Obanliku, a local government situated in North region of Cross River is an eight hours drive from Calabar the State Capital.
The Becheve tribe in Obanliku is made up of 17 tribes who practice an age long tradition where young girls are in the exchange of items including food items or debt settlement are given out in “Money Marriage.”
Obanliku is full of thick vegetation and mountainous terrain as high as 1576 meters above sea level. Behind the cloudy terrain are the sad tales of the young girls who are stripped of human dignity. They are called ‘Money Woman’ of ‘Money Wife.’
Richards Akonam, a missionary who has spent over 25 years building a strong advocacy against the Money Marriage culture, told Channels Television that relatives of the ‘Money Woman’ freely visit the couple after the ‘marriage’ and enjoys gifts including money.
“Apart from the ‘main man’ who gives out the girl into ‘Money Marriage’ the relatives of the girl’s mother are free to go and collect stuff from their ‘in-law’. Anything offered them during their visit is given monetary value and recorded by their in-law (the man who is marrying the girl).
“If the mother is the greedy type, she’ll often visit her ‘in-law’ to get stuff,” he said.
This practice is sadly carried out without the consent of the girls. They are sold out to clear debts owed by a family relation or debts owed even before her birth. The ‘Money Wife’ most sadly does not benefit from the ‘Money Marriage.’
“While her parents or relatives share money and other gifts given them by the ‘groom’, she is left alone to struggle and find a means of survival.
“The girl (money girl) can only benefit if anyone who has gone to collect anything shares with her. This hardly happens. She will be responsible for taking care of herself by farming or otherwise. None of her relatives will buy or give her gifts. She now belongs to another and helping her translates to helping her owner,” Akonam said.
Some are the girls are even sold out in marriage before they are born. The GM of Obudu Mountain Resort, David Chris said the girl is eventually given out after the ‘groom’ has made ‘payment.’
“The child is given to a man who pays a certain amount of money. It can be before the child is born. If it is a girl-child, the child is given to the person (groom) after he has made payment that is required by culture,” he said.
Most of the girls could hardly express their story as all they could do was cry when being interviewed. Aji Patience whose sister was sold at a tender age of four expressed disapproval at the tradition.
“My Sister was four years old when they gave her out for money marriage N2, 000 as at then was given to my uncle in exchange for her. I don’t like the condition,” Patience said.
The ‘Money Woman’ practice according to tribes in Becheve is a show of pride as there is almost no family in Becheve that is not without a ‘Money Wife.’
The story, however, gets complicated when the husband dies.
When the husband dies, his next-of-kin marries the girl and if she dies without giving birth to children, her parents are obligated to bring a replacement as demanded by the customs.
Another victim, Victoria Tabang, who spoke in the local dialect said she has remained helpless since her husband’s death.
“I lived with him since I was young but upon his death, I couldn’t do anything. I’m expected to just remain here. Even when I went to my people, they drove me away, saying I now belong elsewhere,” she said.
‘Money Wives’ are not allowed the right to education and in every sale; the girl’s opinion is not sought. She is the bread winner.
“Money that the man give in my head (sic) was not much. It was N20,000 and one goat,” a victim who was willing to speak, sadly revealed.
Once a girl is sold out for Money Marriage, she is considered dead by her immediate family and warned never to return back irrespective of how she is being treated by her husband or his relatives.
The wife of the state governor, Linda Ayade, in an interview with Channels Television, said she is shocked by the practice. He assured that efforts will be geared towards ending the culture.
The Money Marriage culture of the Obanliku is another clear case of human slavery in the 21st century which needs urgent attention of the government and advocacy group to end the miseries of the victims.
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