Prevalence of forced/arranged marriages within the Urhobo/Itsekiri community in Warri, Niger Delta, including age at which girls marry, consequences of refusal, and availability of state protection [NGA34915.E]

No information specific to the prevalence of forced/arranged marriages within the Urhobo/Itsekiri community in Warri, Niger Delta, including age at which girls marry, consequences of refusal, and availability of state protection, could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

General information on forced/arranged marriages in Nigeria was provided in 2 July 2000 correspondence from the Executive Director of the Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre, located in Enugu, Enugu State Nigeria. He wrote:

Forced and levirate marriages exist in Nigeria and are more prevalent in the Northern States of Nigeria. In fact there was one case that was taken to court by the women's human rights body (Women in Nigeria) - the case of Hauwa Baba Ahmed. She was forcefully given out in marriage at age 11 to a man old enough to be her grandfather and this was in exchange for a debt owed the old man by Hauwa's father. She ran back home twice and she was forcefully returned to the man by her father. On the third occasion when she was so returned, the old man chopped off her legs to stop her from running away. She bled to death. The old man was tried and convicted at the insistence of the Women's organisation but he received only a prison term.
Forced marriages are more common among muslim Hausas. They do exist in other areas but are more prevalent in the rural areas. There are only pockets of them in the urban areas. Among the Ibos of the South East, it is called arranged marriages but in actual fact, they are arranged against the wishes of the bride and in most cases they involve underage girls and men thrice their ages.
Usually these girls do not have people to turn to when pressure is brought to bear on them because the society accepts it. There are NGOs working on those issues who try to assist such victims but they are still very few and far between. An Edo widow who does not want to marry her brother in law has the option of refunding the dowry and leaving the family. The problem is that she is forced to leave behind her children. Because she does not want to do that for fear of maltreatment of the children by the family, she escapes with them and returns when they are grown up and able to protect her.
There are bills before the National Assembly to ban these practices but they have not been passed into law. There is the Age of Marriage Law of Eastern Nigeria which put the age at 16. There is no national law, to the best of my knowledge. One of the Northern states promulgated a law prohibiting the withdrawal of girls from school for marriage some years ago. The problem is with enforcement and this is because this problem is culturally based. This is why NGOs are really concentrating on awareness creation, education, reorientation, etc.
There is no action the Government authorities can take in favour of the woman who resists a forced marriage and this is because there is no national law or policy concerning the practice. The police term it a domestic affair for which they do not have powers to act. This is also because the society accepts it. They say it is the tradition of the people. Human Rights NGOs are seeking to effect positive change through advocacy with the traditional rulers who are custodians of culture and tradition.

A 10 July 2000 Post Express article reported comments from a woman who spoke on "Women and Challenges in the Niger Delta" at a seminar on the challenges of the Niger Delta. According to Post Express she said that:

the women who are mostly the bread winners as farmers, traders, fisherwomen, family heads and children bearers suffer because of the transportation in the area, lack of education (schools) and health facilities.
"The women, mostly illiterates, married off early to old men, who die leaving them young widows and single parents with the consequent cycle of poverty," she noted (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC), Enugu, Enugu State Nigeria. 2 July 2000. Correspondence from Executive Director. The Executive Director states that CIRDDOC is "an independent, non-governmental and non profit-making organisation is committed to the protection and promotion of human rights, women's human rights and good governance towards the strengthening of civil society. CIRDDOC's major objectives include identifying issues and problems which militate against the enjoyment of human rights in particular and sustainable development in general, addressing such issues by raising and promoting public awareness and initiating activities aimed at addressing such problems through community participatory actions. CIRDDOC adopts the following methods in achieving these objectives: research, publications and documentation, capacity building/training programs, civic education, Legal awareness outreach programmes, legislative advocacy, tribunals, free legal services and paralegal training projects. CIRDDOC is registered under Part C of Company and Allied Matters Act laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990."

Post Express [Lagos]. 10 July 2000. Iheanyi Amuta. "Niger Delta Needs N500b Yearly to Survive." [Accessed 4 Aug. 2000]

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB databases



World News Connection (WNC)

Unsuccessful attempts to contact 6 non-documentary sources

Internet sites including:

The Centre for Development and Population Activities (ECDPA)

The Global Reproductive Health Forum (GRHF)

International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)

International Women's Health Coalition

Keesing's Record of World Events [Cambridge]. 1997 - 2000.

MacArthur Foundation

Nigeria Media Monitor

Nigeria News Network

Associated documents