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Proposed wedding of 100 girls in Niger is against Child Rights Act -Minister

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

It will be recalled that the Speaker recently announced his plans to marry off the orphaned girls, who lost their parents due to banditry attacks in Mariga Local Government Area, as part of his constituency project. The mass wedding is scheduled to take place on May 24.

Sarkindaji announced that the gesture is “aimed at alleviating the suffering of the impoverished”, pledging to pay the dowries for the bridegrooms, adding that he had procured materials for the mass wedding.

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

“I want to let the honorable Speaker of House in Niger State know that this is totally unacceptable by Federal Minister of Women Affairs and by the government. Totally unacceptable.

“Because there is something called the Child’s Right Act and I said it from the onset, that it is no more business as usual.

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“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,” she said.

The minister, while emphasising 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 that will ultimately empower them financially, the Women Affairs Ministry 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 build her life and make-up her mind about when to get married and to whom.

“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.

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The minister further said that, within the Child Rights Act, every child belongs to the state, hence the rights of every child will be protected from harm, violence or anything that will infringe on their rights.(NAN)

Justina Auta
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