Orphans married off in Nigeria after mass wedding outcry

At least 100 young women, including many orphans, have been married off in separate ceremonies in Nigeria, following widespread outrage in the country.

Friday’s event was initially meant to be a mass wedding, but Women’s Affairs Minister Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye filed a court order to stop it, fearing that some girls were underage.

She went back on that decision after reaching an agreement with the Speaker of the Niger State Assembly, Abdulmalik Sarkin-Daji, who supported the mass wedding, for the young women to have individual ceremonies.

“I did not intend to stop the marriage but to ensure the girls are of marriageable age and were not being forced into it,” Ms Kennedy-Ohanenye said in a statement.

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The BBC understands that a requirement for the ceremonies to proceed was that all the women involved had to be of legal age, which is 18 in Nigeria.

Minister Kennedy-Ohanenye said she would award all the brides scholarships and a monthly stipend for the first six months of their marriages.

One of the brides’ parents, Mallama Amina Mariga, told the BBC the mass wedding was arranged to “celebrate the young women uniformly and give them a sense of togetherness”.

Ms Mariga, like many of the families, was given items towards her daughter’s wedding and dowry payment, including a bed and sewing machine from politicians.

Most of the young women have lost relatives to attacks by armed bandits, who regularly target civilians across the north-western Niger state.

Additional reporting by Nuruddeen Isyaku Daza

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