New Telegraph

Niger’s 100 Orphan-Brides

Condemnation will continue to trail the planned wedding of 100 young women to poor suitors by the Speaker of the Niger State House of Assembly, Abdul- malik Sarkindaji. Initially billed for May 24, the ceremony was put off following a public outcry.

Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, took it to a higher dimension when she reported the Speaker to the Inspector General of Police (IGP).

The minister got a court injunction as well and called a press conference to alert the world. Sarkindaji announced the wedding plans just as people were waiting for his Mar- inga Constituency projects. Although he has since clarified that it was not part of his official responsibility, tongues are wagging. Many believe his personal efforts could be channelled to other more meaningful ventures.

More nauseating is Sar- kindaji’s defence that his plans were discussed with religious leaders, traditional rulers and parents of the brides to be. He wooed everyone with his ability to support the grooms with the bride price and other expenses.

It is disturbing that in a state highly troubled by bandits, what occupies the Speaker’s mind at this time is how to send women into marriage as a way of empowering jobless suitors.

This is nothing but a mockery of democracy. While Niger State burns, the man who is saddled with the responsibility of supporting and checking the executive arm of government has chosen the census of single girls as a huge responsibility.

And he clearly has no apologies about it. Sarkindaji boldly announced that he chose 100 out of 270 eligible spinsters after consultations with stakeholders.

In this case, those stakeholders did not consider the future of their daugh- ters beyond marriage and producing more children. Kennedy Ohanenye intervention has brought out the Emir of Kontagora, Mohammed Muazu. This could lead to something more meaningful than marrying off the young women into an uncertain future in a troubled country.

This is not the time to hide under the cover of religion or culture to stunt the development of potential contributors to the growth of state and nation.

Niger is the home of General Abdulsalami Abubakar, whose wife, Fati, rose to the position of a Chief Judge of the state. Their daughter, Amina, is an award winning gynaecologist who has gone round the world to attract attention to the plight of women in the state.

Niger State Governor, Mohammed Bago, must sit down with the Speaker and school him on the importance of girl-child education

She is the immediate past First Lady. We wonder what would be going on in her mind. Instead of improving the lot of these girls through education, Sarkindaji’s idea of empowerment is marriage to men who do not even have the means to pay their bride price. In the absence of jobs, when the children start coming, the parents will have nothing but poverty to spread across their homes.

If Justice Fati Abubakar did not attend Federal Government College Ilorin from where she gained admission to study law at the University of Ibadan, she most likely would have ended up just like any other woman. Education took her to high heights. Niger State Governor, Mohammed Bago, must sit down with the Speaker and school him on the importance of girl-child education.

Women are not toys that are only good for the production of children. They can be trained to be judges and doc- tors, as shown by the Abubakar family. Local government areas in Niger, especially Wushishi, Shiroro, Zungeru, Munya and Rafi, have been besieged for long, by bandits. Insecurity should take precedence over conjugal affairs.

There is more work to do in and out of the hallowed chambers of the state House of Assembly. The question now is not about the age bracket of the orphans. We believe that Sarkindaji contradicted himself when, in defence, he said some of the girls’ parents endorsed the planned wedding.

It appears that some parents are more interested in the bride price. Perhaps, the Speaker could turn those virile young men into a strong local security outfit, well equipped to confront bandits and drive them far away from Kwaki, Ku- duru, Garam Azhu, Chukuba and beyond Akere, Pakara to Zumba.

The Child Rights Act is not silent on marrying out girls against their will. That money budgeted as bride price should be used to buy weapons for the young men to fight all the Dogo Gide groomed bandits in the state.

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