Marriages in jungle communities of Cross River State of Nigeria till now are yet to conform to the modern norms and standard of marriages. For example, a seventy year old man is allowed to be joined to a ten year old girl in wedlock. The following types of marriages are practiced.
The Becheve Free Woman and Money Woman:
The becheve people have two types of marriages namely the “free woman and money woman”.
THE FREE WOMAN MARRIAGE: Is when a young man approaches a young girl who is already matured, and both of them begin to live together as husband and wife without bride price being paid to the girl’s parents. The marriage may be blessed with children except that they do not belong to the man but the girl’s parents. Again, the children may choose to bear their father’s name but he can not have costody of them nor can the children inherit their father’s properties. According to Becheve custom and tradition, young men are not permitted to marry the women they hope to spend the rest of their lives with, until they are over sixty years and above. Before that age limit, the young men starts saving money until it is enough to marry.
THE MONEY WOMAN MARRIAGE: The Money Woman is Becheve man’s real wife. When a man has gotten enough money ranging from one hundred thousand to three hundred thousand Nigerian currency, only then can he start making plans to marry money woman who is usually an infant of one day old to six years of age. The man engages the girl and visits her family until he has gotten enough money to pay for her full bride price. Each time the man visits her family, he gives them gifts including money. Sometimes goats, pigs, and chickens are presented to the family as a sign of intention to marry their infant child. A date is fixed for the traditional marriage and well wishers are invited to the ceremony. The marriage is being conducted and officiated by the elders and the Chief Priest of “Ekumbo god”.
At the end of the traditional marriage, the bride price is paid to the girl’s father before she is officially handed over to the man as wife. The husband then hands over his wife to his first wife (free woman) to nurture. Most cases, by the time the girl is sexually active, the man would have been eighty years of age and therefore too weak to perform his role as husband. So he permits her to go outside the matrimonial home and to meet other young men that are willing to make love with her. If in the course of the illicit affair, she becomes pregnant and gives birth to children, they automatically belong to her legal husband and therefore have rights to his properties.
If a man has Money woman, he is not regarded as a “man” in Becheve culture.
THE OLITI LOAN MARRIAGE:The Oliti people of Akwaya a border town with Republic of Cameroon practice loan marriage. Loan marriage is when a father or a mother of a young girl borrows money to meet his or her pressing needs, and cannot pay back as agreed.
The Lender approaches his debtor with a preposition to take his daughter as wife for him or for his son. The debt now stands as part payment of the bride price on his daughter pending the final arrangements for the marriage.
For instance, a woman had borrowed money to pay her mother’s hospital bill but could not pay back on the agreed date. Then the creditor demanded the woman’s fifteen year old daughter to be married to her son who was allegedly a criminal in a nearby village. This girl had wept profusely when the mother told her of her plan to give her away in marriage to the said criminal whose mother had lend her some money she was unable to pay back.
All efforts by a Christian Organization to intervene in the matter proved abortive as the mother said all the marital requirements have been fulfilled and they are waiting for the day the girl would be taken to the man’s house. The girl’s mother said they could not refund the debt at that point hence, the only option left was to force her daughter to the man’s house to be his wife. It was reliably gathered that there are many girls in this community who are undergoing the loan marriage.
THE BOKI TRIAL MARRIAGE:A lot of people in Boki and other parts of Cross River State of Nigeria practice trial marriage. Trial marriage is when a husband and wife live together for a number of years before bride price is paid. Some parents even have children who have graduated from University but who are not legally married.
The reason is that when a young man and woman fall in love, they start living together committing immorality. In most cases when the young man approaches the girl’s parent for introduction, they are told to continue to live together and study themselves. When they are through with this process, they then approach their parents for traditional marriage.
By the time they go for their traditional marriage, the woman would have gotten many children for the man. Many women have been subjected to this marriage because some of the men have dumped them for other women. There are so many women in the State who remain single as a result of this practice. Some of these victims are still in their father’s houses or their own houses without husband.