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Minister okays Niger Speaker sponsored mass wedding of 100 orphan girls

The Minister also announced scholarships up to the university level for any of the girls who wish to pursue their education.

Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye and Niger State Assembly Speaker Abdulmalik Sarkindaji [X, formerly Twitter]

The mass wedding is being funded by Abdulmalik Sarkindaji, the Speaker of the state House of Assembly.

The minister had opposed the mass wedding, arguing that it violated the Child Rights Act.

Speaking at a press conference in Abuja, Kennedy-Ohanenye revealed that she had petitioned the Inspector General of Police to halt the wedding and had also filed a lawsuit to obtain an injunction preventing the Speaker from proceeding with the event.

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The Speaker criticised the minister for involving herself in a religious and cultural matter with which she was not familiar.

He argued that the minister took action without attempting to understand the situation the girls were in, which necessitated sponsorship for their weddings.

Additionally, the Speaker was supported by the Niger State Council of Imams and the Muslim Rights Concern, both of which cautioned the minister to stay away from the mass wedding, insisting it must proceed as planned.

Prior to the mass wedding, the minister, represented by her Special Assistant on Private Sector, Adaji Usman, visited Niger to announce scholarships for the girls and distribute other items, such as wrappers and foodstuffs.

These items were given to 100 young girls at the palace of the Emir of Kontagora, Mohammed Muazu.

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Through Usman, the minister presented 10 Point of Sale machines, 100 wrappers, and 350 bags of 10kg rice.

She also announced scholarships up to the university level for any of the girls who wish to pursue their education.

Additionally, the Emir of Kontagora donated a sewing machine to each of the girls.

Kennedy-Ohanenye instructed that bank accounts be opened for all 100 brides, with stipends to be sent to them for the next six months to help them settle into their new homes.

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She blamed the media for escalating the initial controversy surrounding the marriage of the 100 orphans, saying, “I did not intend to stop the marriage but to be sure if the girls are of marriageable age and were not being forced into it.

“Every parent will want to marry out her wards if they attain the right age for marriage. The initial opposition to the planned marriage was misunderstood, hence the media war between my office and the Speaker’s.”

The minister expressed gratitude to the Speaker for managing the issue effectively and assured that the girls would be carefully supervised in their respective marital homes to ensure the goals of the empowerment program are achieved.

The Speaker, in his comments, lamented that the effort to support the marriages of the 100 girls had been politicised.

He said, “It was pure politics from my constituency. They misinformed the minister that I am playing politics with the lives of the children by forcing them into marriage.

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“And the minister, because of her passion for women and the girl child, quickly waded into the matter even though she could not find out the true position of things and the media began to amplify the whole matter.

“But thank God today I have been vindicated. The minister and the whole world have seen that these girls are of marriageable age, and nobody is forcing them into it. It is being done with their consent.”

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