High bride price and cost-intensive marriage rites have combined to make getting married dreadful for eligible bachelors in Benue State, thus breeding an ever-increasing tribe of singles in the state…
Benue State can well pride itself as the “food basket” of the nation but with recent developments over outrageous cost of marriages, the state is gradually becoming Nigeria’s haven of singles as the clan of bachelors and spinsters continues to grow in large numbers in the state.
The new development stems from the ever rising wave of bride price in Benue communities, thus making fulfilling marriages rites in the state a daunting task for willing wife and husband seekers.
The situation has caught the attention of traditional rulers who are now feeling the heat from the plethora of issues rising from exorbitant cost of marriages that discourage many people from venturing into settling down in the state.
James Ameh, 35, a Gwagwalada-based entrepreneur in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is father of two. He has a lot of tales to share on marriage and how it has become investment tool in the hands of some people in his Otukpa ancestral home in Ogbadibo local government area of Benue State.
Seven years ago, Ameh was caught in the web of bride price and the unquenchable desire for money of his about to be in-laws when he dared to expressed his intention to marry his sweet heart. He was just a man trying to make a living from a small business after completing his National YouthS Service, (NYSC) programme in Niger State and couldn’t secure a paid job.
Narrating his ordeal to our correspondent, Ameh divulged he had hoped that the N300, 000 budget he prepared for the marriage would be enough to sail through the requirements but got shocked as the list of items put before him and the bride price was way above N1million in total.
“In spite of my pleas that I don’t have money to throw a big wedding, the local people refused me their daughter, accusing me of not being ready for marriage. In fact, my parents were insulted by some of the villagers who said their daughter was not a cheap commodity.
“I came back to Abuja to work and raise funds but to my surprise after eight months, I got a shocker from my fiancée that we should call the relationship off because her parents and relations are not in support of our marriage and that is how I lost my woman then.”
Today, Ameh is married to a woman from Nasarawa State and told our correspondent that his wedding was seamless and cost him just a little above N200, 000 with no hassles.
“My wife moved to my house and almost threw all my belongings out because in the tradition of her people, a wife goes to her husband’s house with all she needs for comfort from her parents. Almost everything in the house became double from bed, chairs to kitchen utensils and others.
“I go home today with my proud family and let me shock you, those who called me a poor man now admire my family anytime I go to the village. I was really hurt by the way I was treated. Does it mean you must be a millionaire before you get a wife in Benue?” Ameh asked.
Regretting spending over N4million for his wedding ceremony three years, Anthony our correspondent that the amount was enough to make him a landlord in Karu local government area where he currently resides.
“It was not easy for me then to meet up with the demands of my people, if you don’t do what they want you to do, you are likely to be viewed as not fit for marriage. I knew that I was spending too much but there was nothing I could do.
“Our people are not economically buoyant but when it comes to marriage and burial, it’s spending galore. The cost is now a threat to marriage in Benue, too many young men are afraid of venturing into marriage,” Anebi said.
The cost of marriages from bride price to ceremonies has impacted on the willingness of young men to ask for the hands of Benue ladies in marriage. The situation is breeding a huge army of singles in the state, who largely are unable to meet with the criteria for marriage.
Limited jobs and business opportunities in the country and in the state have not helped the situation of bachelors in the state. Those determined to have their wives from their native Benue communities must go the extra mile to raise funds to meet the demands for wedding ceremony.
The situation in state has drawn concerns from highly-placed individuals who are worried that the growing number of bachelors in the state poses a threat to the society. Among other vices, it could lead to more rapes and child sexual exploitations in the state as some men, who may have sexual urge may not afford a wife.
One of those who have expressed concern over this development is the wife of the governor of the state, Mrs Eunice Ortom, who in February, appealed to the then Tor Tiv-elect, Prof. James Ayatse, to review bride prices in Tiv land to enable young men get married “when due.”
The wife of the governor made the appeal when she paid a courtesy visit to the Tor Tiv. She decried the high demands made on young men seeking to marry Tiv daughters, and described the situation as “very discouraging.
“Such high demands discourage many bachelors from even attempting to get married; the result is that many young girls cannot find husbands,” she noted.
Mrs Ortom argued that such exorbitant charges were not part of Tiv culture.
“Such charges are imported; our traditional rulers should discard them,” she said.
While noting that bride price payment was sacrosanct in every marriage, she cautioned parents against selling their daughters “especially since the relationship between in-laws remains long after such marriage rites.”
She regretted that many young men preferred to elope with their loved ones owing to such huge monetary demands, and noted the need to make the process affordable so as to restore the sanctity of the marriage institution.
Rising to address the ugly development in his kingdom, the chairman, Tiv Area Traditional Council (TATC) and chairman, Benue State Council of Chiefs, the Tor Tiv, His Royal Majesty, Ochivirigh, Prof. James Ayatse, recently set up a 15-member committee to do something about the high bride price and expensive burial requirements in Tiv land.
Freddie Adagbe, media assistant to Prof Ayatse, made the revelation via a statement released and made available to newsmen.
The committee, which has three months to submit its report, is headed by His Royal Highness, Chief Jam Gbinde Ter Ikyor, and had been directed to investigate the reasons for the high bride price and recommend ways of addressing the challenge.
The revered traditional ruler, lamented that the high bride price was hindering bachelors and spinsters from getting married, noting that in some cases, young men resorted to acquiring resources through unacceptable means to meet up with the challenge.
According to him, there is need to address the problem as borrowed trends of expensive marriages and burials have inflicted poverty on families. The chairman called on relevant religious bodies and stakeholders to help in eradicating such borrowed cultures, values and traditions that were not beneficial to the growth and development of Tiv land.
In a similar manner, the traditional ruler of Otukpa, the headquarters of Ogbadibo local government area of Benue State, Chief Sir Sunday Ekele, has disclosed that prospective grooms in his community, have been banned from spending more than N100, 000 on traditional marriage.
According to Chief Ekele, the decision became imperative following complaints from young men in the community that outrageous bride price has been discouraging them from getting married.
The monarch further said that anyone found flaunting the new law would be penalized.
“Money should not prevent anyone from getting married in our community. From now onward, no one should spend more than hundred thousand naira before he gets a wife in our community. We need to encourage the young men so they won’t be scared of going into marriage,” he said.
Meanwhile, spinsters in the state have joined in the lamentation over marriage cost in Benue, noting that the situation has put them at a loss.
“Will men fall from heaven to pay our bride price after imposing those willing with all this unnecessary things on the list?” A Benue spinster asked.
The situation is making the young ladies scary to eligible bachelors in the state who now view Benue spinsters as their parent’s goldmines.
“We are wives and not business objects for our parents, uncles and relations. During their time, how much was charged for marriage? They are jeopardising our future, we cannot marry those that come for our hands in marriage because of the greed of some few individuals”, says Gloria Agada who is nearly 30 years of age.
She notes that the way and manner some of Benue elders are taking marriage ceremonies today is inimical to the youths and that something must be done to address the situation soon or many bachelors and spinsters will be forced to leave for other states to seek partners.
In the wake of the growing concerns over marriage cost in the state, some ladies in Ogbadigbo recently marched to their village square to meet their community leaders after they got tired of coping with shortage of suitors.
According to them, their village elders are the reason why they don’t marry in good time or sometimes not getting married at all.
During the peaceful protest, they heartily pleaded with their traditional ruler to intervene on their behalf and use his veto power to reduce the cost of marriage rites in their community which is making men not to be looking in their direction.
Speaking with our correspondent over the development in the state, the head of department of Psychology, Benue State University, Makurdi, Prof Josiah Shindi, said the Benue society is breeding a tribe of sexual assaulters.
He lamented that there is no adequate planning to cater for the young to ensure that they progress well in life without unnecessary delay.
He warned that a situation when young people cannot afford marriage is dangerous to the society. He further warned that high libido may lead to rape including the rape of minors in the state.