A significant legal verdict was reached in a Customary Court situated in Akure, Ondo state, which led to the dissolution of a 23-year marriage between Lagos-based church founder, Prophet Obayan, and his wife, Prophetess Chibuzor Obayan. The court also addressed the paternity of their four children.
The catalyst for this marital discord was the wife’s decision to change their children’s names to that of her new lover, who was formerly a member of her husband’s church.
Prophet Obayan, who is the founder of the Divine Prophetic Solutions Prayers Ministry located in Ladipo, Lagos, took his estranged wife to the court in Akure to contest the “snatching of his four children by a member of his church.” He sought the return of their paternity.
The divorce suit was filed by Obayan, citing the alteration of his children’s surname to that of his wife’s new love and the disintegration of their 23-year marriage as the reasons.
In the courtroom, the petitioner, a Yoruba man, accused his wife, who hails from Abia State, of various grievances, including disobedience, misunderstanding, lies, manipulation, abuse, hate, and rage.
Obayan implored the court to grant him custody of his four children, whose surnames had been changed to “Obi” by his wife.
The respondent’s lawyer argued that there was no valid marriage between the petitioner and the respondent based on Ibo customs, emphasizing the absence of key customary marriage elements such as a treaty, parental agreement, bride handover, and bride price payment.
The petitioner’s counsel countered, presenting witnesses who testified to the existence of a valid marriage ceremony.
In his ruling, Magistrate Segun Stephen Rotiba dissolved the marriage, noting that the parties had lost interest in their union. He also remarked that the children involved were now adults.
Regarding the name change, the court found it to be a violation of the petitioner’s rights and criticized the custom that allowed it. The court declared the custom unacceptable and invalidated the name change. Any publication changing the children’s surname during the case was also declared null and void.
This significant verdict marks the end of a long-standing marriage and challenges certain customary practices, ultimately affirming individual rights and legal principles.