Minister Files Suit, Petitions Police Against Plan To Marry Off 100 Orphans

Uju Kennedy Ohanenye

The Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, has begun moves to stop the plan by the Speaker of the Niger State House of Assembly, Abdulmalik Sarkindaji, to marry off 100 orphaned girls in the state.

She said on Monday that she had reported the case to the police by petitioning the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kayode Egbetokun, and sought a court injunction to stop the plan pending the completion of investigations.

Mr Sarkindaji announced his plan to marry off the orphaned girls, who lost their parents due to banditry attacks in Mariga Local Government Area.

The official, who slated the mass wedding to take place on 24 May, said the plan was part of his constituency projects.

He said the gesture was “aimed at alleviating the suffering of the impoverished,” pledging to pay the dowries for the bridegrooms and have procured materials for the mass marriage.

Full scale investigation

But the women affairs minister, Ms Kennedy-Ohanenye, while briefing journalists in Abuja, described the plans as “unacceptable” emphasising that a full-scale investigation has commenced on the issue.

“I want to let the honorable Speaker of the House of Assembly in Niger State to know that this is totally unacceptable by the Federal Minister of Women Affairs and by the government. Totally unacceptable!

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“Because there is something called the Child’s Right Act and I said it from the outset, 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 (Inspector General) of Police.

”And I have filed for injunction to stop him from whatever he is planning to do on the 24th (May), 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,” she said.

Girl child education
The minister also emphasised the need to ensure girl-child education.

“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,” she said.

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The minister further emphasised within the Child Rights Act, every child belongs to the state, hence the rights of every child will be protected from harm, violence or anything that will infringe on their rights.

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