News, Reports

Mass Wedding For Nigerian Orphans Provokes Outrage

Nmesoma Okwudili


May 28, 2024

The estimated 100 orphans in Nigeria are set to be married in a large-scale ceremony on May 24 in the northwest state of Niger, sparking outrage. The wedding involves orphans, some of whom are believed to be young girls. Armed bandits, who frequently attack families in the area, killed the parents of these children. Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, Nigeria’s Minister of Women’s Affairs, has stated that she has obtained a court injunction to halt the event.

According to reports, Abdulmalik Sarkin-Daji, the Speaker of the Niger State Assembly, expressed support for the mass wedding. He stated that religious authorities in the area had requested his assistance in financing the ceremony.

The Imams Forum of Niger has advocated for the mass wedding to proceed, asserting that none of the girls involved are below the legal marriage age of 18. However, critics have voiced concerns that some of the girls may indeed be underage or are being coerced into the marriages for financial reasons.

Minister Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye has stated that these girls “deserve better” and emphasized that her department is investigating the identities, ages, and consent of the 100 girls involved. She promised that her department would offer the girls education and training opportunities. Additionally, she warned that if the Speaker of the Niger State Assembly, Abdulmalik Sarkin-Daji, tries to obstruct these efforts, “there will be a serious legal battle between him and the Ministry of Women Affairs.”

Abiodun Essiet, a senior presidential assistant, reaffirmed Minister Kennedy-Ohanenye’s dedication to this strategy on Friday. Essiet urged all parties involved to refrain from enacting laws and initiatives that silence the voiceless, perpetuate poverty, and exacerbate illiteracy.

Human rights advocates in Nigeria launched a petition on Friday night with 10,500 signatures, calling for the cancellation of the scheduled mass wedding. In Nigeria, 1.6% of boys and 30% of girls get married before turning 18, with 12% of girls getting married before turning 15. This information comes from the global campaign group Girls Not Brides.

The country’s northern areas have the highest rate of child marriages, especially among rural, underprivileged households. These unions are often perceived as means to enhance social and political connections or alleviate financial burdens on families. The predominantly Muslim region of northern Nigeria showcases cultural and religious traditions that promote child marriage, including polygamy.

Campaigners contend that these actions not only infringe upon the rights of young girls but also perpetuate poverty cycles and hinder their ability to pursue further education and personal growth. The petition seeks to raise awareness of the problem on a national and international level, urging the government to uphold legislation protecting minors from child marriage and to allocate funding for initiatives that educate and empower young girls.

The activists also emphasize the importance of cultural change and the necessity for community leaders to advocate for the rights of children. They call on the government and civil society to collaborate in creating sustainable solutions that respect cultural contexts while prioritizing the welfare and future of young girls.


Mass wedding plans for Nigerian orphans spark outrage

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