Relatives in Nigerian child-bride murder case 'accept' withdrawal of charges

KANO, Nigeria (AFP) - The brother of the Nigerian man allegedly killed by his 14-year-old wife told AFP on Friday that he accepted the decision to drop murder charges against the girl after being offered financial compensation.

"We were approached by the government two months ago on the issue of withdrawing the case against Wasila (Tasi'u) and taking compensation for the dead victims," said Musa Sani, whose brother Umar had been married to Tasi'u when he died in April last year, aged 35.

Prosecutors in the northern state of Kano charged Tasi'u with Sani's murder, claiming that she had laced his food with rat poison after regretting her decision to marry.

Four people, including her husband, died within hours of eating the food.

The charges were dropped on Wednesday, with sources telling AFP that the Kano government faced intense pressure to withdraw the case that incensed rights activists given the age of the accused.

"Our prayer before the court was for Wasila to face justice for what she did," Sani further said.

But the financial pressures that came with a prolonged trial, including transport to the court in a nearby town, had become overwhelming.

"We are a poor people with small means... We have to periodically abandon our trade and pay to transport ourselves to court or to Kano whenever we are needed by the prosecution," he explained in a phone interview.

Mainly Muslim northern Nigeria is poorer than the mostly Christian south.

Many in the Sanis' home village of Unguwar Yansoro rejected notions that Tasu'i was the victim of a forced marriage, noting that 14 is an appropriate marrying age in the area.

Sani's relatives had dismissed calls for Tasu'i to be shown leniency on grounds that it would set a dangerous precedent for other girls who might become unhappy in their marriage.

But Musa Sani said that his family and other victims relatives reasoned that the compensation being offered by the Kano government "could help ease the suffering Wasila's act" had caused.

It was not clear which groups or individuals pressured Kano officials to withdraw the case.

Prosectors told AFP that the Emir of Kano, Mohammed Sanusi II, who is Nigeria's second most powerful Islamic cleric, had offered to shelter Tasi'u following her release.

The emir is also known as Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, a Western-educated former central bank governor whom many people saw as a progressive leader when he served as the country's top banker.

But there was no indication that the emir directly influenced the prosecutors' decision.