The Community of Akeddei in Sagbama Local Government Area of Bayelsa has been thrown into a state of confusion as a family reportedly gave their four-year-old daughter (name withheld) in marriage to a 54-year-old man simply identified as Elder Akpos on Boxing Day, 26 December, 2023.
Child rights advocacy groups in the State who kicked against the traditional marriage between the child and 54-year-old Akpos at Akeddei have described the marriage as illegal and criminal, saying it is an act that is against the constitution and Child Rights Act.
The leading child rights group in the advocacy, Do Foundation, that the illegal marriage between the duo was at the instance of the parents of the girl who claimed that the 54-year-old man was her husband in their previous life.
According to community sources, the girl claimed that the man was her husband who died mysteriously in their previous life and that over the years, she has been moving from place to place, to be birthed under different parents, searching for her former husband.
The source said “The little bride said if she was not allowed to marry her husband, she would have no other business in Akeddei community, and that she was going to die peacefully and go her way.
“In order to avoid losing the girl to death, the family allegedly decided to organize a glamorous wedding ceremony to mark the union of the two previous life lovers.”
However, the Do Foundation, Bayelsa State Chapter, in statement signed by the chairperson, Elvis Mannie Esq, confirmed the development, insisting that the foundation has launched an investigation into the development with the hope of saving the child.
According to Barr. Mannie, “the Foundation described the said child marriage as horrendous and despicable, and also a criminal activity capable of retarding the giant strides made by the government and people of Bayelsa State in the area of protection of child rights.”
He noted that the Child’s Rights Law was domesticated in 2016 and is still in force in Bayelsa State, adding that “this law criminalizes child marriages and child betrothals on pain of imprisonment and heavy fines.”
The Foundation called on the Government of Bayelsa State, the Gender Response Initiative Team, and all stakeholders in the Gender Response system, including the security agencies “to launch a thorough investigation into this unfortunate incident, with a view to the protection of the child from sexual exploitation, and the arrest and prosecution of all persons found culpable in this despicable event”.