Minister of Women Affairs Challenges Proposed Mass Wedding in Niger State

In a bold move to safeguard the rights of young girls, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, Nigeria’s Minister of Women Affairs, has filed a petition against Abdulmalik Sarkindaji, the Speaker of the Niger State House of Assembly, over his proposed mass wedding for 100 girls in the state.

The minister’s action comes in response to Sarkindaji’s announcement of his plan to sponsor the wedding of 100 girls, some orphaned by insurgency, as part of his constituency project in Maringa. While the Speaker has offered to provide materials and cover the dowries for the brides, the event has sparked controversy and public outcry.

Kennedy-Ohanenye, addressing the press in Abuja, expressed her ministry’s commitment to the education and vocational training of the affected girls, emphasizing that their futures should not be compromised. She has lodged a formal petition with the Inspector-General of Police and sought a court injunction to prevent the marriage until a thorough investigation can ascertain the girls’ consent, ages, and the identities of their prospective spouses.

The minister criticized the lack of empowerment initiatives for the girls and stressed the importance of providing educational and skill-based opportunities rather than rushing into marriage. “The actions proposed by the Speaker are utterly unacceptable to the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and the government at large. We are duty-bound to uphold the Child’s Right Act and ensure the welfare and future prospects of these girls,” Kennedy-Ohanenye stated.

In a counter-statement, Sarkindaji defended his decision, claiming that his involvement was solely financial and not coercive. He also clarified that the minister’s approach was wrong and that she was being misled.

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The legal battle looms as the minister reaffirms the government’s commitment to safeguarding the rights of every child, as enshrined in the Child Rights Act. The outcome of this confrontation could set a precedent for the protection of vulnerable groups and the role of government officials in personal matters.

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