NIGERIA: Child bride released from death row

[09 September 2016] - After spending three years on death row, Maimuna Abdulmumini has now been released from Katsina prison after several legal battles at the national and regional courts to enforce her rights and to secure her freedom.

Maimuna’s path to liberty was a protracted and onerous one. She was sentenced to death by a High Court in Katsina state on 6 December 2012 for allegedly killing her husband at the age of 13.

Avocats Sans Frontières France had maintained its ground in ensuring that justice is obtained for the helpless child bride who was sentenced to death in contravention of national, regional and international human rights laws. Indeed international human rights standards states clearly that a minor below the age of 18 cannot be sentenced to death.

It would be recalled that in a bid to enforce Maimuna’s rights and secure her release, Avocats Sans Frontières France had filed and won a case at the ECOWAS Community Court of justice on her behalf. The ECOWAS Court had in its final judgement delivered on June 10, 2014 in suit no: ECW/CCJ/APP/15/13 declared that the death sentence passed on Maimuna for an offence she committed as a minor amounted to an infringement of her right to life.

The Court awarded five million Naira damages to be paid to her by the Nigerian government as compensation for the said infringement and one million naira as costs. More than two years after the delivery of that landmark judgement, the Nigerian government is yet to comply with the decision of the ECOWAS Court. This case was handled on the platform of the SAVING LIVES (SALI) project of ASF France (a project against the death penalty).

In another welcome development in June 2015, the Court of Appeal, Kaduna division set aside the death sentence passed on Maimuna Abdulmumini and ordered that she should be held at the pleasure of the Governor.

Reacting to her release, Angela Uwandu the Head of Office of Avocats Sans Frontières France said, “Although the road to Justice for Maimuna, a victim of early forced marriage has been long and excruciating, justice has been served nonetheless.  We are extremely glad that Maimuna has now been reunited with her family”.

Maimuna’s release shows how influential the decisions of a regional court such as the ECOWAS court can be when it comes to enforcing the right standards for fundamental rights. This is an encouragement for ASF France to pursue strategic litigation and generate a dialogue between domestic and regional courts” said Cécile Ostier and Jean-Sébastien Mariez, co-team leaders of the SALI project.

The death sentence passed on Maimuna as a minor reveals the inherent weakness and non respect for judicial safeguards protecting minors in conflict with the law in Nigeria. Maimuna’s case also readily brings to mind the case of Wasila Umar, another child bride accused of killing her husband in Kano state in 2014. With these developments, it becomes imperative for the government to pay attention to the early forced marriage phenomenon and its attendant consequences and the administration of justice protecting the rights of minors in Nigeria.

For further enquires Please contact: ASF France Head of Office –

To read CRIN's case study on Maimuna's case, click here.

Author org: 
Avocats Sans Frontières: ASF France

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