A huge upsurge in traditional marriages has been noticed in Eleme area, near Port Harcourt, Rivers State. This is said to be a result of an attempt to enforce eligibility for the sharing of 7.5 percent booty earned by Eleme and Elelenwo as host communities of the famous Indorama-Eleme Petrocheicals Limited, which amounted to over N14billion at the first payout.
The community has decided to enforce the formula for sharing, insisting that proper marriage was the only way to recognise a child. This has caused pandemonium in the area. It is an acceptable belief world-wide that marriage between man and woman was accorded its sanctity, honour and respect by God. Now, culture seems to impose huge power and this seems ordained in heaven.
The Eleme people are typical example of a people bonded by their several cultures, especially traditional marriage culture with chain of procedures that Western culture or religion has not been able to altar. Quick to point out here that there exist some Eleme men who marry legally but still go beyond the family circle to raise children through rambunctious adventures from their concubines, what they now call “away match’’.
All over the world, children realised or produced out of such relationship are termed “bastard children’’. Such a devaluing and derogatory name not with- standing, some of such children are bestowed privileges of being catered for through education up to high business levels that could give them strong base to fend for themselves and families.
In Eleme, the rights and privileges of such children no matter how successful and status in the society are limited in the biological father’s family birth rights which are exclusively reserved for children whose mothers are legally married according to the laid down traditional rights.
In other words, such illegal children cannot partake or enjoy some fortunes, economic windfalls, burial freedom of their mothers when death comes knocking, and sharing of their fathers’ land and other properties not until the rights and needs of true marriage of their mothers were done by their fathers. Such rites involve killing of goats and binding of mouth known as “Ejo Onu’’.
Interestingly, the Eleme marriage culture is now playing a must-hear melody to the ears of stranger-husbands and wives with children binding them illegally. The sounding melody was struck by the Indorama-Eleme Petrochemicals and Fertilizer Company in Eleme through its Corporate Social Responsibility [CSR] policy for its six host communities.
The mega, world-class industry, run by some India industrial technocrats and experts of diverse disciplines instituted a unique model C R S by allocating 7.5 percent equity shares from the company’s annual revenue to the communities. The largesse runs into billions of naira being shared among the benefitting host communities. Out of the six communities, only Aleto and Akpajo neighbouring communities are yet to enjoy their shares because they are in legal tussle over a sharing formula.
All the barriers against the release of the dividends accruing to the Aleto and Akpajo people are soon to be resolved by the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, and all the concerned stakeholders in the two host communities who prayed and opted for long lasting peaceful resolution.
The sharing of billions that accrued to the Aleto indigens has created an eye opener. A loud pronouncement by Aleto chiefs and leaders of though rented the air that, it is only children whose mothers are legally married (present or past) that are entitled to be beneficiaries of the largesse.
This pronouncement came like a ballistic missile aimed at mothers and children who have no legal seal binding them with their fathers/husbands. Since that pronouncement, BDSUNDAY source revealed that fathers of illegal sons and daughters have risen in droves to meet the parents of their illegal children’s mothers to perfect all legal rights that would accord them and the children legitimacy to partake in the share of their 7.5 percent dividends.
One of the most distinguished, God-fearing and respected Aleto chiefs, Joseph Oluji of Ewuu clan, who enlightened this correspondent on the foregoing development disclosed that ahead the release of Aleto shares, the community appointed a screening committee working acidulously to ensure that illegal children of Aleto parents extraction were expunged from the compiled list.
He emphasized that even an adopted child would not be accepted into the family fold of his/her father. Any contending father of a child must show evidence that he indeed married his wife or wives legitimately by presenting a witness or witnesses.
Oluji explained that he went extra miles to educate those who expressed discomfort or took exception to the Eleme traditional marriage procedures that no matter the financial windfall from the Indorama Company, the sanctity of Eleme culture or tradition will not be thrown to the dogs.
The respected Ewuu chief backed the Eleme traditional married with citation from “Family Law of Nigeria 3rd Edition” written by E. Nwogugu, stating that, “It is a well-established principle of customary law in Nigeria that payment of bride price is an essential ingredient of a valid customary law marriage”.
Also, in his reaction, the archbishop, Moses Kattey, general overseer of the Commonwealth Church International in Alode, Nchia-Eleme, and his wife queried why somebody should not respect God’s ordained marriage institution by formalising the processes to avoid consummation of immorality in it.
According to Kattey, when the woman who has no legal marital seal to bind her and the man dies, she cannot be buried in the man’s family land, therefore, the child or children of such woman should impress it upon their fathers to legitimise the union between them and their mothers, otherwise the children belong to parents of their mothers.
The Eleme full-blooded servant of God emphasized that no matter how highly respected in society one was, either because of one’s affluence or education, such a male or female child was also not qualified to be crowned as a chief or king in his father’s community.
Eleme is made up of 10 communities with a population of about 500,000. The land mass covers about 4,000 square kilometers located 21km south-east of Port-Harcourt, capital of Rivers State.
Godwin Egba, Port-Harcourt