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NIGER: Minister makes U-turn over mass wedding

Uju Kennedy Ohanenye

THE Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, announced scholarships and gifted various items to 100 orphaned girls in Niger State, prior to their collective wedding event scheduled for today (Friday).

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

The minister had kicked against the mass wedding of the young girls, saying it was a violation of the Child Rights Act.

She took action by petitioning the Inspector General of Police to halt the wedding and filing a lawsuit to prevent the Speaker from proceeding with the event.

In response, the Speaker criticized the minister for intervening in a matter of religious and cultural significance that she lacked understanding of.

He added that the minister acted without grasping the girls’ circumstances which necessitated the sponsored weddings.

Supported by the Niger State Council of Imams and the Muslim Rights Concern, the Speaker stood firm on the scheduled mass wedding, cautioning the minister against further involvement.

Preceding the wedding, the minister, represented by her Special Assistant on Private Sector, Adaji Usman, visited Niger to announce scholarships and distribute items including wrappers and food supplies to the 100 girls at the Emir of Kontagora’s palace, Mohammed Muazu.

The minister, through Usman, provided Point of Sale machines, wrappers, rice, and announced university-level scholarships for interested girls.

The Emir of Kontagora also donated sewing machines to each girl.

Additionally, the minister directed the opening of bank accounts for all the brides-to-be, with monthly stipends for six months to support their settlement into their marital homes.

Attributing the initial controversy to media sensationalism, the minister clarified that her aim was not to halt the marriages but to ensure the girls’ well-being and consent in the process.

Expressing gratitude to the Speaker for his handling of the issue, the minister assured ongoing monitoring of the girls in their new homes to uphold the goals of the empowerment initiative.

In his response, the Speaker lamented the politicization of his support for the girls’ marriages, emphasizing his genuine concern for these young women, many of whom are orphans due to insecurity in his constituency.

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