General Introduction

1.1   Background of the Study


If there is anything at all that Ibibio is in need of, it is nothing but cultural education of life. The financial demands of traditional marriages of Ibibio in general and Etinan in particular have completely brought many individuals and families down to their knees, ruination and indebtedness, resulting from expensive marriage rites. Many traditional marriages in Etinan have after the ceremonies welcomed poverties and disheartening images in the homes of the newly married couples. This can be particularly blamed on the family of the bride because they always ask for too much from the grooms, a situation like this may also be blamed on the couples, who overstretch their spending by accepting loans, borrowing and even disposing-off valuable possessions just to meet up with marriage demands. It is therefore not uncommon to find couple begging for foods two weeks after marriage.

Etinan culture requires that bride-price be paid before a man can marry a woman but the idea of payment of this bride-price has been mismanaged, and distorted. Our families in Etinan have become materialistic, only wondering how much they could make during the marriage of their daughters to become wealthy individuals in the society. These families want to keep eating continuously from the bride price of their daughters. The implication of this high bride price is that many unmarried cohabit and bear children which was a taboo in the olden Ibibio days. Cohabiting may be considered immoral in the society but the act has with financial convenience enabled many of such victims to achieve their aims because when the groom comes knocking at the door of his in-laws for marriage, he is sometimes lenient maybe accorded him because of the belief that he may after all abandon their daughter. This greed in families has led to bankruptcy of newly-weds couples and also brought about elopements, and such daughters are never to be seen again until she returns with pregnancy which her clever man may deny. An ugly situation created by this may also be seen in the availability of adult-singles who litter around Etinan streets, many of these singles have availed themselves of the opportunities to defraud true marriage seekers thus discrediting the image of the area.

Many marriages have been brought to an abrupt end because the representatives of families who went on negotiation would either not agree on any particular sum or the groom could simply not afford the sum levied on his wife to be.2  This study is on the implications of high-bride price in Ibibio traditional marriage system. The researcher is not advocating for the abolition of the bride-price payment in Etinan Local Government Area, but instead, want to contribute to knowledge on the issue of high bride-price which is the major reason for many young boys and girls not marrying early in recent times, this has its adverse effects on both parents and the society.


1.2    Statement of Problem

The value associated with high bride price in some communities in recent time depict a static society. Taking a critical look at the traditional marriage in Ibibio land especially Etinan, one does not need an historian or fortune teller to know that things are not the way it used to be. With a large percentage increase in bride payment being reported daily, they are all pointers to the fact that bride price practice in modern Etinan has recently become a means of exploitation for some selfish parents. Consequently, many girls who would have married early, cannot marry because of the frightful bride price demands that prevents young boys from picking their wives. Some men who cannot afford to pay this high bride price to marry resorts to abduction, that is, abduct and rape teenage girls in an attempt to force their parent to agree to the marriage and a reduction in the bride price.

In an attempt to examine this problem some questions became necessary for effective investigation of the subject:

What are the causes of high bride price in Etinan Local Government Area? How does high bride price affect the indigenous youths of Etinan Local Government Area? How does high bride price affect parents in Etinan Local Government Area?  What are the effects of high bride price on the society? What are the possible solutions to this problem?  The intention of this study therefore is to provide valid answers to these questions through a thorough investigation of the subject matter. It is in recognition of the implications of high bride price which needs to recognize the changes and development in the society, that this study is concerned about. This study therefore focuses on achieving this goal through empirical testing and examination of the process of traditional bride price in Etinan. The underlying questions concerning this practice therefore include the establishment of an acceptable ways to engage the citizens in this societies in shaping the tradition and communities of the future.


1.3    The Purpose of the Study

        The following are the purpose of this study:

To determine the causes of increment of bride price in Etinan Local Government Area.

To know how high bride price affect the indigenous youths of Etinan Local Government Area.

To find out how high bride price affect parents in Etinan Local Government Area.

To realize the effects of high bride price on the society and also

To suggest possible solutions to this problems.


1.4    Significance of the Study

This study is significant because:

It would point out the causes of high bride price in Etinan traditional society.

The study would identify some possible effects and solution of high bride price to the youths, parents as well as the society.

The findings of this study would provide the much needed guidelines to Etinan people on how to check and control bride price practice.

The study would provide a useful reference materials, for other researchers in related area of study.


1.5    Scope and Limitation of the Study

This research is primarily concerned with the implications of high bride price in Etinan traditional marriage system. Twenty villages in Etinan were selected for the study. Ten each from both Northern  and Southern Etinan local government Area. This is because what is obtained in some parts of Etinan is replicated in other parts of the local government with little or no variation. Limited finance and shortness of time were the major constraints in this study.


1.6    Research Methodology

        The method of research adopted for this study is survey method. This method was adopted because it enables the researcher to obtain fresh ideas through interview, questionnaire and observation.      The researcher, in trying to gather data for the study made use of both primary and secondary sources of data.

The source of data for the investigation includes questionnaires, oral interview and personal observation. While secondary source of data include published works on the subject matter. These works are those found in textbooks, magazines, newspapers and the internet.


1.7    Definition of Terms Used in the Study

        Some terms employed in this study need a working definition for easy understanding and clarity. Such terms includes:


Bride Prince

This indicates the sum total of money, materials, items given for marriage of a woman. It refers to the customary property and payments made by intending husband in respect of a woman at or before marriage. It is sometime called bride wealth, bride gift or dowry. Hence, the marriage list, items, requirements and the sum total expenditure expected from a man before marriage is contracted.2   According to Bassey Ubong, Bride price, also known as bride wealth is an amount of   money or property or wealth paid by the groom or his family to the parents of woman upon the marriage of their child or daughter. It includes materials given by the groom to the family of the bride at the time of marriage. In the anthropological literature, bride price has often been explained in market terms, as payment made in exchange for the brides family’s loss of her labor and fertility within her kin group. The agreed bride price is generally intended to reflect the perceived values of the girl or young woman.3



        Marriage is a matrimonial covenant by which a man and a woman establish between themselves, a partnership of the whole life. This by nature is ordered towards the good of the spouses and procreation of offspring.According to Otto A. Pipper, marriage is a life long mutual bond between a man and woman based on contract.        It is a social union or legal contract between individuals that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual relationship are acknowledge by a variety of ways depending on the culture or demographic.7

According to Hoebel, marriage is a complex of social norms that define and control the relations of a mated pair to each other, their kinsmen, their offspring and society at large. It defines all the institutional demands, right, duties, immunities, etc. if the pair is husband and wife. It is the institution that shapes the form and activities of the association known as the family. Marriage is therefore the beginning of the building of a home. It is a process whereby husband and wife live together in harmony in the marriage institution.


Traditional Marriage

        Traditional marriage is a marriage between a man and a woman according to the native laws and custom of a particular people. According to Ubong, this is the most acceptable form of marriage in traditional society.8 Traditional marriage conforms to the traditional culture and religion of African people. Traditional marriage depends on the culture of the particular people. It is a marriage that is governed by laws and there are particular steps that goes into making this kind of marriage. The most popular way of beginning a traditional marriage is through a traditional wedding. In the western world, such a marriage was done in the church and a lot of fanfare was involved.9 To this end, traditional marriage is usually a communal affair that involves intended spouses, parents, families and communities. It usually takes place in the bride parent’s compound.


End Notes


1 High Bride Price: when shall Africans Learn? Posted on July 22, 2010, by admin in Naija wedding/No comments, retrieved on 22nd February, 2011, p.4.


2  High Bride Price: when shall we Africans Learn? Posted on July 22, 2010, by admin in Naija wedding/No comments, retrieved on 22nd February, 2011, p.5.


3E. A. Ukpong, An Enquiry into Culture, Ibibio Names (Uyo: Dorand Publishers, 2007), P. 143.


4B. Ubong, “Traditional Marriage Ceremonies among the Ibibio People in Nigeria: A study in Theatric”, The Belogradchik Journal for Local History, Cultural Heritage and Folk Studies, volume 1, Number 3, 2010.


5S. A. Hornby, Oxford Advance Learner’s Dictionary of Current English, Sixth edition (Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 621.


6Hornby, 2000, p. 1271


7C. A. Umanah, The history of Offot Ukwa and the influence of Colonialism (Uyo: MEE Nigeria Ltd, 2010) p. 95.


8E. A. Hoebel, (1958), “Man in the Primitive World: Introduction to Anthropology” in A.C.A Umanah, The History of Offot Ukwa and the influence of Colonialism (Uyo: MEF Nigeria Ltd, 2010), pp. 99 – 100.


9Ubong, Volume 1, Number 3, 2010, p. 1


10Ubong, (2010). p.3.