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FG withdraws suit against Niger Speaker as Presidential aide tells Niger Speaker: Marry off your own underaged daughters first

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The Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye has withdrawn a lawsuit against the Speaker of the Niger State House of Assembly, Abdulmalik Sarkindaji over his controversial decision to marry off 100 orphans and indigent girls from his constituency.

The new move comes nearly a day after the minister announced she had a court injunction stopping the marriage.

A statement from her office said the Ministry of Women Affairs,  the Niger State Assembly Speaker, and local traditional rulers, are currently investigating the ages of the girls to ensure they meet the legal age for marriage.

The Minister said that the ministry’s current focus is on empowering girls and supporting those affected by insecurity in the state.

On Thursday, President Bola Tinubu’s Senior Special Assistant on Community Engagement (North Central), Ms. Abiodun Essiet, took on the Speaker of Niger State House of Assembly, Barr. Abdulmalik Sarkindaji, for funding the planned marriage of underaged teenage girls while keeping his own daughters in expensive private schools in Minna, the state capital.

Everday.ng reports that there has been a controversy since Speaker Sarkindaji, a lawyer, announced last week that he was sponsoring the marriage of 100 orphans and indigent girls as part of his constituency project.


Tinubu’s aide spoke, like the Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, as prominent women leaders of Northern extraction continue to remain silent on the plight of the orphans and indigent girls.

In Niger State, the voice of the wife of the governor, the Commissioner for Women Affairs, and the retinue of female aides to the governor have remained shut, it was gathered, out of fear of Islamic clerics,  traditional rulers, and a “system that believes that women should not be seen or heard”, as one source put it.

He added: “Are you not surprised that the state chief executive officer, who sees his state being dragged in the mud has been quiet? It is a mark of the fear, ego, politics, and cowardice that runs deep in the state. We play a lot of politics here and some so-called opinion leaders, for a pot of porridge, will gladly issue statements and talk utter rubbish.”

Meanwhile, Tinubu’s aide, Ms. Essiet insisted that some of the 100 orphan and indigent girls being married off are minors that dropped out of school in JSS 3 and SS 1 respectively.

She said on X (formerly Twitter): “My attention has been drawn to the media interview of the speaker of the Niger state house of Assembly, Barr. Abdulmalik Sarkindaji, concerning the marriage plans of 100 orphan girls I have been in touch with the speaker, the local government chairman, some of the girls, the Governor of the state, and other traditional and religious stakeholders on this issue.

“I offered to empower these girls and also capture them in federal government programs which was communicated to the speaker and the local government chairman. The speaker through his media interviews has successfully instigated traditional and religious leaders against the federal government’s position on underaged marriage in our Child Rights Act 2003.

“The President, on Monday, launched a campaign to promote inclusive education, skill development, and gender equity. The campaign tagged, #WeAreEqual, is an initiative of the Organization of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD). The campaign has been launched in 15 African countries in different iterations, focusing on health, education, economic empowerment, and gender-based violence.

“The Niger State Imam Forum has vowed to go ahead with the marriage plan on grounds that it did not contravene any sections of the Nigerian constitution and teachings of Islam. My team have been to Bobi, Shadadi and Banji communities in Mariga local government Niger state where the orphans live and we discovered that some of the orphans are under aged and dropped out of school at JSS 3 and SS 1.

“The speaker in his interview stated that his children are in the best private schools in Minna while he wants to marry of underaged orphans of the poor people. My advice to the speaker is to marry off his underaged girls before conducting the mass marriage of underaged orphans.

“I am not against conducting marriage for orphans above 18 years of age if they give their consent to the marriage but I am against underaged marriage. Let children be children. When senior state officials hide under the cloak of religion or culture to embark on policies and programs that exploit the economically handicapped, increase poverty, and deepen ignorance, they are only fueling the prevailing inequality and weaponizing poverty in our country. I stand against child marriage.”


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