Bayelsa summons four-year-old girl’s parents, 54-year-old groom

The Bayelsa Government has invited the parents of a four-year-old girl and the 54-year-old man allegedly involved in a marriage in Akeddei community, Sagbama Local Government Area of the state, Sunday PUNCH has learnt.

The government’s intervention is coming on the heels of media reports of a marriage between the child bride and the 54-year-old.

In a statement on Saturday, sighted by our correspondent, the government frowned at the development, terming the ‘union’ illegal.

The statement was jointly signed by the Chairman, Gender Response Initiative Team, Dr. Dise Ogbise-Goddy, and the Director, Child Development at the state Ministry of Women Affairs, Children and Social Development, Mr Paniebi Jacob.

The government said the “illegal marriage” was not based on tradition and customs, adding that it was repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience.

It added that it would not support child marriage under any guise.

The government also noted that it had received a formal complaint from a child rights advocacy group, DO Foundation, on the controversial marriage.

Also, the state Human Rights Commission said the traditional ruler of the Akeddei community honoured the government’s invitation and promised to produce the child, her parents, the groom, the youth leader and the chairman of the Community Development Committee.

“The Bayelsa State government did not hesitate to assent to the passage of the Bayelsa State Child Rights Law.

“We are taking steps to rescue the child from all the key actors in this illegal ceremony that they tagged a ‘mere spiritual’ affair.

“The law is clear on issues of tradition and customs that are repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience. Working with the Bayelsa State Police Command, we shall ensure incidents like this do not occur in the state again.

“On behalf of the governor of Bayelsa State, we express our gratitude to all the non-governmental organisations, including the International Federation of Women Lawyers and DO Foundation, that have risen to the rescue of this innocent child.

“Bayelsa State is children-friendly and this case will be pursued to a logical conclusion,” it added.

However, several media reports have alleged that the marriage involving the man, simply identified as Elder Akpos, was at the instant of the girl’s parents.