Minister Makes U-Turn, Offers Gifts to 100 Orphaned Girls Ahead of their Mass Wedding

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In a move that has surprised many, the Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, appears to have withdrawn her disapproval for the proposed mass wedding of 100 orphaned girls in Niger state. The Minister announced scholarships and provided various gift items to 100 orphaned girls in Niger State on Thursday. This initiative comes ahead of their mass wedding scheduled for Friday, sponsored by Abdulmalik Sarkindaji, the Speaker of the State House of Assembly.

The minister, who initially opposed the mass wedding, citing violations of the Child Rights Act, addressed a press conference in Abuja, where she revealed her efforts to halt the wedding. “I have petitioned the Inspector General of Police and filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction to stop the wedding,” Kennedy-Ohanenye stated.

Despite her opposition, the wedding garnered support from local religious and cultural bodies. The Speaker, Sarkindaji, criticized the minister for interfering without understanding the cultural and religious context. “The minister acted without first making any effort to understand the circumstances that confronted the girls,” he remarked.

Ahead of the wedding, Kennedy-Ohanenye, represented by her Special Assistant on Private Sector, Adaji Usman, visited Niger to announce the scholarships and distribute items, including wrappers and foodstuffs. The presentation took place at the palace of the Emir of Kontagora, Mohammed Muazu.

See Also: FG, AU Countries to End Child Marriage

The minister, through Usman, presented ten Point of Sale machines, 100 wrappers, and 350 bags of 10kg rice. She also announced scholarships up to university level for any of the girls wishing to pursue education. Additionally, the Emir of Kontagora pledged to donate a sewing machine to each girl.

Kennedy-Ohanenye directed the opening of bank accounts for the girls, where stipends will be deposited for the next six months to help them settle into their new homes. She clarified her position, stating, “I did not intend to stop the marriage but to ensure the girls are of marriageable age and not being forced into it.”

Expressing gratitude for the resolution, the minister thanked the Speaker and promised to monitor the girls’ welfare in their new homes. “Every parent wants to marry out her wards if they attain the right age for marriage. The initial opposition was misunderstood,” she added.

Speaker Sarkindaji expressed regret over the politicization of his intentions. “It was pure politics from my constituency. They misinformed the minister, but today, the world sees that these girls are of marriageable age and not forced into marriage,” he stated. He emphasized that his support stemmed from genuine concern for the orphans, many of whom lost parents to insecurity.

The Emir of Kontagora praised the peaceful resolution and disclosed that necessary medical tests, including HIV/AIDS, genotype, Hepatitis B, and pregnancy tests, were conducted and results were provided to the minister’s representatives.

Source: Punch

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