Mixed reactions have trailed the harmonisation of bride prices in various communities in Imo by the traditional parliament recently inaugurated by Governor Rochas Okorocha.
Some residents who spoke with reporters in separate interviews expressed the belief that the move is timely and important. Others were, however, of the view that the resolution would not be in the interest of members of the community and as such might not see the light of the day.
Those in favour of the harmonisation reasoned that many young persons, especially the females, stay single longer than they would like to before getting married because of high bride price and other exigencies involved in traditional and church weddings.
Conversely, those against the idea said that traditional rulers lack the powers to determine bride prices since they neither make any contributions, nor play any part in the upbringing of the brides.
Emma Eke, a businessman, described the resolution as a move in the right direction, adding that a lot of youth have stayed unmarried because of the high cost of marriage.
He said that any amount fixed by the traditional rulers would be acceptable as long as intending couples are happy at the end of the day.
“A lot of our youth today are not married while some marry very late because there is no money for them to pay the bride price. They prefer to impregnate the girls to make it easier for them.
“If the bride price is harmonised and reduced to a reasonable extent, it will help the young girls and boys to marry on time. When a woman delays in marriage, sometimes pregnancy becomes difficult,” he said.
Ifeanyi Okere, a civil servant in one of the ministries, pointed out that the issue is not necessarily about the amount paid for bride price but about empowering the youth.
According to him, if the teeming undergraduates are gainfully employed, they could save and pay any amount accepted as bride price by parents or the communities.
“The issue here is not the amount charged as bride price but that the youths have no source of livelihood. If the government can provide them with meaningful employment, even if the pride price is N1 million, they will pay,” he said.
Also speaking, Iheoma Adaku, who represents Ahiazu Constituency in the Imo House of Assembly, said what is required of the communities is compromise. She said that the traditional rulers have to compare the amount charged by each community and make a reduction where necessary to arrive at a compromise.
“What we really need is a compromise by bringing down the bride price in communities where the bride price is high. It should be a little to the right and a little to the left,” she said.
A title holder in one of the communities, Kelvin Ekeji, explained that bride price in Igbo land is determined by kindred and not the exclusive preserve of any traditional ruler.
“It is not up to the traditional rulers to determine what each community should collect as bride price. In Igbo land each family or kindred determines how much they will collect as bride price.
“It is not a government issue. It is not for the government to determine or set out any amount for bride price,’’ Mr. Ekeji said.
He said that a one-time governor of the state made it N30 and that the people asked him to start with his daughter, adding that it never worked.
“So I don’t think it is proper for the traditional rulers or the government to set out a bride price for communities in the state. When you conduct an opinion poll, you will find out that many people will not accept it,” Mr. Ekeji said.
Felicia Nwalu, a lecturer at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, observed that the Igbo people cling so much to their tradition and culture that it is usually difficult to break the norm.
According to her, it would be one thing for the traditional rulers to make the law and another for the people to comply.
“They may not go far. It is an issue of tradition and culture and every community has one guiding them. If it is to reduce the amount where the price is very high it will be better rather than make it uniform for all the communities.
“It may generate negative reactions and communal clashes, especially in communities where there is no rapport between the people and their traditional rulers.
“I am not ruling out the possibility of it succeeding, but it may not be realised 100 per cent in communities with such problems,” she said.
Mrs. Nwalu noted that while some families are not bothered about how much is paid as bride price for their daughters, others depend on it for their upkeep, adding that some others prefer to make it a secret affair with their in-laws.
She said that rather than make laws that would bring problems in communities, the traditional rulers should pass motions to encourage morality among young people in the communities.
The traditional parliament had on August 16 passed a motion on the harmonisation of pride price in communities in the state.
The motion tagged “Motion on the Harmonisation of the Marriage Institution in Imo,” was sponsored by Duru Okwudor of Njaba Local Government Area, along with other traditional rulers.
Mr. Okwudor identified the high pride price and difficulties experienced by couples in organising traditional and church marriages as some of the reasons for sponsoring the motion.