Abdulmalik Sarkindaji, the Speaker of the Niger State House of Assembly, has announced the suspension of the planned mass wedding of 100 orphan girls in his constituency.

During a media briefing on Tuesday, Sarkindaji criticized the minister’s intervention, and accused her of overstepping her authority.

“The minister has no right to interfere in this matter,” he stated, urging Ohannaya to take over the responsibility for the wedding if she was so concerned.

Sarkindaji revealed that he had already provided funds for the wedding to the girls’ parents through local traditional leaders and clerics of his constituency. He noted that the funds would not be withdrawn despite the halt.

While addressing reasons behind his initial support for the wedding, Sarkindaji clarified that his intentions were driven by the severe poverty faced by the girls’ parents, rather than as part of a constituency project, contrary to media reports.

The Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, had approached the court of law to stop the Speaker of the Niger State House of Assembly, Abdulmalik Sarkin-Daji, from marrying 100 girls.

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The minister had while speaking to journalists in Abuja on Monday, said she has also petitioned the Inspector-General of Police over Sarkin-Daji’s plan. She said a thorough investigation has been launched into the circumstances surrounding the issue slated for May 24.

The Niger lawmaker had disclosed last week that he would sponsor the wedding of 100 girls, some of whom were orphaned by insurgency, as part of his Maringa constituency project.
He said he had acquired materials for the event scheduled for May 24, and promised to pay dowries for the bridegrooms.

Following the criticisms that greeted the announcement, the speaker clarified that he was only funding the wedding — not forcing the girls into marriage.

However, Kennedy-Ohanenye said the plan is unacceptable, and that the future of the girls should be a priority.

She said the ministry will take responsibility for the girls’ education and vocational training.

“I want to let the honorable Speaker of the House in Niger state know that this is totally unacceptable by the Federal Minister of Women Affairs and by the government,” Kennedy-Ohanenye said.

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“Because there is something called the Child’s Right Act and I said it from the onset, 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 of police. And 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, find out the people marrying them.

“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.”

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