Ulama forum, MULAN tackle Women Affairs Minister over mass wedding in Niger

By Innocent Raphael

The Ulama Forum, a prominent body of Islamic clerics, and the Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria (MULAN) have tackled the Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, over her legal challenge against the proposed mass wedding for orphaned girls in Niger State.

It would be recalled that Abdulmalik Sarkin-Daji, the Speaker of the Niger State House of Assembly, announced the mass wedding, saying that it was to marry off girls orphaned by bandit attacks.

The Ulama Forum, in a statement signed by Convener Aminu Inuwa Muhammad and Secretary Engineer Bashir Adamu Aliyu, declared its strong support for the initiative announced by Abdulmalik Sarkin-Daji, the Speaker of the Niger State House of Assembly.

Accusing the minister of seeking media attention through “Islamaphobic” comments, the Ulama Forum emphasized that the Nigerian Constitution guarantees religious freedom, including the provisions of Sharia law that sanction such marriages.

They argued that the Child Rights Act cited by the minister does not extend beyond the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

MULAN echoed these sentiments, with President Barrister Saeed Muhammad Tudun-Wada condemning the minister’s actions as ignorant of Islamic and Nigerian laws.

The association announced plans to engage in a legal battle against her interference, asserting that the mass wedding aligns with both religious and legal principles in Nigeria.

“We have assembled a team of five Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) and 27 other lawyers to challenge the minister in court,” Tudun-Wada stated.

He further criticized the minister for overstepping her bounds and infringing on the personal rights of the orphaned girls.

Minister Kennedy-Ohanenye defended her position during an interview on Channels TV’s Politics Today, stating her actions were driven by concern for the children’s fundamental human rights.

She disclosed efforts to partner with the speaker to explore alternatives such as education and business opportunities for the girls, rather than marrying them off.

“When I met with the speaker, he acknowledged my perspective and we agreed to collaborate on empowering the children,” the minister said.

However, despite reports suggesting she might withdraw the case, Kennedy-Ohanenye clarified that she is maintaining the legal action until a mutual resolution is formalized and presented in court.

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