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As N60m goes into preps for mass wedding, clerics in in Niger State give Minister a week to withdraw comments

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Above: Some of the brides-to-be with a journalist; below: grooms-to-be.

By Yaya Enekele

The Niger state Forum of Imams has given Nigeria’s Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, a week’s ultimatum to withdraw her comments on the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Abdulmalik Sarkindaji, over his intention to sponsor the marriage of 100 young ladies in his constituency.

The clerics position is coming amid calculations that at least N60 million has been raised for the wedding ladies to purchase their home necessities and keep some change to start out in business. A bulk of the money is said to have come from Sarkindaji who has withdrawn his presence from the actual ceremony.

He announced he was going to be absent after a spat with the minister.

In Minna on Wednesday, the secretary of the Imam Forum in the state, Dr. Umar Abdullahi, issued the ultimatum to the Minister, saying that the she overstepped her bounds.

He said the Forum will not take it lightly with Ohanenye as her comments are capable of causing a crisis in the state and the country in general.

Recall that the Speaker of the State House of Assembly had taken the responsibility to sponsor the marriage of the admixture of 100 orphans and indigent ladies from his constituency in Mariga local government area of the state.

However, the Minister dragged the Speaker to court, and called on the Inspector-General of Police to investigate him over the planned wedding, alleging that the girls were being married off against their will.

A few of the girls in an interview with a local media outfit have said they were not being forced into the union.q

But the Forum of Imams told the minister to steer clear from religious and cultural matters and face her ministerial assignment, insisting that no amount of court action will stop the marriage from taking place as planned for 24th of this month.

The forum threatened that the minister will have the entire Islamic clerics in the state and the country to contend with, because the event has has the blessing of the religious and traditional leaders of the state.

“The planned marriage has the blessing of all the religious and traditional leaders from the area. The sponsor of the marriage consulted widely before accepting to take the responsibility and we are strongly behind him.

“The girls are not underaged and they are not being forced into the marriage as the minister has made the public to believe. This is what the minister failed to investigate”.

The forum, therefore, urged all other well to do individuals in the society to emulate the kind gesture of the speaker and render similar assistance to other intending couples in the area.

Meanwhile, individuals and other political office holders from within and outside the state have continued to identify with the marriage as cash and other material donations are said to be pouring in.

One estimate put what has come in so far at about N60 million, with the embattled Speaker said to have spent about N50 million.

A source said he has spent N500,000.00 (half a million Naira) on each of the 100 girls pencilled down for the marriage ceremony.

An unnamed donor is also said to have dished out N100,000 to each of the girls.

A source suggested that with the pecuniary benefits attached to the ceremony, it is unlikely for it not to hold.

“Do you know what this huge sum means to these community folks and the girls in these hard times? It will be wishful thinking to think anybody will attempt to go and stop the events in the villages. Sadly, and unknown to these folks, they are further exposing themselves to the bandits and terrorists that brought them to this junction in the first place,” the source added.

There were also suggestions that many who are weighing in now are also doing so for pecuniary, political, and emotional reasons.

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