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The rate of divorce in Nigeria

The rate of divorce in Nigeria
April 04
12:27 2019



To most Westerners, Nigeria may resemble a whole different world; one filled with secrets and alternative views on life. But if they study Nigerian cultures and traditions long enough, they will find that the largest black nation in the world isn’t too different from any other patriarchal society especially in matrimony.

The institutions of marriage and divorce in this country are unique due to its philosophy about what constitutes an ideal family. An investigation into Nigerian marriages revealed several patterns. For instance, the current divorce rate in Nigeria is three times lower than the rate in the USA. Explored in this article are the country’s marital values, the current trends and the various factors that have affected the divorce ratings.

Divorce in Nigeria


In Nigeria, divorces are hardly ever discussed in public. Family members are often reluctant admit that a marriage is in trouble. Divorcees are still being stigmatied. In fact, the idea of divorce is considered a taboo and unfit for public discourse.

However, there are several grounds for divorce in Nigeria, and they are based on unacceptable behavior from a spouse, as well as bad habits which can have negative consequences. A few examples of such factors include—but aren’t limited to—infidelity, drunkenness, incurable disease, criminal convictions, intoxication, etc. According to OnlineDivorce, a company that prepares divorce documents and deals with all the conditions, the most common reason for a divorce proceeding in Nigeria is living apart for more than two years. According to the law, the so-called “separation” has already taken place; it merely needs legal status.

There is another important caveat in Nigerian divorce courts – the spouses ought to have lived together for a minimum of two years. If they have lived together for less than two years, nobody will file a divorce case on their behalf; not even if their marriage was a total disaster.


This requirement also states that both spouses must prove their incompatibility and show a strong desire to terminate the current marriage. Nigeria also prescribes a cooling-off period before the divorce is finalized, and this period can range from six weeks to a year. In Nigeria, we see that divorce cases are not as common as they are in Western societies. Anthropologists have linked this to society’s perception of divorcees. To put it mildly, Divorcees tend to be stigmatized, not just peddling an inappropriate divorce status but for bringing shame to their families.

In Nigeria, the family is viewed as the central institution and cornerstone of a generation and is considered indestructible. However, there are several cases where families get broken up for other reasons. For instance, the death of one of the spouses.

Like in many other parts of the world, there are also cases of domestic violence. However, most of these cases are typically hidden, and the parties barely speak about it. The husband is viewed as the leader of the family. Wives who challenge their husband’s wrongdoing(s) stand the risk of being ignored or worse, beaten.

Traditional Nigerian men are allowed to have several wives, so losing one is often not a tragedy for them. A woman’s rights are rather limited in other areas of social life as well. In the Islamic parts of Northern Nigeria, they are usually forbidden from communicating with strangers, speaking fully to their husbands, and so on. Many women in Nigeria are utterly dependent on their husbands financially. For the most part, Nigerian men are the sole source of income in the family, while women care for the kids, prepare meals and so on. Often if the husband wants to have another wife, the woman will have no say in the matter because she has to feed her children and she cannot argue with her husband. The only thing that can free her from an unhappy marriage is a divorce case.


According to Nigerian emigrants, family life is truly hard for all the members of the family. The approximate average marriage age for most people is 17-20 years, and there are even cases of marriage at under 15. At these ages, the couples are likely not prepared to successfully build a family, manage wealth and organize their lives. According to famous American scientist and sociologist Andrew Jacob, young marriages are dangerous to our health. He claims that individuals are able to think independently around the age of 25. At this point in adulthood, the person is able to think outside the box, and he/she can make rational decisions about life.

Furthermore, the human body at the aforementioned age is rarely mature enough to give birth. There are lots of cases of young Nigerian girls who gave birth at 14-15 years old and died due to complications. This explains the high rate of maternal mortality in the country.

In Nigeria, it is also taboo to speak about the death of a spouse. Traditions and customs suggest that if the husband dies, the wife should be lonely for the rest of her life. As for widowers, this rule certainly does not apply in quite the same way.

Nowadays, Nigerian couples are separating more and more. Separation rates in 2018 saw a 14% increase across the whole population. When you look closely at the modes of separation, you will agree that the process and conditions leave much to be desired. The Nigerian government needs to think over its approach in more detail because the termination of marriages in the country is often unnecessarily devastating for the whole family. These days, Nigeria is developing in all spheres, so let us hope that one day all the citizens of this beautiful country will have the right and means to stay in healthier and happier marriages.


1 Comment

  1. Fidelis
    Fidelis May 06, 05:17

    Can you give the figure of how many people got married in 2018 and what percentage of them that divorced?

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