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Niger mass wedding: Ulama, Muslim lawyers condemn women minister

The Ulama Forum in Nigeria, an umbrella body for Islamic clerics, and the Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria (MULAN), have tackled the Minister of Women…

The Ulama Forum in Nigeria, an umbrella body for Islamic clerics, and the Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria (MULAN), have tackled the Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, for going to court to challenge a planned mass wedding for orphaned girls in Niger State. 

The two groups said they were solidly behind the Speaker of the Niger State House of Assembly, Abdulmalik Sarkin-Daji, who announced plans to conduct a mass wedding for the girls, whose parents were killed by bandits in the state.

The Ulama Forum, in a statement jointly signed by the Convener, Aminu Inuwa Muhammad and Secretary, Engineer Bashir Adamu Aliyu, on Friday, in Kano, said it fully supports the wedding of victims of banditry and kidnapping in Niger State.

The forum accused the women minister of exploiting media attention with “her Islamaphobic diatribe” that the marriage should be stopped, thereby “exhibiting her hatred for Sharia law”.

The forum described the action of the minister as selective, amateurish and tribalistic, saying the 1999 Constitution guarantees religious freedom and recognizes the provisions of the Sharia that approved the marriage of the prospective brides.

 The statement said as a lawyer, the women minister should know that the Child Rights Act does not apply beyond the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The forum then advised the administration of President Bola Tinubu to be wary of “such public officers and institutions that will set it against the people.”

Similarly, MULAN has vowed to engage the minister in a fierce legal battle over her insistence on stopping the mass wedding of 100 orphans.

In a statement signed by its President, Barrister Saeed Muhammad Tudun-Wada, MULAN said the planned wedding was in line with the principles and tenets of Islamic and Nigerian laws and faulted the minister for her ignorance.

“We understand that the proposed mass wedding scheduled for May 24, 2024, has been subjected to a needless controversy arising from the recent intrusion of the minister,” MULAN said.

“Incidentally, we understand that Mrs Ohanenye has instituted legal action to stop the noble course and further petitioned the Inspector General of Police, IGP Kayode Egbetokum, against the move of Niger State Speaker Rt. Hon. Abdulmalik Sarkin-Daji to sponsor the marriage of 100 girls.

“In the light of this, the Muslim lawyers have resolved to meet the minister at the court of competent jurisdiction. Already, we have assembled not less than five Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) and 27 other members of the association to join in challenging the minister.

“MULAN regretted that the minister had decided to venture into a matter she lacked the right and competence to delve into. By so doing, she has overstretched her limit by interfering with the private and personal interests of the Niger girls. We are prepared to join issues with her.

“For the purpose of emphasis, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is generous enough to allow every Nigerian to conduct marriage with whomever he or she so wishes, so long such an act did not violate any provision of the constitution.

“MULAN is fully behind the proposed mass wedding and the genuine interest of the Speaker to ease the burden of the marriage is well in line with Islamic principles.”

Why I filed lawsuit against Speaker – Kennedy-Ohanenye

The women affairs minister said yesterday that her legal action against the Speaker Sarkindaji was in light of his intention to marry off 100 orphans from his constituency.

Speaking on Channels TV’s Politics Today, the minister said: “When I’m doing my work, I focus on the constitution. What I stood for was the fundamental human rights of the children. I want an investigation carried out. Religion is not part of the work I am doing.”

She said she had partnered with the speaker and other stakeholders to empower the girls instead of marrying them off.

“When I met with the speaker recently, he said to me that he never thought about it in the manner I was thinking about it, that he thought he was helping.

“But now that I have brought this up, we have partnered together to look into how we empower these children, take them to school, open businesses for them and make their lives better. He said he will partner with me,” she said.

Daily Trust reports that there were stories yesterday indicating that the minister had withdrawn the case.

But during the Channel’s TV interview, she said, “I am not withdrawing the matter in court yet because we have all agreed to partner together by empowering the children and resolving it amicably.

“We will then take what we have resolved to the court to withdraw the matter.”


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