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Large percentage of Nigerian men are ‘marital criminals’ – Investigation

Posted by By Our Correspondent on 2008/10/13 | Views: 2256 |

Large percentage of Nigerian men are ‘marital criminals’ – Investigation


In Nigeria, cases of legally married men who travel abroad and get legally married to white women to obtain residence permit abound.

In Nigeria, cases of legally married men who travel abroad and get legally married to white women to obtain residence permit abound.

In most cases, the Nigerian wife does not know that her husband has married again. Many who get to know usually do no more than quarrel with the men and later make up.

If Nigerian women are keen on suing husbands who contract any other marriage(s) after marrying them legally, a large number of Nigerian men would have been sentenced to terms of imprisonment, an investigation has shown.

This conclusion was a result of findings drawn from the responses of the experts on marriage law, including the Executive Director of the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, Mrs. Abiola Afolabi-Akiyode; the 2nd Vice President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Adekunle Ojo; a renowned legal practitioner, Dr. Tunji Abayomi; a United Kingdom-based Mr. Ekene Odum and the Director-General of a non-governmental organisation, Advocacy for Democratic Dividends International, Chief Sola Ojeriakhi, who spoke with our correspondent on the law governing the statutory marriage and its implications.

These experts agreed that many Nigerian men treat their marriages with levity by contracting other forms of marriages, either as a result of ignorance of what the law says, or because they are taking refuge in the indigenous culture which frowns at a wife dragging her husband to court.

According to Afolabi-Akiyode, “Most Nigerians have apathy for settling disputes in court and would only resort to the court if they do not have any alternative.

“Women face other problems which include family and societal pressure and financial limitation in instituting actions in court. The society is receptive to polygamy.

“The only instance where a woman sued her husband in the case of R. vs Princewill, the judge was reluctant to apply the provisions of the law. The judge sentenced the husband to not more than seven months imprisonment, instead of the stipulated seven years imprisonment provide for in the Criminal Code and the Marriage Act.”

“If these limitations are not there, a large number of men will be liable to be charged for bigamy in Nigeria and they risk seven years imprisonment.”

Odum, Abayomi and Ojeriakhi and Ojo also agreed that many Nigerian men had escaped being sentenced to seven years imprisonment for bigamy because of cultural restraint on women which discouraged them from suing their erring husbands.

On what constitutes a bigamy, Ojo said “Any act of contracting other form of marriage after validly contracting statutory marriage (otherwise known as court marriages), constitutes the offence of bigamy.

On whether a couple can contract both customary and statutory marriage, Afolabi-Akiyode said “it is common practice for parties in Nigeria who intend to contact a statutory marriage to marry first under customary law before the solemnisation the statutory marriage.

“This practice may be explained by the fact that though western civilisation and western culture have infused into the Nigeria society, most people, even the most sophisticated most understandably regarded themselves as bound by the customary law of their place of origin.

“The Nigerian Marriage Act has given validity to this practice by enabling persons who are married under customary law to marry each other under the statute.”

The learned author of a legal treatise, Family Law in Nigeria, Prof. E. I. Nwogugu, said, “The correct legal position is that parties married under the Marriage Act are entitled only to the rights and obligations of that system.

“Whatever customary-law rights they have from the previous customary-law marriage are superseded, matrimonial reliefs are only to be sought in respect of acts and events which took place after the celebration of the subsequent statutory marriage.

The experts agree that statutory marriage have many advantages over the customary and other forms of marriage.



Customary or Islamic marriages gave men right to marry more than one wife, but statutory marriage forbids either of the partner to contract another marriages, thus preserving the sanctity of one man one wife.

Commenting on this, Afolabi-Akiyode said, “The mere fact that at any given moment, the husband of a customary marriage has just one wife at a particular time does not mean he cannot marry more wives.

“Most women are not comfortable with this kind of arrangement. They would want to have access to their men at any point in time and would not want to share her husband‘s love and attention with any woman.”

The rights and obligations of the spouses are spelt out by law under the statutory marriages.


For instance, what a wife will inherit if the husband dies in testate (without a Will) of the spouse. Although the customary marriage also have unwritten rights and obligations but they are in many cases difficult to enforce.

To this end, where the husband of a statutory marriage dies without righting a Will, the laws of the different states - Laws of Administration Property provide for certain percentage to be granted to the wife, whether or not there are existing issue in such a union.

Another advantage of the statutory marriage over customary marriage, according to the experts‘ is that the spouses of a statutory marriage can not be compelled by the court of law to testify against the each other.

That is to say the wife can not be summonsed by the court to testify against the husband and vice versa, whereas the spouse in customary law marriage can be compelled to testify against each other.

The reason for this is because the law regards the husband and wife of a statutory marriage to be one.

In addition, if a persons aids or assist another person to escape punishment for a crime, the person becomes an accessory and liable to be tried for an offence. But under the law, a woman who contracted a statutory marriage is insulated from this kind of liability.

That is to say a woman does not become an accessory to the fact by helping or assisting her husband to escape punishment for a crime.

Customary law does not provide any remedies for the breach of promise to marry, but the law governing statutory marriage recognises breach of promise of marriage as a civil wrong and the aggrieved party can sue for damages.

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Comments (3)

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Okfold(Sobe, Edo, Nigeria)says...

I want the meaning of female owan name Ekeke (Edo state)

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Toluwalase Samuel Olufemi(Ijebu, Ogun, Nigeria)says...

Authority belongs to God, once He decrees it is final and binding

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Ikponmwosa Osamede(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Your meaning of Osamede is wrong. Osamede means God has given me a crown