By Henry Ojelu
A non-governmental organisation, NGO, Cadrell Advocacy Centre, has dragged Cross River State Government before a Federal High Court in Lagos over “money woman” custom, where young girls are used as collateral for loan in some areas of the state.
The NGO, in the suit, contends that ‘money woman’ custom practised openly among the Becheve tribe in Obanliku Local Government Area of the state, “where young girls are used as exchange of value to secure loans and subjected to slavery and servitude, is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience.”
Founder of Cadrell Advocacy Centre, Mr. Evan Ufeli, is a co-plaintiff in the suit, while the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of Cross Rivers State, Obanliku Local Government and Inspector General of Police are joined as co-defendants.
In an affidavit in support of the originating summons, the NGO contends that Becheve tribe, which consists of over 17 villages, engages in an age-long tradition where young girls are exchanged for items, including food items.
It further averred that the ‘money woman’ practice is a show of pride among the Becheve tribe as there is almost no family among the tribes without a ‘money wife’.
The NGO further stated that the situation is compounded with caveat that when the husband of a ‘money woman’ wife dies, the next of kin marries the girl and if she dies without giving birth, her parents are obliged to bring a replacement as demanded by the custom.
The NGO is praying the court to declare that the money wife customs and tradition is unlawful, repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience.
It is also seeking a perpetual injunction restraining Cross Rivers State government and Obanliku Local Government Area from condoning the said obnoxious practice.
It also wants the court to direct the first and second defendants to restore every girl-child used as ‘money wife’ to their biological parents.
All the defendants are yet to file their response to the suit.