February 25, 2024

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Outcry Over Alleged Child Marriage: Advocacy Groups Decry Unlawful Union in Bayelsa

Outcry Over Alleged Child Marriage: Advocacy Groups Decry Unlawful Union in Bayelsa

Child rights advocacy groups in Bayelsa State are vehemently opposing a reported Boxing Day traditional marriage between a four-year-old girl and a 54-year-old man in the Akeddei community, Sagbama Local Government Area. This shocking union has sparked outrage, with organizations like the Do Foundation condemning it as both illegal and criminal.

The Do Foundation, a prominent child rights advocacy group, highlights that such a marriage violates the Nigerian Constitution and the Child Rights Act. They assert that child marriages are explicitly prohibited, emphasizing that the incident is not only morally reprehensible but also a legal offense.

The unusual circumstances surrounding this marriage claim that the child’s parents arranged the union based on the belief that the 54-year-old man was her husband in a past life. Allegedly, the young girl insisted that the man was her previous husband who died mysteriously, and she had been searching for him across different lifetimes.

Community sources reveal that the girl threatened to have no business in Akeddei if she couldn’t marry her supposed past-life husband. Faced with this dilemma, the community organized a lavish wedding ceremony to unite the two individuals based on their alleged connection in past lives.

The Do Foundation, through its Chairperson in Bayelsa State, Elvis Mannie Esq., has initiated an investigation into the matter to protect the child. In a statement, the foundation describes the reported child marriage as “horrendous and despicable,” emphasizing its criminal nature and the potential harm it poses to the strides made in child rights protection in Bayelsa State.

The foundation draws attention to the Child Rights Law, which was domesticated in 2016 and remains in force in Bayelsa. This law explicitly criminalizes child marriages and child betrothals, imposing imprisonment and heavy fines as penalties.

In response to the incident, the Do Foundation calls on the Government of Bayelsa State, the Gender Response Initiative Team, and all stakeholders in the Gender Response system, including security agencies, to launch a thorough investigation. The aim is to safeguard the child from sexual exploitation and ensure the arrest and prosecution of all individuals found culpable in this alarming event.

The state police spokesperson, ASP Musa Mohammed, expressed unawareness of the union but promised to investigate further and gather information from the Divisional Police Officer in the area. This unfolding situation underscores the urgent need for legal intervention and protection of the rights of the child involved.

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