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Morally, the custom was unjust and humanly wicked. The girl in many cases was sent to her husband before she had any sense. In some cases she grew up like the children in the compound, calling her husband ABA (father).The psychological shock could well be imagined the day she learnt that she was different from the other children: this FATHER of hers was her HUSBAND!

Marriage is hard enough with expressed and sincere love - but in infant marriage there was no question of love. She had to take what she was given as husband, and that might be a dumb, a mutilated man, a tyrant, a Metusellah, etc.  The man might live with her for sometimes and on advanced age, give her in marriage to his son. Complicated

relationship? Child marriage and the system of wife inheritance were the causes of unnatural relationships and confused nomenclatures in Esan. As explained above, a man might have married a girl for himself and after she had a child or two, he handed her over to his son for whom she might bear more children. Now here was a woman who had children that were her husband’s brothers or sisters; some were her husband’s Sons and nephews to their maternal brothers! It all makes one’s head reel.

Sometimes the girl grew, lived and grew up at her parent’s home, particularly if they were wealthy and influential. When mature, she was kept as a lover by a third party, quite apart from the intending husband. The issues of this association gave justification for the existence of the old native courts now replaced with Customary Courts. Depending upon the mood of the court and the interpretation of the old District Officers, these children could pass as anybody’s children. Sometimes they were adjudged as the children of the man who paid the dowry; at other times they were the issues of the natural father. This unfortunately will continue to be the case until the men in charge of our affairs see the stupidity of working on an incongruous mixture of Esan custom and Western jurisprudence.

The latest attempt to right things was that such children were handed over to the man who impregnated the girl, but he had to pay N10.00 for each son or N20.00 for each daughter - and as every educated Esan knows, SLAVERY WAS ABOLISHED IN 1900.

Sometimes, it was the husband that was a child, again commoner in the wealthy families. The supposed wife was allowed to go with any man she pleased and the off-springs of this association were the minor’s children, and by the time he came of age, there was long and entrenched line of bastardy.

There are no mincing words about the system: it was downright slavery. Unfortunately, up to 1954, it was still practiced in Esan: a man is tied up with an expensive court case, he is building a house and he is hard up; his wife is ill and the only thing that could save her life is an expensive operation or he wants to take a costly title etc. What does he do? He takes one of his five-year--olds to a man and says: “Here is my daughter. Please lend me N20.00’. The man hands him the money and the innocent girl changed hands in the opposite direction of the N20.00. At first she is a servant, but when she comes of age, she is elevated to the position of a wife. What really obtains new is that the father has no intention of marrying out his daughter at all: he goes from house to house with the poor girl in tow, until he finds a man willing to lend him the money he wants. There he leaves his child; if he cannot redeem her before she matures she goes to take an action FOR DIVORCE against HER HUSBAND, who really has been nothing but a SLAVE OWNER. If the divorce is granted the father can now collect N80.00 to N100.00 over his grown up daughter, in Bride Price, returns the Creditor’s miserable N20.00 and pockets N60.00 to N80.00 quite a smart deal – what.

With or without the old British Administration. the evil of child marriage over the years had time to grow deep roots, watering itself on illusions of cheaper marriages and hopes of getting more faithful wives.

Prohibit child marriage in all its forms in Esan and the confused and bribe ridden atmosphere of the Native or Customary Courts would clear like magic. Many of the disputed paternity cases particularly from girls yet living with their parents would disappear. It would cut divorce cases hanging in our Courts like a curse, down to a sane minimum. No one could very well blame a child forced to marry a man, deserting when she came to her senses, and when she did, the avenging husband clinging to his pound of flesh, wanted the Court to record on his behalf that she was two weeks pregnant! And by Jove, if she had a baby within a year of that divorce case, there was bound to be another case of disputed paternity. For the court and court members it was of course, another source of revenue, generally speaking.

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