MOTTO: DIALOGUE, NOT VIOLENCE

17th MAY, 2024

PRESS RELEASE

ALLOW MARRIAGE OF 100 NIGER STATE ORPHANS : MURIC TELLS MINISTER

 

— Urges Nigerians to learn to respect each others’ culture and traditions.

 

Nigeria’s foremost Islamic human rights organization, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has called on the minister for women affairs and social development, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, to withdraw the litigation threat and ill-advised petition she wrote to the Inspector General of Police (IGP), over the proposed sponsor of the marriage of 100 orphaned girls by the Honorable Speaker of the Niger State House of Assembly, Rt Hon Abdulmalik Sarkin-Daji. The event was slated to take place on May 24, 2024.

 

The call was contained in a statement released on Friday, 17th May, 2024, by the group’s Kano State chapter Chairman, Malam Hassan Sani Indabawa.

 

Malam Indabawa said:

 

“We found as weird the harsh and hasty decision taken by the Honorable Minister for women affairs over a matter that is entirely beyond the scope of her ministry.

 

“The minister’s attempt at media demonization of marrying off of 100 poor and orphaned girls, who were largely traumatized for losing both parents to brutal and bloody banditry and insurgency, exposed her ignorance to the culture and traditions of the Muslim north; and has further as well, demonstrated her lack of empathy, compassion and respect for other people’s culture and tradition.

 

“Speaking to journalists on Monday, May 13, the minister

said she had approached a court of law to stop the speaker of the Niger state house of Assembly from marrying off 100 prospective brides. She also disclosed that she had petitioned the I-G of Police over Sarkin-Daji’s plan.

 

“This elaborate media blitz, over the matter, MURIC observed, was deliberately done to sway public opinion against the marriage institution, and an attempt to vilify Sarkin-Daji, after demonstrating his genuine concern to the needs of members of his constituency.

 

“Addressing a press conference on Tuesday 14, May, 2024, the speaker, who was distraught, had told the world that the story made by the minister was untrue, malicious and a mere speculation. ‘I didn’t force any girl into marriage and I didn’t arrange the marriage of anybody’, he said.

 

“The speaker explained that he announced plans to support orphaned girls, especially victims of banditry attacks following an appeal by religious and traditional leaders from his constituency. He further disclosed his surprise at the way the minister tried to smear his name and reputation without any background check or even calling him as a leader, to hear his own side of the story. ‘The honourable minister should have got across to me directly…rather than making topic out of it’, he added.

 

“However, making a topic out of everything, has become the hallmark of minister Kennedy-Ohanenye, leading oftentimes, to avoidable embarrassment.

 

“In January, 2024, The Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, visited the Chief of Army Staff, Taoreed Lagbaja, at the high command in Abuja over the case of a female soldier.

 

“Ruth Ogunleye, a female soldier of the Nigerian Army, accused some  senior army officers of sexual harassment, intimidation and threat to life. She also claimed her salary was stopped in February 2023.

 

“The minister, during her visit to the military high command, was however ‘informed with documented evidence that the lady’s salary was never stopped as she was paid up to December 2023.’

 

“In February, 2024, same Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, placed a N2 million bounty on an Anambra State-based lawyer, Adachukwu Chukelu-Okafor, for allegedly burning her 11-year old house help. A simple administrative protocol would require her to file a report with Anambra Police Command.

 

“In a mother-of-all gaffes, the minister, in October 2023, told the world in a press conference that she was going to sue the United Nations if the body did not provide reports on all the monies they sourced from donors in Nigeria’s name, by November 15. What an egregious gaffe!

 

“Since her appointment as women affairs minister, she has become famous for some weird statements made in public. She was seen on TV recently suggesting that children can be engaged in tooth pick, sanitary pads production, thereby promoting child labour which she is supposed to condemn by virtue of her position.

 

“The case of speaker, Niger State House of Assembly is therefore another one of her several gaffes, depicting lack of administrative and leadership skills. Some simple steps should have been taken before exploding the issue on social media. First is to call the speaker, initiate a courtesy visit to meet with the speaker and perhaps some religious and traditional leaders from the state to share ideas and understand their cultural and traditional peculiarity, which the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria not only recognized, but has guaranteed.

 

“Then there is Justice Fati Lami Abubakar, a former first lady, former Chief Judge of Niger state and founder of Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA). Founded in 1999, WRAPA is a women-focused, non-governmental organization whose mission is actualizing the legal rights of women in private and public spaces. WRAPA seeks to advance and protect the rights of women and girls as one of its core goals. Most importantly, Justice Fati Abubakar lives in Minna, where Sarkin-Daji holds sway as Speaker of the house.

 

“The Federation of Muslim Women’s Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN) is another association which the minister should have engaged, considering, that is, if she knows her onions. FOMWAN is a not-for-profit civil society umbrella body for Muslim women’s associations in Nigeria. 

 

“The minister did none of this, but instead, came down heavily on the speaker with threats of fire and brimstone, failing to recognise the social and political status of the office of a state assembly speaker. Minister does not have to behave like the head of an NGO. Government ministries do not rush to court at the first instance!

 

“We, at MURIC, therefore, categorically and unequivocally call on minister Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye to immediately withdraw the purported legal case she has filed and equally withdraw the petition she had written to the I-G of Police to avoid an imminent embarrassment because, in this matter, no law has been breached and no coercion was ever to be established. 

 

“We believe, had the minister initiated some engagement with all the relevant stakeholders before rushing to press, she won’t be facing another imminent embarrassment that awaited her if she refuses to recognize the diversity and religious peculiarity of some sections of Nigeria. The speaker, Niger state house of assembly, should also continue with the good work he has been doing in meeting the demands of his constituency members. The marriage preparation of the 100 prospective brides must go on as no law was broken.

 

“In the end, MURIC calls on the Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria (MULAN), FOMWAN, WRAPA and other CSOs to remain vigilant. The minister’s next move must be keenly watched. 

 

“The women affairs minister should also get educated on the constitutional guarantee bestowed on all Nigerians to practice their religious, cultural and traditional customs without let or hindrance. The Nigerian constitution and the Human rights Act provide for fundamental rights of persons to enter into marriage for any couples in Nigeria; Niger state 100 prospective brides, therefore, should not be an exception. By the way, where was the minister when the governments of some Northern states were organising similar mass marriages?”

 

 

Malam Hassan Sani Indabawa

Chairman,

Kano State Chapter

Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC),

 

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