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Minister supports Niger mass wedding, awards scholarships and gifts

Minister supports Niger mass wedding, sends gift donations

Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, the Minister of Women Affairs, on Thursday announced scholarships and distributed various gifts to 100 orphaned girls in Niger State, in preparation for their mass wedding scheduled for today (Friday). This event is being sponsored by Abdulmalik Sarkindaji, the Speaker of the Niger State House of Assembly.

Previously, the minister opposed the mass wedding, arguing that it violated the Child Rights Act. During a press conference in Abuja, she revealed that she had petitioned the Inspector General of Police to stop the wedding and had filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction to prevent the Speaker from moving forward with the event.

In response, Speaker Sarkindaji criticized the minister for intervening in what he described as a religious and cultural matter without fully understanding the context. He argued that the minister did not grasp the circumstances that necessitated the sponsorship of the weddings. Sarkindaji received support from the Niger State Council of Imams and the Muslim Rights Concern, both of which insisted that the mass wedding should proceed as planned.

Represented by her Special Assistant on Private Sector, Adaji Usman, Kennedy-Ohanenye visited Niger State to announce scholarships for the girls and distribute items such as wrappers and foodstuffs. The distribution was carried out at the Emir of Kontagora’s palace, Mohammed Muazu. The distributed items include 10 Point of Sale machines, 350 bags of 10kg rice and 100 wrappers. She also announced that any of the girls wishing to pursue higher education would receive a scholarship up to the university level.

Additionally, the Emir of Kontagora made a donation of a sewing machine per girl. Kennedy-Ohanenye directed that bank accounts be opened for all 100 brides, where stipends would be deposited for the next six months to help them settle into their married lives. She clarified that her initial opposition was not to stop the marriage but to ensure the girls were of marriageable age and were not being coerced.

She criticized the media for escalating the controversy, stating that her intention was to ensure the girls were of appropriate age and willing participants. She thanked the Speaker for addressing the issue effectively and assured that the girls would be closely monitored to ensure the empowerment scheme’s objectives are met.

The Speaker lamented that his intentions were politicized and misinterpreted. He expressed relief that the minister and the public now understood that the girls were of marriageable age and consented to the marriage. 

Sarkindaji emphasized that his support for the weddings stemmed from a genuine concern for the orphaned girls, many of whom lost their parents due to insecurity in the region. He also praised the minister for her empowerment initiatives, recognizing her commitment to the welfare of the girl child in Nigeria.

In his remarks, the Emir of Kontagora expressed gratitude for the peaceful resolution of the issue. He confirmed that all necessary medical tests, including HIV/AIDS, genotype, Hepatitis B, and pregnancy tests, had been conducted, with the results handed over to the minister’s representatives.

This Article is Fact-Checked. See Policy.

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