Women affairs Threatens lawsuit against Niger Speaker over plan to marry off 100 orphans

Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, has petitioned the Inspector General of Police and sought for a court injunction to stop Speaker of the Niger State Assembly, Abdulmalik Sarkindaji, from marrying off 100 orphaned girls.

Recall that the speaker recently announced his plans to marry off the orphaned girls, who lost their parents due to banditry attacks in the Mariga Local Government area as part of his constituency project on May 24.

He announced that the gesture was “aimed at alleviating the suffering of the impoverished,” pledging to pay the bride price for the bridegrooms and already procured materials for the mass marriage.

Mrs Kennedy-Ohanenye, while briefing journalists in Abuja described the plans as “unacceptable,” emphasising that a full-scale investigation had commenced on the issue.

She said, “I want to let the honourable speaker of the Niger State House of Assembly know that this is totally unacceptable by the Federal Minister of Women Affairs and by the government. This is because there is something called the Child’s Right Act and I said it from the outset that it is no more business as usual. These children and their future must be considered. The future of the children to come out of their marriages must be considered.

“I have gone to court. I have written him a letter and written a petition to the IG of police. 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 and find out the people marrying them.’’

The minister, while emphasising on the need to ensure girl-child education and empowerment, said “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 Ministry of Women Affairs has 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 to build his or her life and make-up her minds about 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.

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

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