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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Man arrested for allegedly coercing his minor daughter into marriage

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The Anambra State Government has arrested a man for allegedly forcing his daughter to marry in the state.

The man, Uzochukwu Okoli, was arrested after his daughter reported the incident to the State Commissioner of Women and Social Welfare, Ify Obinabo, according to a statement by the commissioner’s media aide, Chidinma Ikeanyionwu, on Thursday.

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Ms Ikeanyionwu said the daughter, Chioma Okoli, 16, also reported to the commissioner that both her father and the man she was forced to marry were maltreating her.

The statement indicated that the commissioner, who facilitated the man’s arrest, has vowed to ensure his prosecution.

How it happened

Ms Okoli, according to the statement, said her father began pressuring her and her sisters to marry after he brought them back from Edo State following their mother’s death.

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The daughter alleged that she was first forced to live with an over 70-year-old man while she was 14, but would later run back to her father’s house.

She said her father later forced her to marry a 34-year-old Chinedu Nweke.

Ms Okoli, in a video clip uploaded on Facebook, stressed that life with Mr Nweke had been tough because he allegedly beat her and sometimes forced his urine down her throat, a development that compelled her to run away with her nine-months-old baby.

“When I got home, my father said I should go back to him (my husband) after I narrated what had happened.

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“So, I returned (to my husband’s house) and he continued to beat me,” she said.

Ms Ikeanyionwu said Mr Nweke, like Mr Okoli, had been arrested and that both would be arraigned.

The government’s statement did not indicate when the incident happened and the security agency that arrested Messrs Okoli and Nweke.

The man speaks

Mr Okoli, in the video clip which accompanied the statement, initially claimed that his daughter was 18 years old and not 16 but would later make a U-turn, saying the daughter was 20 years old.

In the clip, he denied allegations that he forced his daughter to marry Mr Nweke.

But Mr Okoli’s first daughter, whose name could not be ascertained, said in the clip that their father also forced another of her younger sisters to marry an unnamed 77-year-old man.

“He usually threatened to eject us from his house if we refused to marry (anybody he brought to us) because he knew that we had nowhere to go,” she said in Igbo language.

Mr Okoli was heard in the clip threatening to deal with the daughters when he was released from detention.

He asked the daughters to pray that he die in detention because he would make life more miserable for them if he got out of detention.

‘Stop pushing your children to early marriages’

Reacting, the Commissioner for Women and Social Welfare in Anambra State, Mrs Obinabo, said the daughters would get justice when their father is arraigned for the offence.

She urged parents to stop pushing their children into early marriages, which could destroy their lives.

Child marriage in Nigeria

Child marriage is like any marriage where at least one party is under 18 years of age

Such marriage has been prevalent in many parts of the world, including Nigeria.

Nigeria, in 2003, enacted the Child Rights (Prohibition) Act, which outlawed child marriage and betrothing persons less than 18 years of age to any partner.

Anambra State is among the 24 states that have domesticated the law.

According to Part Three, Section 23 of the Act, offenders, on conviction, face a fine of N500,000, a five-year jail term, or both.

The section indicated that those to face the punishment upon conviction include those who marry such an underage child, those to whom an underage child is betrothed, those who promote such marriage and those who betroth the underage child.

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