Woman affairs minister rejects Niger speaker’s plan to marry-off 100 orphan girls

In a move to protect the rights and future of vulnerable orphan girls in Niger state, the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs has raised concerns over the proposed mass wedding being organised by the Speaker of the Niger state House of Assembly, Abdulmalik Sarkindaji.

The ministry emphasised the need to investigate the ages, consent, and preparedness of the girls for such union.

This was contained in a statement signed in Abuja by the Head, Information and Public Relations Mrs. Grace Njoku, reiterating the ministry’s commitment to protecting the lives of women, children, and the vulnerable in society.

According to the statement, the minister, Barr. Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye,  expressed reservations regarding the mass marriage plan scheduled for May 24 and highlighted the importance of considering the girls’ future, asserting that education and empowerment should take precedence over early marriage.

The statement faulted the speaker’s intentions to alleviate the suffering of orphan girls by funding the dowries and procurement for the mass marriage.

 Barrister Kennedy-Ohanenye stressed the necessity of providing avenues for the girls’ development through education and skills acquisition. She emphasised that investing in their education and empowerment would not only benefit the girls but also contribute to societal development.

“These girls, like their counterparts across the country and the globe, possess immense potential and talents,” Kennedy-Ohanenye remarked. “They deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential in life.”

The minister underscored the importance of breaking the cycle of poverty and inequality that often affects orphaned children by prioritising education and empowerment. She noted that such initiatives would reduce cases of gender-based violence and out-of-school children, which are prevalent outcomes of early marriages.

In line with its mandate under the Child’s Rights Act, the Ministry has petitioned the Inspector-General of Police and sought a court injunction to halt the sponsored marriage until further investigations ensure the welfare of the orphans are adequately addressed.

“This decisive action by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs underscores the importance of safeguarding the rights and future of orphaned girls, setting a precedent for prioritizing education and empowerment over early marriage in Nigeria,” the statement said.

Blueprint gathered that the event was cancelled due to the speaker’s  decision not to attend the proposed wedding ceremony for the 100 orphan girls in his constituency.

Sarkindaji made the decision in response to the women affairs minister, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye’s legal action against the speaker to prevent the wedding from taking place.

Reacting, the speaker faulted the stand of the minister over her stand on the decision to sponsor the wedding of 100 girls orphaned by banditry, saying that she is being misled.

The speaker, who spoke to newsmen in his office at the state House of Assembly, Tuesday, said that the minister’s approach of handling the issue was very wrong. 

“I am a typical Hausa man. What is out of order in what I have done, why is this issue being over flogged. I have pledged to take care of orphans and that is what I am doing. If the federal government through the Ministry of Women Affairs wants to extend their helping hands, let them do so, they are welcome.

“Where was the minister when my people were facing insecurity? Let her go to the local government, let her find out who those girls are. They are not under-age. If she wants to help them, she is welcome. She should stop tarnishing my image. I am a public figure and the Speaker of Niger State House of Assembly.

“The approach of the Minister is bad. She should have reached out to me and discussed with me. I would have accepted whatever suggestions she made because I value any help and assistance that would come to my people. I am disappointed with her actions and disheartened by it,” he said.

About Ene Oshaba, Abuja and Aideloje Ojo, Minna

View all posts by Ene Oshaba, Abuja and Aideloje Ojo, Minna →