Nigerian president Muhammadu BuhariReuters

Days after being applauded for imposing a ban on female genital mutilation, Nigeria lowered the age of consent for sex from 18 to 11.

On 4 June, the Senate arm of the Nigerian National Assembly hurriedly passed the bill reducing the age of consent. The seventh Senate reportedly passed over 40 other bills on the same day.

Apart from this, the Sexual Offences Bill also prescribes life imprisonment for rapists and those who have sexual intercourse with children below 11 years, Nigeria Watch reported.

While on one hand the country criminalises sexual offence with children, on the other it introduces measures such as legalisation of child marriage. 

Last July, the Senate passed a law sponsored by former Zamfara State governor Ahmed Yerima for recognising child brides as adults.

The Nigeria Watch report claimed that the reduction in the age of consent will benefit people such as Yerima, who had two teenaged wives (one 17 and another 15), who can now take a 12-year-old as a wife.

Nigerian Senate president David Mark reportedly congratulated the members who sponsored the bill and expressed his "delight on the efforts of the committee to evolve a stronger law against sexual violations."

The decision as per the Sexual Offence Bill has been ridiculed by many. Nigerian daily Punch, in its editorial, observed: "...what does an 11-year-old really know about sex that they should be given the right to choose if they want to have sex or not? If only our society had not been turned upside down as it were, with values of people reducing as the day goes by, and the social media playing a very huge role in this, we shouldn't be discussing sex in children who barely make decisions on what to eat, let alone know their left from their right."

Similarly, former Aviation Minister Femi Fani-Kayode lashed out against the present government on Twitter. "The Senate has passed a law which makes it legal to have sex with an 11 year old child. That is change for u. Welcome to the new Nigeria," he tweeted.

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