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Ondo Court Dissolves 23-Year Marriage

A Customary Court sitting in Akure, Ondo state, has dissolved a 23-year marriage between a Lagos-based church founder, Prophet Obayan and wife, Prophetess Chibuzor Obayan, and resolved the paternity of their four children.

The estranged wife, Chibuzor, had changed the names of the children to that of her new lover, who was a former member of the husband’s church.

Prophet Obayan founder of Divine Prophetic Solutions Prayers Ministry located at off Arowojobe Street, Ladipo, Lagos, had dragged his estranged wife to the court in Akure, to challenge the “snatching of his four children by a member of his church”, and sought the return of the paternity of the children

Obayan had filed a divorce suit against his wife on the grounds that she changed his children’s surname to her lover’s name and the dissolution of his 23-year marriage.

The petitioner told the court that he is a Yoruba man. He accused his wife, who is Ibo from Abia State, of disobedience, misunderstanding, lies, manipulation, abuse, hate and rage.

Obayan prayed the court to grant him the custody of his four children whom his wife had changed their surname to Obi.

During the hearing, the petitioner called three witnesses, including himself, while the respondent and five others testified for the defence.

The respondent’s lawyer, T. B. Odudu, while addressing the court submitted that all the six witnesses she called corroborated their testimonies that there was no marriage between the petitioner and the respondent.

Odudu said that the plaintiff lacked the five elements of customary marriage in Ibo land, which include a treaty, concept of parental agreement, handing over of bride and payment of bride price.

On his part, the petitioner’s counsel, Bosun Otitoju, told the court that his witnesses had testified that there was indeed a marriage ceremony between Obayan and his wife.

Otitoju cited the case of Agbeja (1985) 3 NWLR (Pt.11) 19, which held, “In proof of customary marriage, the evidence of the Head of the family is desirable to prove an eyewitness account of the transaction is essential.”

In his judgement, Magistrate Segun Stephen Rotiba, dissolved the marriage on the grounds that the parties have lost interest in the union.

Magistrate Rotiba said that with regard to relief two in the petition, the Court had already given a well-considered ruling that the children whose custody was sought have already attained adulthood.

According to him, “As regards reliefs three and four, which are ‘inpari material and mutatis mutandis,’ the ruling of the Court dated April 26, 2023, has made a reservation to look into the propriety of the said action in the substantive suit.”

The Court noted that from the evidence before it, the respondent alluded to the fact under cross-examination that since the petitioner did not pay her bride price, her new husband who paid same has the right to have them bear his name in accordance with Ibo custom.

It held further, “In the same breathe, I find the Ibo custom exuded by the respondent and her witnesses that the children of the union can bear Mr Abua Obi as their surname, atavistic, barbaric, evil, ungodly, irrational, unsensational, crass, gross, crude, unwary, provocative, ungodly, discriminatory and insensible.

“The custom that tends to punish one person, when two consenting adults are involved in the act, is nothing but the highest element of insensitivity and servitude.

“I condemn this custom in the strongest terms. While the matter was on, a publication was made on February 2, 2023, changing the surname of the first two children of the parties to Abua Obi.

“Aside the fact that complicit to change the surname of the first two children has been established against the respondent, it also amounts to subjudice as no action is expected to be taken on the subject matter by whoever, when the matter is pending before the Court.

“This is a complete affront to the Court. I say no more. In conclusion, the Court hereby dissolves the union between the parties, having broken down irretrievably.

“The court, hereby, declares personal non grata, the custom of the respondent awarding paternal personality to a man who is not the children’s biological father.

“The court hereby invalidates and renders null and void the publication changing the surname of the 1st and 2nd children from Obayan to Abua Obi.”

Rotiba added that “the court also invalidates any other publication or whatsoever changing the surname of the children from Obayan to Abua Obi during the pendency of this case.”

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