Marriage of 100 Girls: Niger Imams Forum Dares Minister, Issues Ultimatum

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The threat of legal action against the Speaker of the Niger State House of Assembly, Abdulmalik Sarkindaji, by the Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy Ohanenye, over his plans to sponsor the marriage of over 100 girls in his constituency in Mariga Local Government Area has continued to generate brouhaha across.

Various Islamic groups on Wednesday gave the minister a seven-day ultimatum to withdraw the suit or face legal action.

The Speaker of the Niger State House of Assembly had decided to sponsor the marriage of about 100 girls who had lost their parents to banditry in his constituency, as well as those whose parents could not afford to foot their marriage expenses.

But the Minister of Women Affairs, suing the speaker, alleged the girls were being married off against their will.

Arising from its meeting today in Minna, the Niger State Imam Forum and other heads of Islamic organisations, in their resolution, described the minister’s action as blackmail and issued a seven-day ultimatum to her to withdraw her statement and the suit on the issue and apologise or face legal action.

The Director General of the Niger State Religious Affairs, Dr Umar Farouk, who gave the ultimatum, insisted that the minister has overstepped her limits and must withdraw her statement of blackmail against the speaker and religious leaders on the matter.

According to him: “The 24th May 2024 date of the wedding remains sacrosanct, as the Imam Forum, in conjunction with the parents of the brides, will go ahead with the ceremony. The Niger State Speaker, Abdulmalik Sarkindaji, has done his part of the donation to ensure the success of the marriage of the 100 orphan women.”

The forum called on President Bola Tinubu to sack the minister from his cabinet for alleged incompetence as well as an attempt to cause religious disharmony in Niger State and Nigeria.

“The minister should also withdraw her statement of blackmail against the speaker, religious leaders and the entire state for saying the women are underage.

“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 the responsibility and we are strongly behind him.

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

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Calling on philanthropists, well-to-do individuals and politicians to emulate Niger State Speaker Abdulmalik Sarkindaji, Farouk added that the girls are between the ages of 18 and 25, including widows, hence, there is no forced marriage, as six procedures were strictly followed for the selection of the beneficiaries.

Similarly, the Niger State Unit Area of the Muslim Student Society of Nigeria, MSSN, urged President Bola Tinubu to immediately suspend the Minister of Women Affairs over her plan to halt the planned 100 weddings of ophan girls in the state.

MSSN Ameer in the state, Mahmud Lawal Murshid, stated this during a press briefing in Minna.

The society condemned the court action against Niger State Speaker Abdulmalik Sarkin-Daji, adding that Islam accorded much respect to the marriage institution while commending the speaker for sponsoring the mass wedding.

Meanwhile, a source close to the community who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Newsman that, so far, about N10 million in cash has been received as donations towards the success of the marriage.

The source said: ”Presently, an individual has donated N100,000 to each of the girls as a way of empowerment for them to start up something after the wedding.”

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