Wasilat Tasi’u is on trial for the murder of her 35-year-old husband, Umar Sani, who died after eating food that Tasi’u allegedly laced with rat poison.
“We are appealing to the judge to consider Wasilat’s plea,” her father, Isyaku Tasi’u, told The Associated Press on Thursday.
On Wednesday witnesses told the High Court in Gezawa, a town 60 miles outside Nigeria’s second largest city of Kano, that Tasi’u killed her husband two weeks after their wedding in April. Three others allegedly died after eating the poisoned meal.
The prosecution, led by Lamido Soron-Dinki, senior state council from the Kano State Ministry of Justice, is seeking the death penalty.
Soron-Dinki’s first witness on Wednesday was a girl identified as Hamziyya, who was living in the same house as Tasi’u and her husband at the time.
Hamziyya was identified as the sister of Sani’s ‘co-wife’, referring to a woman the deceased farmer had married previously in a region where polygamy is widespread.
She testified that Tasi’u gave her N80 to buy rat poison from a local shop on April 5.
“She said rats were disturbing her in her room,” Hamziyya told the court.
Shopkeeper Abuwa Yusuf from the town of Unguwar Yansoro supported the story and confirmed selling the poison to the girl.
And neighbour Abdulrahim Ibrahim told the court that he was also offered the food allegedly prepared by Tasi’u – and saw Sani looking “visibly ill” after eating.
He said: “When he brought the food I noticed some sandy-like particles, black in colour.
He ate four of the small balls made of bean paste but ‘was not comfortable with the taste,” adding: “It was only Umar (Sani) who continued eating.”
He added that he took Sani home and learnt that three others who ate the food had died suddenly.
Judge Mohammed Yahaya, sitting at the Gezawa High Court, has entered a plea of not guilty for Tasi’u, who refused to respond at a previous hearing on October 30 when the charges were put to her.
The case calls into question the legality of trying a 14-year-old for murder under criminal law and the rights of child brides, who are common in the poverty-stricken, predominantly Muslim northern Nigeria region.
“She was married to a man that she didn’t love. She protested but her parents forced her to marry him,” Zubeida Nagee, a women’s rights activist in Kano, told AP. Nagee and other activists have written a letter of protest to the Kano state deputy governor.
Nagee said Tasi’u was a victim of systematic abuse endured by millions of girls in the region. Activists say the blend of traditional customs, Islamic law and Nigeria’s constitutional law poses a challenge when advocating for the rights of young girls in Nigeria.
Justice Yahaya adjourned the court until December 22.