By Frank Ulom
Money Marriage, a practice where children, young girls and teenagers are being given out to settle financial debt has been abolished in Cross River State.
According to the Government of the state, the age-long practice peculiar to the people of Belegete community in Obanliku Local Governor Area of the state has been completely eradicated.
Rev (Mrs) Eyoanwan Otu, Wife of the Governor of Cross River State, reiterated this in a statement on Tuesday.
She said the Government in collaboration with stakeholders, had undertaken a comprehensive fact-finding mission to investigate the current status of this ancient tradition in August 2023.
According to the statement signed by Faith Okon, Press Secretary, Office of the Wife of the Governor, Mrs Otu said, “The practice of giving out young girls to settle financial debt otherwise known as ‘money marriage’ in Belegete community of Cross River State was an old-age practice that has been abolished.”
“Following extensive consultations and engagement with community leaders and members, it was revealed that the ‘money marriage’ tradition in the Belegete community was no longer tenable and had been abolished,” she added.
The Wife of the Governor said following her findings, she has kick-started plans to empower the victims of this unfortunate practice.
The statement also debunked the video on social media claiming the practice is still on in Belegete
“The video making rounds on social media does not represent the present status of the Belegete community and should be disregarded in its entirety,” it says.
It added that “Rev (Mrs) Eyoanwan Bassey Otu is committed to ensuring harmful traditional practices are eradicated and the rights and dignity of individuals, especially women and girls, are upheld across the state.”
Rev Otu further called for respect and a positive portrayal of communities, siding with the Belegete community as they continue their journey towards progress and positive change.
CONVERSEER reports that until its abolishment, money marriage is a common practice in modern-day Cross River, with Obanliku Local Government being the hot spot.
Despite efforts from the Government and Non-Governmental Organisations, NGOs, Becheve, the largest community in Obanliku held onto the practice.
The custom which many described as “evil” was practiced in all the 17 communities that made up Becheve, including Katele, Amana, Ogbakoko, Belinge, Ranch, Ikwette (old and new), Imale, Ekor, Kalumo, Yindive, Makambe, Apambu, Belegete, Kajinga, Mangbe, Mbunu and Agusor.
Meanwhile, the community shared location with the popular Obudu Cattle Ranch and Resort which attracts tourists from across the world, which is about 8 hour’s drive from Calabar, the state capital
What Is Money Marriage
The cultural practice of ‘money marriage/wife’ is a custom in which a girl child is sold out to a man by her parents as wife in exchange for livestock like goats, farm produce like barns of yams or to pay a debt. It is a practice found in some communities in the present-day Cross River state.
Even after the death of the husband, the girl is given to the late husband’s next of kin. If the ‘money woman/wife dies’ without a child, the man is free to go back to his in-laws and pick another ‘money woman/wife’ of his choice.
According to the practice, once a girl becomes a ‘money woman/wife’, she is considered dead by her family and must not return irrespective of how she is treated by her husband or his relatives.
The communities are covered with thick vegetation. Obanliku, being the local government area where these communities are situated, sits on a mountainous terrain thousands of meters above sea level. Behind the cloudy terrain are the heart-wrenching stories of young Becheve girls sold into marriage in exchange for food items, and in settlement of their parents’ debt.
Little girls are being forced into marriage at an age that can be as young as 4 years. The girls are bound by an oath called “Olambe” when they are handed over to the creditors/husbands. Money women/wife do not report their ordeal or run away for the fear of diabolical repercussions of the “Olambe”.