Parents Of 4-year-old Defend Marriage Of 54-year-old Man To Their Daughter

The parents of a four-year-old girl, who was recently controversially married to a 54-year-old man in the Akeddei community of Sagbama Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, have defended the marriage.

The girl’s parents, the 54-year-old groom, the traditional ruler of the community and others, who participated in the marriage, were summoned by Bayelsa Government following a public outcry.

They appeared before the state government’s Gender Response Initiative Team (GRIT) on Thursday to explain their roles in child marriage.

The team heard submissions from the father of the minor, Morris Aboma, the groom, Akpos Napoleon and the Paramount ruler, Chief Moneyman Binabo.

In their separate submissions before the government team, they all insisted that the purported child marriage was a traditional practice termed “Koripamo” aimed to save the little girl’s life.

They explained that it was a cultural practice in the Akeddei community, Oyakiri clan, that if a girl child always fell sick, a man would be required to drop a symbolic amount as a token to save the little girl from dying.

The community representatives said that what transpired between the little girl and Napoleon was not a marriage but an Ijaw cultural practice called ” Koripamo”.

They further explained that whenever the traditional rite of “Koripamo” was conducted, the man who paid the token was not required to take the girl as a wife.

According to the representatives, the traditional rite will also not stop the girl from marrying any man of her choice when she grows up to the age of marriage.

Father

The father of the child, Aboma, who spoke in Ijaw language, said his daughter was always sick to the point of death.

He said that according to Akeddei tradition, the only way to save her life is for a man to pay a symbolic price and save the child’s life and that it had nothing to do with a real marriage.

Groom

According to the “groom”, the outcry that trailed the rite is regrettable as all he did was just to save the child’s life as she is no longer sick again.

He said that such tradition had been going on but it had not been elaborately celebrated with fanfare like the Dec. 26, 2023 event, which drew widespread reactions and outrage.

But since she says if I don’t do what she says, she will die, I had to look for money and do it since it involves life; as it is, I am frustrated by this whole issue,” Napoleon lamented.

Monarch

The paramount ruler of the Akeddei community, Binabo, said he heard of a marriage in the community during the festivities.

The traditional ruler said that he did not, however have full details, not until the DPO of Sagbama Police Station asked him to produce those that got married in the community.

Binabo further said he had to invite the parents of the little girl to get detailed information of what happened on the marriage day.

He said the parents told him that the little girl had been sick and that Napoleon had to drop a symbolic amount.

Binabo emphasised that what happened in the Akeddei community was not a formal marriage but a fulfilment of cultural practice.

He, however, said that what surprised him was the demand of the little girl for an elaborate ceremony involving food, a canopy and a sound system to be hired to celebrate the marriage.

The paramount ruler noted further that the man who paid the token to the girl was not expected to take her home to live as husband and wife, nor stop the girl from marrying any other person of her choice when she got old enough to marry.

Immediately after the meeting, the Chairman of GRIT, Ogbise-Goddy, stated that the deliberation was frank and fruitful and promised to give further updates on the matter.

She said that the Bayelsa Ministry of Women Affairs, Children and Social Development and all stakeholders would review the situation and take a decision.

“As I had stated earlier, the Bayelsa State Government is child-friendly and will do anything to protect all the children of the state from any form of perceived abuse,” he said.

Culled from Naijanews