Mass wedding for Nigeria orphans sparks outcry


NIGERIA – The reported planned mass wedding of about 100 alleged orphans has sparked widespread outrage across Nigeria.

The alleged orphans, some of whom were feared to be underage girls, were reportedly set to be married off on May 24 in the north-western state of Niger.

A report by the BBC shows that they had all lost parents to attacks by armed bandits, who regularly targeted civilians across the state.

Nigeria’s Women’s Affairs Minister, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, said she had filed a court order to stop the ceremony.

According to reports, the mass wedding was supported by the Speaker of the Niger State Assembly, Abdulmalik Sarkin-Daji, who said local religious leaders had approached him for help funding it.

The Imams Forum of Niger had reportedly said that the marriage ceremony should go ahead, insisting that the girls were not below 18 – the legal age of marriage.

Read more: Prince Harry and Meghan arrive Nigeria to visit wounded soldiers, local charities

However, critics had expressed concern that some girls may be younger than 18, or being forced to comply for financial gain.

Minister Kennedy-Ohanenye said the girls “deserve better” and that her department was looking into who the 100 girls were, their ages and whether they consented to the marriage.

Her department will offer the girls education and training, she said, adding that if the Niger State speaker attempts to block these efforts “there will be a serious legal battle between him and the Ministry of Women Affairs”.

On Friday, senior presidential aide Abiodun Essiet reiterated Kennedy-Ohanenye’s plan of action.

Essiet added: “My appeal to all stakeholders is to stop embarking on policies and programmes that exploit economically handicapped vulnerable people, increase and recycle poverty, and deepen ignorance.”

Human rights activists in Nigeria had launched a petition to stop the plan.

As of Friday evening, it had 10,500 signatures.

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