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‘Totally unacceptable’ — minister to sue Niger speaker over plans to ‘marry off’ 100 girls

14th May, 2024.

Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, minister of women affairs, has petitioned the inspector-general of police (IGP) and sought a court injunction to halt the marriage of 100 girls in Niger state. 

Abdulmalik Sarkindaji, speaker of the Niger state house of assembly, announced last week that he would sponsor the wedding of 100 girls, some of whom were orphaned by insurgency, as part of his Maringa constituency project.

He said he had procured materials for the event scheduled for May 24, and promised to pay dowries for the bridegrooms.

Following the outcry that trailed the announcement, the speaker explained that he was only financing the wedding — not forcing the girls into marriage.

However, Kennedy-Ohanenye said the plan is unacceptable, and that the future of the girls should be a priority.

Speaking to journalists in Abuja on Monday, the minister said a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the issue will be carried out.

She said the ministry will take responsibility for the girls’ education and vocational training.

“I want to let the honorable speaker of house in Niger state know that this is totally unacceptable by Federal Minister Of Women Affairs and by the government,” Kennedy-Ohanenye said.

“Because there is something called the Child’s Right Act and I said it from the onset, that is no more business as usual.

“These children must be considered, their future must be considered, the future of the children to come out of their marriage must be considered.

“So I have gone to court. I have written him a letter and written a petition to the IG of police.

“And I have filed for injunction to stop him from whatever he is planning to do on the 24th, until a thorough investigation is carried out on those girls, find out whether they gave their consent, their ages, find out the people marrying them.

“As the speaker did not think about empowering these women or sending them to school or giving them some kind of training support financially.

“The women affairs have decided to take it up and we are going to educate the children.

“Those that do not want to go to school, we will train them in a skill, empower them with sustainable empowerment machines to enable that child build his or her life and make up her mind who and when to get married.

“If for any reason the speaker tries to do contrary to what I have just mentioned, there will be a serious legal battle between him and the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs.”

The minister added that based on the Child Rights Act, every child belongs to the state, hence the rights of every child will be protected from harm and violence.

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