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MURIC, Speaker berate Minister Ohanenye over attempt to stop Niger mass weddings



MURIC, Speaker berate Minister Ohanenye over attempt to stop Niger mass weddings

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), and the Speaker of the Niger State House of Assembly, Abdulmalik Sarkindaji, have cautioned, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, to drop her lawsuit and petition challenging the planned mass weddings of 100 girls in Niger State.

The mass weddings being sponsored by Sarkindaji, are scheduled for May 24.

According to Sarkindaji, he took it upon himself to sponsor the weddings of the 100 girls, because they had attained the marriage age but were either orphans or their parents were too poor to fund their weddings.

But the minister, at a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday, kicked against the planned mass weddings, saying it was against the provisions of the Child Rights Act.

Kennedy-Ohanenye disclosed that she had petitioned the Inspector-General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, to stop the weddings, adding that she had also filed a suit, seeking a restraining injunction against the Niger Speaker.

“The actions proposed by the Speaker are utterly unacceptable to the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and the government at large. We are duty-bound to uphold the Child’s Rights Act and ensure the welfare and future prospects of these girls,” Kennedy-Ohanenye declared at the press conference.

In response, the Niger Speaker lambasted the minister, saying she was dabbling into an issue she lacked knowledge of, nothing that the proposed weddings were rooted in culture and religion.

Also, on Wednesday, the Niger State Council of Imams backed the Speaker and warned the minister to steer clear of the matter, giving her a one-week ultimatum to withdraw her comments.

Wading in on Thursday, MURIC similarly tackled the minister, warning her to steer clear of the matter.

In a statement on Thursday, the Chairman of the Kano State chapter of MURIC, Mallam Hassan Indabawa, said “We found as weird the harsh and hasty decision taken by the Honorable Minister of Women affairs over a matter that is entirely beyond the scope of her ministry.

“The minister’s attempt at media demonisation of marrying off of 100 poor and orphaned girls, who were largely traumatised after losing both parents to brutal and bloody banditry and insurgency, exposed her ignorance to the culture and traditions of the Muslim North; and has further as well, demonstrated her lack of empathy, compassion and respect for other people’s culture and tradition.

“This elaborate media blitz, over the matter, MURIC observed, was deliberately done to sway public opinion against the marriage institution, and an attempt to vilify Sarkindaji, after demonstrating his genuine concern for the needs of members of his constituency.”

MURIC said the minister’s action “is another one of her several gaffes, depicting a lack of administrative and leadership skills.”

“Some simple steps should have been taken before exploding the issue on social media. First was to call the Speaker, and initiate a courtesy visit to meet with the Speaker and perhaps some religious and traditional leaders from the state to share ideas and understand their cultural and traditional peculiarity, which the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria not only recognised but has guaranteed.

“The minister did none of this, but instead, came down heavily on the Speaker with threats of fire and brimstone, failing to recognise the social and political status of the office of a state Assembly Speaker. A minister does not have to behave like the head of an NGO; government ministries do not rush to court at the first instance!

“We, at MURIC, therefore, categorically and unequivocally call on minister Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye to immediately withdraw the purported legal case she has filed and equally withdraw the petition she had written to the I-G of Police to avoid imminent embarrassment because, in this matter, no law has been breached and no coercion was ever to be established.”

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