The divorce rate in Nigeria is really interesting compared to the USA. In 2019, according to studies, the divorce rate in Nigeria is 3 times lower than that in America. Only 0.72% of the population in Nigeria is divorced, according to onlinedivorce.com and opendataforafrica.org.
Divorce in Nigeria is considered a taboo subject. Many couples will not admit that they are having marital problems. Those who have gotten a divorce have been stigmatized. Divorce is such unwelcomed subject that it is not even up for discussion.
So how does divorce in Nigeria work? Why is the divorce rate so low? And what are the reasons for divorce in Nigeria?
What are the grounds for divorce in Nigeria?
Most of the Western world can easily get divorced at will by claiming irreconcilable differences. In Nigeria, however, people have to prove that they are incompatible. Both spouses have to want to end their marriage, not just one spouse.
Other grounds for divorce in Nigeria are based on behavior which is deemed as unacceptable. Examples include intoxication, adultery, criminal convictions, incurable illness, and drunkenness. The biggest reason used by couples to get divorced in Nigeria, however, is because they have been separated for 2 years or more. The divorce is basically just making the separation legal.
Interestingly enough, a couple that has been married for 2 years or less won’t be able to get a divorce. No court will file the divorce. If you would like to end your marriage, and have been married for less than 2 years, then you can file for an annulment.
As you can see, getting divorced in Nigeria is harder than in other countries. Proving the grounds for your divorce in Nigeria is generally tougher than most other countries. This is part of the reason why divorce rates are so much lower in Nigeria than in other parts of the world.
Here are a few other grounds for divorce in Nigeria:
- There was no consummation of the marriage.
- Your spouse has behaved in such a way that you can no longer live with them. For example rape, sodomy, frequent drunkenness or frequent criminal convictions.
- Your spouse has deserted you for at least one year.
- Your spouse might be presumed dead. In this case, your spouse will have been missing for at least 7 years.
What are the other factors as to why the divorce rate in Nigeria is low?
In Nigeria, the family is viewed as an indestructible unit. Family is the cornerstone of society. If that bond is broken, this, in turn, weakens society.
Unfortunately, domestic violence is a common occurrence in Nigeria. Sadly though, it is never spoken about. Nigerian men are viewed as the leaders in their families, and when a wife speaks out against her husband she can be beaten. It is also common for Nigerian men to have more than one wife. That way, if he loses one wife, it’s no big deal. Women in Nigeria are limited when it comes to their rights and most wives depend completely on their husbands for financial support.
Many women do not divorce their husbands because they are unable to provide for themselves or their families without the support of their husbands. This is particularly true of Islamic Northern Nigeria. There, men are the sole providers for their families and women tend to the home and children.
Statistics have shown that just 0.2% of men and 0.3% of women have gotten a divorce. Most couples seek separation instead of a divorce. In 2018, there was a 14% increase in separation than in previous years.
It should be noted, however, that these statistics are based on legal weddings, not traditional weddings. Most people in Nigeria have been married traditionally, therefore, you can’t get an exact figure on the divorce rates in Nigeria.
An interview that was done on NPR Radio with Michelle Foul mentioned how lots of men in the North of Nigeria marry children. Many of these girls are as young as 15 years old. Sometimes even younger. In many cases, these men divorce these young girls leaving them abandoned and shamed by their families and parents. If these young girls have children, their husbands have a right to take their children away from them. Exact statistics on how many child divorcees there are is not considered in the above statistics.
Though not entirely accurate because they do not include divorces for traditional weddings and child brides, the divorce statistics in Nigeria are really low compared to the rest of the world. Several factors contribute to the low divorce rates in the country including society’s view towards divorce, men and women’s roles in a marriage, and difficulties proving grounds for the divorce.
If you are thinking about getting divorced in Nigeria, it is possible, but you might find it a bit difficult.