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Marriage under the Benins native law and custom

Last Update (July 9, 2020)

Marriage is the legal relationship between a husband and wife, which is regarded sacrosanct and recognized by both Benin customary law and the statute infect, it holds a central place in any civilized society. Among the Benin people, questions and hypothesis are put out if a man and woman that have reached marriageable age are still not married.

The Benin people, like other ethnic communities have their age long customs as it relates to marriage. These customs are followed strictly.

In the realization of these customs, the following must be observed:

1 The consent of the would-be bride and that of her parents, the must be observed.

2 Parent of the would-be couple make thorough investigation of the health and welfare of each family.

3 Customary payment of dowry

4 Cohabitation

5 Consummations

Under Benin customary law, there is no such custom or bye-law restricting a man from marrying more than one wife so long as he can take care of their general welfare, including the children of the marriage, Unlike the received law, i.e. the English law which limits a man to one wife at a time.

After discreet inquiry of the intending couple, there is a day called INTRODUCTION where the members of his family go to the house of the would-be suitor to formally announce his intention to marry their daughter. At that meeting, kola nuts and drinks are presented; an exchange of agreement is thus established.

At this meeting after a mutual agreement by both parents, a date for the actual traditional  marriage is agreed to by both parents. This may take two to three from the date of INTRODUCTION. On the date of traditional marriage ceremony, the parents of the man go to the house of the would-be wife in company of his immediate family friends and well-wishers.

On this eventful day, the father of the bride presents kola nuts, drinks and others edible to welcome the parents of the bridegroom. Again, the parent of the bridegroom formally announce the intention of their visit; in between there is merriment. The father of the bridegroom will also present kola nuts, drinking and other edible to the parents of the bride. Thereafter the would-be bride would be invited by her parents and posed with the questions as to her consent and to identify her suitor before the audience at the ceremony. After this exercise, the father of the bridegroom presents the dowry to the bride's parents of anybody assigned with this duty.

The payment of the dowry under Benin customs is N25:00 but the bride's family usually request millions of Naira as a matter of procedure. In response the bridegroom will present more drinks and kola nuts to appease the bride's family. At the end of this exercise, N25:00 will be accepted by the bride's family and funny enough some amount of the money will be refunded to the bridegroom with a directive to use it to take care of his wife.

After the payment of dowry, the marriage is by custom sealed. This is followed by betrothal to the father of the bridegroom by the father of the bride and prayers are said for the newly couple.

On the day of the marriage is solemnized, the bride is escorted to the house of the groom in the evening. It is usually on a day, the Benins referred to as ''blessed day'' which may be Oba market day or Agbado market day.

The bride is never taken or escorted to her matrimonial home on a day not permitted by custom, such as the ''Eken'' The bride is accompanied to her groom's house by a 'page' - a small girl (who could be her sister) together with her belongings, including boxes containing her clothes, beads, etc. Some of relatives and friends are also delegated to accompany her who usually sing some traditional songs or choruses in Edo language.

The bride is usually received at the matrimonial home through the frontal door of the house and her feet washed with clean water and wiped with a clean towel or new six yards of cloth.

Under Benin customary law of marriage, force marriage is unknown. What is important is the consent of the girl. See Itoha Osamwonyi vs. Osamwonyi (1972) SC1A11 NLR, 330

It is important to state that marriage under Benin custom is recognized by statute. See Oshodin vs. Oshodin (1963) M.N.I. It has become the practice that married couple under custom submit themselves to court or church marriage. This subsequent marriage by statute does not affect or legalize one conducted under native law and custom. In the event of the bridegroom going to court for divorce, the dissolution under the received English system does not automatically set aside the marriage conducted under native law and custom. The latter remains valid until it is set-aside by the customary court. It is also important to state that an intending divorce must go to the customary court.

Under Benin customary law, the word bastard is not known. Such a child outside the customary marriage is legitimate as long as the man acknowledged paternity. See section 22 of the 1999 Nigeria Constitution

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