The Akure Magistrate Court in Ondo State recently condemned an Igbo tradition as barbaric, evil, and ungodly. The tradition in question denied a father access to his children because he did not pay the bride price to his wife’s family.
Magistrate Segun Stephen Rotiba expressed his views during a ruling on a court case involving Prophet Theophilus Obayan and his estranged wife, Prophetess Chibuzor Lilian.
Prophet Obayan, a Yoruba man, was married to his wife, who hails from Abia State. The couple jointly led the Divine Prophetic Solutions Prayers Ministry in Ladipo, Lagos State.
Prophetess Chibuzor later left her husband and married one of his congregation members, Abua Obi. She also changed the surname of her children to Obi.
Seeking a divorce, Obayan filed a suit against his wife, stating that she had changed their children’s surname to her new husband’s name.
Additionally, he requested the court to dissolve their 23-year-old union based on allegations of disobedience, misunderstanding, lies, manipulation, abuse, hate, and rage.
Prophet Obayan claimed that his former church member had taken custody of their four children. He prayed to the court to restore his paternity rights and grant him custody.
In his ruling, Magistrate Rotiba dissolved the marriage, as both parties had lost interest in the union. He granted Obayan’s request to regain custody of their four children.
The magistrate noted that the evidence presented revealed that the respondent and her witnesses justified their actions based on Igbo custom. They argued that since the petitioner did not pay the bride price, the respondent’s new husband, who did, had the right to have the children bear his name.
Magistrate Rotiba strongly criticized this custom, deeming it atavistic, barbaric, evil, ungodly, irrational, unsensational, crass, gross, crude, unwary, provocative, ungodly, discriminatory, and insensible.
He condemned the custom’s tendency to punish one person when two consenting adults are involved in the act. He considered it the highest form of insensitivity and servitude.
The magistrate expressed his disapproval of the publication in Vanguard newspapers on February 2, 2023, which changed the surname of the first two children to Abua Obi. He deemed it complicit and subjudice, as no action should be taken on the matter while it is pending before the court.
Magistrate Rotiba dissolved the union between the parties, declaring it irretrievably broken down. He also declared the custom of awarding paternal identity to a man who is not the biological father of the children as unwelcome and invalidated the publication that changed the surname of the first and second children from Obayan to Abua Obi.
Furthermore, the magistrate nullified any other publication or action that changed the children’s surname from Obayan to Abua Obi during the pendency of the case.