Outraged Nigerians are protesting the government-sponsored wedding of 100 orphans who lost their parents to banditry attacks in the Mariga Local Government Area of Niger State.

A petition circulating online has garnered thousands of signatures, with citizens expressing shock and dismay over what they perceive as a misuse of public funds, a violation of the rights and dignity of vulnerable children.

As the controversy intensifies, advocates are calling for transparency and accountability from government officials responsible for this controversial event.

The viral petition by the Concerned Nigerian Citizens, quoting Article 18 of the Nigerian constitution, reads, “Every child shall be entitled to free, compulsory, and universal primary education, free from discrimination on any grounds whatsoever. Additionally, Article 15 guarantees the right to the dignity of the human person, which includes protection from any form of degrading treatment.”

Making their demands known, the group called on the Niger State Government to protect the rights of the children and halt the proposed marriage.

It said, “We urge the Niger State Government to uphold its duty to protect the rights of these orphaned girls by prioritising their education and well-being. Rather than subjecting them to forced marriages, we call upon the government to provide adequate support, including access to quality education and proper care in well-managed orphanage homes.

“We demand immediate action to halt the proposed forced marriages and to instead implement measures that will empower these girls to lead dignified and fulfilling lives.”

On Saturday, the Speaker of the Niger State House of Assembly, Abdulmalik Sarkindaji, announced plans to marry off 100 female orphans who lost their parents to banditry attacks in the Mariga Local Government Area of the state.

Sarkindaji pledged to pay the dowries for the bridegroom, adding that he had procured all necessary materials for the mass wedding.

He said the girls who would be married off were carefully selected from the 170 girls whose names were submitted.

However, the age range of the orphaned girls was not stated.

Following the announcement, the Speaker received a barrage of backlash from the public, with some claiming that the girls would be given out in marriage against their wishes.

Also, the Women Affairs Minister, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, dragged the Speaker to court to halt the wedding.

In response, Sarkindaji stopped the planned hosting of the wedding of 100 orphan girls in his constituency, saying he would not grace the occasion.