International Center for Research on Women.
Early and forced marriage is classified as modern-day slavery by the U.N. labor organization, and Nigeria's Child Rights Act prohibits marriage before 18. But that federal law competes with Islamic Shariah law that holds in most northern states.
No one in Nigeria has been prosecuted for marrying a child, including Sen. Sani Ahmed Yerima, infamous for divorcing a 17-year-old that he married when she was 15 so he could marry a 14-year-old Egyptian girl in 2010, when he was 49. He had to divorce one of his child brides because Islamic law allows a maximum of four wives at a time.
Many child brides are divorced, for that reason and because of incontinence and other medical problems caused by difficult pregnancies, according to local child rights advocates who say such girls are put out on the street.