Funmi Iyanda exposes money wives practice in Cross River

Funmi Iyanda

Funmi Iyanda has unveiled sex slavery in the Keyi community of Cross River State.

In the fifth episode of Public Eye on November 29, Funmi spoke with the project director, Vision Spring Initiatives Ngozi Nwosu-Juba; principal counsel, Basic Rights Council Initiative (BRCI) James Ibor; and former Lagos (now Kano) Zonal Commander 1 of the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) Daniel Atokolo.

The show began with a brief documentary which shed light on “Money Wives”. Girls, some younger than eight, some from birth, are betrothed to men old enough to father them as surety for debts. The girls spend their lives as slaves. They are molested and stripped of their rights. If their “husbands” die, they are passed on to the next male in the family.

Overwhelmed with emotion from the documentary, Funmi asked, “Why does everyone hate women?”

Nwosu-Juba responded: “How do you describe where a girl child is hated so much? They are slaves! Calling them money wives is painting a beautiful picture.”

One of the victims of the practice was scheduled to speak on air via telephone but the family of her late “husband” who has refused to release her even after his death whisked her away.

Mr Ibor said the Cross River State Government was not doing enough to abolish the tradition.

“Cross River State has not done enough. After their campaigns, they prosecuted no one to serve as a deterrent. These girls are still suffering. The practice is getting more vicious and dangerous,” he said.

Ibor continued, “Children are dying. Children are being molested. These are felonies, yet not one ‘money husband’ has been persecuted. People need to spend their lives in jail, and you’ll see, this culture will disappear.”

As regards what institutions such as NAPTIP can do about it, Mr Atokolo said: “Impunity persists when there are no sanctions. We can not pay off the debts that these girls are suffering because government policies should not perpetrate crime.

“What we should do is give a counter-narrative to what they believe in and show them examples of people who have come out of this experience and are doing well. They become ambassadors of hope.”