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Niger State: Women Affairs Minister Supports Mass Marriage With Donations And Scholarships

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Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, announced scholarships and distributed various gift items to 100 about-to-be-married orphaned girls in Niger State on Thursday.
Minister of Women Affairs/ Speaker Niger State House of Assembly

Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, announced scholarships and distributed various gift items to 100 about-to-be-married orphaned girls in Niger State on Thursday.

The announcement came ahead of a mass wedding scheduled for today (Friday), sponsored by the Speaker of the Niger State House of Assembly, Abdulmalik Sarkindaji.

The mass wedding initially met with resistance from the minister, who cited it as violating the Child Rights Act, sparked a heated controversy.

Kennedy-Ohanenye had previously petitioned the Inspector General of Police to halt the wedding and filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction to prevent the event.

At a press conference in Abuja, she clarified her actions were meant to ensure the girls were of marriageable age and not coerced into marriage.

However, Speaker Sarkindaji criticised the minister for interfering without understanding the cultural and religious context. He emphasised the necessity of the weddings due to the circumstances faced by the orphaned girls.

Sarkindaji received support from the Niger State Council of Imams and the Muslim Rights Concern, who insisted the wedding proceed as planned.

Despite the initial opposition and denial of withdrawing the filed case against the Speaker’s plan,  Kennedy-Ohanenye demonstrated a shift in stance by providing scholarships and various items to the girls.

Represented by her Special Assistant on Private Sector, Adaji Usman, the minister distributed 10 Point of Sale machines, 100 wrappers, and 350 bags of 10kg rice at the palace of the Emir of Kontagora, Mohammed Muazu.

She also announced university scholarships for any girls wishing to pursue higher education. She directed the opening of bank accounts for the brides to ensure a six-month stipend to aid their settlement into married life.

The Emir of Kontagora supported the initiative by donating sewing machines to each girl. He confirmed that all necessary medical tests, including HIV/AIDS, genotype, Hepatitis B, and pregnancy tests, were conducted, and the results were shared with the minister’s representatives.

Kennedy-Ohanenye blamed the media for escalating the controversy, stating,

I did not intend to stop the marriage but to ensure the girls are of marriageable age and not being forced into it.

She expressed gratitude to the Speaker for resolving the issue amicably and promised to monitor the girls’ welfare in their new homes to ensure the empowerment scheme’s success.

Speaker Sarkindaji expressed regret over the politicisation of his initiative, explaining,

It was pure politics from my constituency. They misinformed the minister that I was playing politics with the lives of the children by forcing them into marriage. But thank God today, I have been vindicated. The minister and the world have seen that these girls are of marriageable age, and nobody is forcing them into it.

He reiterated his genuine concern for the orphans, attributing their plight to the region’s insecurity, and commended the minister for her empowerment scheme, recognising her dedication to the welfare of the girl child.

The Emir of Kontagora expressed relief over the peaceful resolution, acknowledging the collective efforts to support the girls.

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