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Niger state speaker cancels sponsorship of 100 girls’ wedding after criticism

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Niger state speaker cancels sponsorship of 100 girls wedding after criticism

Abdulmalik Sarkindaji, the speaker of the Niger state house of assembly, has decided to withdraw his support for the planned marriages of 100 orphaned girls in Mariga.

Initially, Sarkindaji had intended to finance the wedding ceremony for the girls on May 24 as part of his constituency duties.

However, the announcement stirred up debates on social media, with many suggesting that the funds could have been better utilized in providing educational opportunities for the girls.

Following the public outcry, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, the minister of women affairs, urged the speaker to reconsider his plans or face legal consequences.

Kennedy-Ohanenye revealed that she had taken steps to involve the inspector-general of police (IGP) and procure a court order to prevent the event from proceeding.

Addressing journalists on Tuesday, Sarkindaji said he would no longer host the event.

He added that the parents of the orphaned girls should do whatever they will with the resources he has provided.

Reacting to Kennedy-Ohanenye’s threat, he said the minister did not make any findings before allowing herself to be “misled by social media reports”. He added that he was disappointed in her.

The speaker said Kennedy-Ohanenye should have reached out to him directly instead of “making a topic out of it and tarnishing my image”.

He said he was approached by traditional institutions and religious leaders in his state to help the less privileged who had suitors but could not foot their wedding bills.

“So instead of allowing our children fall into fornication because they cannot meet with marriage expenses to suitors of their own choices, why can’t I come in to support?” Sarkindaji asked.

“I gave my gracious support through these traditional rulers, I don’t even know these parents, I don’t know these children, I don’t know their suitors.

“They would have gotten married without anyone knowing but because of the kind gesture I extended to them, they felt that I should be invited and they said they want me there to bless these marriages.”

Sarkindaji said he has the interest of orphans at heart, which is why he is called “the father of orphans”.

He asked where the minister was when he paid the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) fees of over 200 students, and paid the tuition of another 273 in basic and secondary institutions.

READ ALSO: Minister condemns proposed marriage of 100 orphaned girls in Niger State

“When has it become a crime to support helpless parents? I don’t want to be in any faceoff with the minister of women affairs,” he said.

“So, what is out of the ordinary in this issue that it has been over-bloated in the manner the ministry of women affairs has?

“Let her come to the local government and address them. If she wants to help them, I’d be the happiest person.

“Where do I start educating a woman of 24 years as I was told? If you are faced with two wrongs, it is better to go with the softer one.

“So if the federal government, or the minister to be specific wants to be of help, this approach is a bad approach for her.

“I am an open person. If she called me, I will appreciate her and will be submissive to whatever idea she contributes.

“How can the minister condescend so low to build an issue out of what she has seen on social media? I am disappointed with her action and as such, I am making it known now that that support I intended to give, I am withdrawing it.

“And I am going to call on those traditional and religious leaders and the parents and make it known to them that I wanted to help but helping you is becoming a crime.

“The minister of women affairs will take over from where I stopped. So let the ministry come and take over from where I stopped, let her come and advocate that their children are going to be abused by getting married.

“If she wants my support, of course I will support but for us to put this matter to an end, if that support that I intended to give is an issue for the minister, I have already advanced them the support and I am not going to claim it back.

“For the marriage of those orphans, I have withdrawn, the parents can have the support. If they wish, let them go ahead and marry them out or use it for whatever purpose they want to.

“I have done it in good faith, and I will continue to do it.”

Sarkindaji said he is a lawyer and is waiting for the minister to follow through with her legal threat.

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