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Why I offered to sponsor weddings of 100 girls in my constituency – Niger Speaker explains as he withdraws | Read More 

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Why I offered to sponsor weddings of 100 girls in my constituency – Niger Speaker explains as he withdraws | Read More 

Following public outcry, the speaker of the Niger state House of Assembly, Abdulmalik Sarkindaji, has withdrawn his offer to sponsor the marriage of 100 orphaned girls in his constituency.

 

Sarkindaji had announced his intention to sponsor the wedding of 100 orphan girls who lost their parents in banditry attacks in Mariga LGA of the state as part of his constituency projects.

The development elicited reactions from the public, with many asking why the girls were not enrolled in school instead.

 

Reacting in a statement by Shamsudeen Binaira, his senior special assistant on communication, Sarkindaji had said;

“Majority of these girls are orphans who have lost their parents, including children of our gallant vigilantes who lost their lives to bandits and nobody to finance their wedding despite attaining marriage age with someone ready to marry them,” the statement reads.

“These girls are not being married out against their will or that their husbands are being forced on them, they have suitors of their choice but only that the parents and relatives do not have the means to marry them out.

 

“According to the tradition of Hausa, you cannot marry out a girl without accompanying her with some essential needs to make her comfortable in her husband’s house like room furniture, such as bed, mattress, kitchen utensils among others.

“That is what these girls are lacking and that is the responsibility the speaker agrees to shoulder and relieve the parents of such burden.

“Their parents have been postponing the marriage for lack of resources and the speaker decided to take over.”

Announcing his withdrawal of sponsoring Tuesday, Sarkindaji told news en that he was pulling out of the arrangement following the opposition by the Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, who had gone to court to seek an injunction to restrain him from going ahead to sponsor the mass weddings.

The Speaker fumed that the minister was dabbling into an issue that she had no knowledge about, insisting that his gesture was humanitarian and not a violation of the Child Rights Act, as claimed by the minister.

He explained that the girls had attained the marriage age but they could not marry because they were either orphans or their parents were too poor to sponsor the weddings.

 

He said about 270 girls approached him to sponsor their weddings but he only selected 100 that he had the capacity to assist.

In his words;

“I am highly disappointed in the Minister of Women Affairs and it is unfortunate that she allowed herself and her office to be misled by social media reports without finding out from me the true situation on the ground concerning this marriage.

“She never bothered to get across to me to even find out the motive behind this humanitarian gesture because I didn’t force any girl into marriage, it was the parents of the girls that approached me and solicited my support and I gladly accepted to assist them.

“Again, this was done after due consultations with religious leaders, traditional leaders and other critical stakeholders before the brides were carefully selected. They were 270, but I told them that I could only provide support for 100 of the intending brides for now.

“So, for the Minister of Women Affairs to be threatening me with court action on an issue that she knows nothing about and never bothered to find out the true situation of things is quite unfortunate. My action has the blessing of the parents, religious and traditional leaders and key stakeholders from my constituency.

 

“Both my religion and tradition do not allow girls of marriageable age to roam around the streets. We don’t allow prostitution or promiscuity in the North. This thing is being done with good intentions but some people decided to make an issue out of it,”.

 

“It is disheartening to hear the Minister for Women Affairs, who has never visited any Internally Displaced People’s camps as a result of bandits activities in Niger State to see the plight of women and children but only sitting in Abuja and be threatening to stop marriage of orphans.

“This is politics taken too far, but if the parents of the girls allow the minister to stop the marriage of their children so be it. For now, I am withdrawing my support and I will not participate in it again.

“I will leave the minister with the parents of these girls. Let the minister go to Mariga and stop the parents from marrying out their girls.

“Let the minister come to Niger State and address the plight of those children. I am going to make it open, I am withdrawing because helping them is becoming a crime. The Minister of Women Affairs will take over from where I stopped. Let her come and take over from where I stopped; let the ministry come and advocate to them, let her come and tell them that your children are going to be abused by getting married. I don’t have problem with that,” he said.

The women affairs minister had at a press conference in Abuja condemned the planned mass wedding, announcing that she had petitioned the Inspector General of Police to stop it and had also filed a suit to seek an injunction to restrain the Niger Speaker from going ahead with the planned mass wedding.

“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 Rights Act and ensure the welfare and future prospects of these girls,” Kennedy-Ohanenye declared.

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