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Bride Prices and Numerous Marriage Ceremonies and How They Affect the Realisation of the Full Potentials of the Nigerian Youth: A Need for Societal Change or Reform by Chima Williams Iheme

Bride Prices Image from Ynaija.com

Bride Prices Image from Ynaija.com

There is no need to bore you with the definition of marriage because I assume we all know what it is. My task in this paper is to rather draw attention to a few issues that might be of concern to some youth as it relates to marriage – an important institution in every society.

It is common knowledge that the Nigerian youth are faced with multifarious challenges which start to obviously manifest from their early stages of life. Owing to the lack of sufficient basic infrastructures, individual progress is slower compared to some countries in the world. Here is a hypothetical example – an average Nigerian child would graduate from high school at the age of 18 years. He or she may take an average of two years to scale through UTME and other related requirements before gaining admission into a higher institution, and may spend six years on an average to complete university studies due to ASUU’s repeated strikes and other related issues. He/she graduates at 27 and takes an average of two years from graduation to complete the compulsory NYSC. It then further takes him an additional three years to get a job. So he starts to work at 32, and of course a job that pays him N100.000 or above is well celebrated and he may be counted as lucky.

Then comes the main point of this paper – bride prices and marriage ceremonies. Although these two practices that are tied to the celebration of marriages differ from one state to another in Nigeria, a common denominator could however be found, to lend credence to this discussion. The following facts would hardly be disputed: marriage is of two kinds in Nigeria, namely, marriage under customary law and marriage under the Marriage Act, what is known as English marriage. The latter is often accompanied with church blessings and wedding feasts.

In Nigeria, marriage, especially under customary law is very important and often requires the attention and consent of many members or stakeholders of both families. Bride price is paid, a lot of quantity of wine is provided, food stuffs in large quantities are submitted, an amount of money is requested to settle one thing or another, and these are finally capped with a traditional feast, called “Igba nkwu” in the case of the Igbos. In fact, a list of items of what to purchase is handed to the groom and one or two members of the bride’s family would assume the duty to ensure that items on the list are completely provided and handed in. Sometimes these appointees that ensure that the items on the list are completely provided go about it as though they are bailiffs enforcing a court judgment; and this many times injure the feelings of the groom and his family which may linger on forever. From personal observations and interviews, it may cost about half a million naira or more to satisfy the imposed requirements before getting married under customary law. It is compulsory, so to speak, to marry under the custom or else the couple may not be recognised as married in their respective communities and their parents might be ‘booed’ or even prevented from participating in subsequent traditional ceremonies or joining certain traditional groups by their heads and ‘elders’ as having done the unacceptable. Now because marriage couples do not get marriage certificates under customary law marriage and usually would have to face the problem of proof of marriage outside their communities, coupled with the undesirable effects of customary law marriage with respect to devolution of property, couples who have married under custom are further forced to marry under the Act or engage in church blessings. Mind you however, that a church blessing which does not comply with the Marriage Act’s stipulations is not a recognised marriage under the Nigerian law. Here also, they are not spared from expenses. Having wedded in the registry or church, they are expected to throw a wedding feast, where the general public most times is invited to come to eat and drink. It is inconceivable that after a particular church blessing, a couple wouldn’t host a wedding feast. This is because many invited and uninvited guests are in attendance mainly because of the feast (popularly called “reception”) and not that they are so interested in the couple’s union. You will confirm this by the type of gifts many attendees present to the couple in exchange for the couple’s customised gifts: inferior wall clocks, cheap plates and flasks, plastic cups and trays, empty brown envelopes, to mention but a few. From observations and interviews from some married persons, the cost of organising a wedding feast after church blessing or Act marriage is about a million naira, to be modest.

Here comes the problem. The youth are faced with late school graduation; they are faced with the challenge of unemployment for a long time after school. When they pick up a job at the average age of 32, at N100,000 per month (if at all they find), they probably may save for so long before they are able to come up with over a million naira that would enable them get married. On average, most people would work and save for 3 years and above before contemplating to get married at the average age of 35. Due to high cost of living, because one provides almost all his basic needs of life, coupled with the responsibility to contribute to what you could call family solidarity support, little or nothing is saved, and the little is never enough for marriage ceremonies. This makes some youth to either take loans from family and friends or engage in ‘fast runs’ in order to raise the necessary sum required to get married. After wedding, many get so indebted and cannot attempt any meaningful venture that could yield profits, because for a long time, they will be servicing debts that arose from weddings.

But why should getting married be made so financially burdensome as to make young men to borrow large sums? Why should people be made to unwillingly borrow money to feed crowds of people and afterwards get so indebted? Instead, people should be borrowing money to fund their education or start a business, and not to get married feeding the general public in the name of customary and ‘church’ marriage ceremonies. If you stretch this further, you may realise that this is one of the reasons banks are not willing to lend money to unmarried youth to start up businesses without almost impossible collaterals because they fear that the borrowed sum might be diverted to satisfy marriage issues which of course don’t yield profits and defeats the purpose of borrowing in the first place.

There are consequences of getting married late especially where there is no social benefit system to take care of each citizen. This is particularly those who do not have viable means of getting the basics of life due to the untimely loss of their bread winners. When people are forced to marry late due to these imposed financial burdens, they bear children late and may not be in good positions both in finance and health to adequately raise their children and cater for their needs when those children are in their 20’s and obviously need money for education and overall advancement in life. This is more serious when it is considered that the average life expectancy in Nigeria according to the 2011 World Bank study is 51 years, meaning that an average person who got married at 35 may only be with his children for a period of 16yrs. Why then should we not attempt to increase this number of years to (16+X) years by lifting the financial burdens that impede the possibility of getting married earlier? There are a lot of compelling reasons to do so:

    (a) the current concepts of marriage with the attendant ceremonies were not fixed by those who are currently living but by ancestors whose society differed significantly with ours today.
    (b) the current monetary cost of getting married is unrealistic and incompatible with the present Nigerian economy where there is high youth unemployment.
    (c) manhood and maturity to marry are wrongly measured by one’s ability to provide for these costs, but then it is forgotten that the real cause of impecuniousness of most youth is due to the overall poor economy and high unemployment rate. A person with an idea may not be able to galvanise them into proceeds if he cannot raise sufficient credit to test-run his ideas, since no one can ordinarily create something out of nothing.
    (d) as a result of the foregoing points, many children do not tap from the youthful energies of their parents and this is worse in their 20s. Of course, these things repeat themselves from one generation to another and keep us at the nadir of collective progress.
    (e) there is no extraordinary benefit that is gained by celebrating two systems of marriage with all the imposed costs. Would it be less of a marriage if these expenses are given a low haircut to fit with our economic realities?
    (f) it should become socially acceptable for people to marry under one system so as to save cost. This further means that customary marriage should begin to bear some formalistic features like creating a registry that could issue parties with a marriage certificate so as to ease the burden of proof on a person claiming to be married under custom. As it stands now, one would have to call witnesses all the time to prove the existence of a customary law marriage and this is unrealistic for the youth who travel far and wide beyond their immediate communities.
    (g) In this era that the equality of male and female genders is more seriously emphasized, the concept of bride price ought to have outlived its usefulness because ‘price tag’ suggests sale/purchase and such has become disgusting in reference to the female folk. And for those who may want to argue that bride price is symbolic, how come the price is sometimes fixed considering the educational achievement of the bride, meaning that the bride price for a university graduate is higher than that of a primary school leaver. Is that not discrimination on the basis of education? The different prices that depend on the bride’s educational achievement as practiced in some customs further reveals the economic motive behind the collection of bride prices, as some families see it as a time to partially recoup the educational expenses of a female child. This is wrong! And I challenge ladies who seek gender equality to seriously take this up in any lawful way that they can.

My position is that high bride prices and marriage ceremonies have become a huge pain in the neck both on short and long terms to the Nigerian youth. Even though, appreciably, these practices have become social norms and individuals are afraid to depart from them for fear of being discriminated in one way or another, the time has come to take bold steps towards untying these knots that have impeded youth’s progresses. Of course many of us do acknowledge that it is currently a problem especially when our weak economy and high unemployment rates are considered. I’m therefore proposing that the youth who are the bearers of this burden should not continue to condone it. Any custom that imposes high and unrealistic burden on those who inherited it should be revised to meet with current realities. A forceful awareness at all levels needs to be created to change the mentality of many Nigerians so that the important recipe to be required for a marriage union becomes whether both parties LOVE each other and are willing to spend their lives together. It shouldn’t be whether they love each other as well as ready to satisfy the monetary cost which of course is in millions of naira.

Finally, the mere fact that a particular practice is “ome n’ala” – an Igbo expression for social norm, does not mean that it cannot be changed or revised. We have changed so many of these norms in the past because at any time a custom outlives its usefulness, it is the duty of the current generation to revise or change it. The duty to revise or change a repressive custom does not lie on those who first introduced it but are no longer alive, but on those who are alive and are the bearers of its harshness. The thought of getting married by youth ought to inspire happiness not fears due to the huge financial implications. This is not just a story because we are all familiar with these issues as almost every youth I have interacted with raised this issue of high cost, which has prompted this write-up. The time to review these practices is now, and now is the time to do something about it.

Chima Williams Iheme is a Nigerian trained lawyer. He’s currently a PhD candidate at the Central European University, Budapest/New York, in the field of International Business Law, – with more emphasis on Secured Transactions Laws of Canada, United States and Nigeria. Apart from Business Studies, he’s also keenly interested in the empowerment and development of the Nigerian Youth. Facebook Connect: Williams Iheme

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Managing Your Personal Finances as Key to Starting a Successful Business or Career and Having Financial Freedom by Senator Ihenyen

 

Financial freedom

Financial freedom

You want to start a successful business or career and have financial freedom. You want to generate capital and create wealth. You just want to be successful, but you are not sure of the first steps you need to take to start making money and become successful. To get you started, this article shows how to use personal finance skills as key to starting a successful business and having financial freedom. You have to think like an entrepreneur ahead of being your own boss!

It’s not news that getting a job these days is increasingly becoming mission impossible! And if you are lucky to get one, most millionaires have shown that owning your own business can make more money for you. Thomas Stanley and William Danko’s “The Millionaire Next Door”, self-employed people have been shown to be likely to be millionaires four times as people who have jobs! To start your own business is not an easy way out though. It is for the tough-skinned! Even if starting a successful business of your own is not your forte, personal financing skills such as planning, budgeting and controlling are great skills you will also need to be successful in your professional career. After all, it all boils down to becoming successful and having financial freedom! Below are the six important steps you need to take if you really want to start a successful business and have financial freedom:

  1. Know your Current Assets and Liabilities – What are you really worth?

Probably, you don’t know how much you are really worth. Often times, there are people out there who think they have no asset at all; so why should they border about knowing their worth! It’s logical thinking, but very dangerous for your personal finance. You don’t have to be Bill Gate to know what you’re really worth! Every individual should – including you! The first step is to simply list your current assets. This includes cash, fixed assets (such as vehicles), furniture and fixtures, equipment (laptop, T.V etc.), buildings and landed properties. Assets other than fixed assets could also be goodwill. Your assets are evaluated based on their current value.

In the same way, you have a balance sheet, your current liabilities should also be listed. Your liabilities, if any, include all moneys payable such as mortgage loans, bank loans, credits, taxes, rents etc. the difference between your assets and your liabilities is what is called the owner’s equity. This enables you to determine your net worth. With this, if you are a would-be entrepreneur, consider how much you will need to start and run your business venture.

  1. Keep Record of Your Expenses – How Much Penny Do You Spend Daily?

Financial discipline involves developing and maintaining the habit of keeping detailed record of your expenses on a daily basis. Always keep track of every penny spent. This will greatly help you avoid the situation of running out of money. With financial control, you are able to keep records of your expenses in a record book known as a journal or ledger. To help yourself, simply record different items such as for instance, “Electronics”, “Books”, “Internet Services” etc. in separate accounts with dates. Such financial discipline helps you develop the resource skills you will need as a successful entrepreneur to efficiently allocate men, materials, money and time to achieve business goals. For the career person, your achieving your financial goals becomes assured with such healthy personal finance habits – wealthy future in your own hands.

  1. Make a Personal Budget – Have You Been Spending More and Saving Less?

The next step is to prepare your own budget. It is important that your budget plan should be determined by your financial goals. Ultimately, as a would-be entrepreneur, I should think your financial goal is to have enough money to start your own venture. If we are on the same page with that, you shouldn’t be having any difficulties. And if you’re the employee kind of person, your financial goal is probably to enjoy some financial stability and financial freedom in the best possible time. You will also find a budget very useful.

A successful personal finance requires a lot of financial discipline. Cutting back on your expenses will be difficult, but try as much as you can to spend less than you earn or get. Always spend on what is necessary and important, not just on any item. Your real needs should be separated from your mere wants. Again, Thomas Stanley in his book identified that most of the millionaires next door try to spend on things that have lasting value.  Even as a high-wage earner, it is financially unhealthy to spend the good part of your money on expensive homes and cars. As an entrepreneur in the making, budgeting finance can help you a great deal to be more productive, resourceful and successful.

  1. Get Rid of Your Creditors! – Have Paid Off Your Big Debts?

Of course not; you need your creditors alive! What I mean is get rid of your debts – pay them off! It is better you get rid of debts with the highest interest rates first. This gives you the financial freedom you need to become a bit more adventurous in your financial investments in the future. Starting a business venture is one of such major financial investments.  Believe me, you don’t want to start and run your new business with debts! And as an employee, you don’t want to ruin your career with personal financial liabilities hanging on your neck. It is just too risky to do that at this stage of your career. If anything goes wrong, it might cause you your job, your house etc.

I have seen many small businesses crash within the first two years because they were set up with borrowed money from financial establishments. It is tantamount to buying yourself more liabilities upfront. Should you be wondering why many successful small businesses out there try to start small with their own saving s and financial support from family members, relations and friends? Try to start small but think big if your business plan targets some future expansion. Of course, there are many small businesses that chose to remain small concentrating on a business niche in a particular locality. It does not mean they are not successful businesses. What makes a business successful is not necessarily its size. What is crucial is running your business professionally and creatively in a consistent way. In so doing, there is no way your business won’t become really successful while keeping smiles on the face of your customers or clients!

  1. Stay Away from Loans that Do Not Increase the Value of Your Net Worth – Are You Strangling Yourself With More Liabilities?

Robert Kiyosaki in his book, “Retire Young, Retire Rich” emphasised how you can use other people’s money to get rich…very rich! And if you look around you, the millionaires and billionaires of today use bank money to get ahead in their businesses. But they are not unprepared for the underlying risks involved? Are you prepared to bear such risks as a would-be business person or career person? Do you have sufficient assets to cover for any liabilities that may arise from such loans? It is a very bad idea to use your limited asset as collateral for such loans. The boomerang effect on your financial future is only better imagined!

The idea of borrowing for certain expenses is not a good financial decision. Your financial security should always be your watchword in making financial decisions. When you borrow money for expenses, you are most likely to end up more indebted. For instance, borrowing to acquire cars, expensive clothing etc. will end up increasing your liabilities. This is why you need a good budget to help you keep your expenses considerably lesser than your income.

However, if used to acquire assets that have the potential of increasing in value, borrowing money is not a bad decision. This is because when the value of your assets increases, your net worth also increases.

Of course, at first, you may experience some difficulties adapting to these six sure steps to managing your personal finance to start a successful business or great career! But really the pain is worth the gain! By following these steps, you will not only save yourself from running out of money when you need it, but also have the great opportunity of enjoying financial freedom from your career. And for the would-be entrepreneur, you would have also saved up enough money to start a successful business – your sure path to becoming the next millionaire next door! Meet me at the top!

 

Senator Ihenyen is a poet, writer, Lawyer, avid blogger and web designer. His interest cuts across Law, Literature, writing, business & social entrepreneurship, and the Internet. A two-time Campus President of Golden Minds Nigeria in the University of Benin, Benin City, he is the author of the book “Colourless Rainbow” and several articles on self-development, blogging and intellectual property law. His email address and blog: senatorihenyen@gm ail.com  www.senatorihenyen.wordpress.com

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