A parent has given the reason they married their four-year-old child to a 54-year-old man in Bayelsa State.
According to them, the marriage, conducted in Akeddei community in Sagbama Local Government Area of the State, is a traditional rite to save the child’s life.
They added that the union is a spiritual ceremony aimed at breaking a supposed betrothal from their “previous lives.”
As disclosed by the News Agency of Nigeria, Bayelsa Government summoned the child’s parents, the elderly man, the traditional ruler, and others involved following the public outcry.
Appearing before the state government’s Gender Response Initiative Team (GRIT), they contended that the ceremony, termed “Koripamo,” was a cultural practice in the community to save a girl child’s life if she frequently fell ill.
They emphasized that it was not a formal marriage but a traditional practice involving a symbolic payment to prevent the child from dying.
The community representatives clarified that the man who paid the symbolic token was not obliged to take the girl as his wife, and the ritual wouldn’t prevent the girl from marrying anyone of her choice in the future.
The “Koripamo,” they said, could be performed on both boys and girls according to Ijaw tradition.
The father of the child, Morris Aboma, explained in the Ijaw language that his daughter was always on the verge of death due to illness.
The “groom,” Akpos Napoleon, expressed regret over the public outcry, asserting that he participated only to save the child’s life, and the tradition had been ongoing without previous elaborate celebrations.
Napoleon lamented, “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.”
Moneyman Binabo, the paramount ruler, clarified that what occurred in Akeddei was not a formal marriage but the fulfilment of a cultural practice.
He was surprised by the girl’s demand for an elaborate ceremony and emphasised that the man who paid the token was not expected to live with the girl as a husband.
Meanwhile, GRIT representatives also confirmed that the event was not a formal marriage but a cultural practice.
They noted that the child had not been sexually abused, and a medical professional at the GRIT office affirmed the child’s normal living conditions without a relationship with Napoleon.
Ogbise-Goddy, GRIT’s Chairman, promised further updates, stating that the Bayelsa State Government, being child-friendly, would review the situation and take appropriate action to protect the children from perceived abuse.
“Like 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,” Ogbise-Goddy said (NAN)