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Do women need the approval of male relatives before adopting children in Nigeria?


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A tweet circulated online claims that in Nigeria a woman cannot adopt a child without getting a male relative to approve the adoption.

The post allegedly shows discrimination against women in Nigeria based on gender.

A screenshot of the tweet which was made by Pamela Adie @PamelaAdie on Twitter was also shared in a WhatsApp group.

The post, which has garnered over 2300 retweets and 3800 likes, reads;

“I was today old when I discovered that in Nigeria, women cannot adopt a child without the “guarantee”/approval of a male person with the same surname as the woman. This is 2021 Nigeria. Later they will say feminism is anti-women.”

The claim

A woman cannot adopt a child in Nigeria without the approval of a male relative.

The findings

Adoption is the process whereby a person legally and permanently assumes the parenting responsibility of a child not biologically theirs. It is different from fostering which is a temporary commitment with limited parental rights.

The Nigerian government domesticated the United Nations Convention on the Right of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfares of Child; as such, the Child Rights Act (CRA) was passed in 2003.

This Child Right Acts makes provision and states requirements for the adoption of a child which is done via a High Court accompanied with the following documents;

(a) Where the applicant is a married couple, their marriage certificate or a sworn declaration of marriage;

(b) The birth certificate or sworn declaration of age of each applicant;

(c) 2 passport photographs of each applicant;

(d) A medical certificate of the fitness of the applicant from a Government hospital; and

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(e) Such other documents, requirements and information as the Court may require for the purposes of the adoption.

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Fred-Young & Evans LP in an article wrote that: “In practice, the Court prefers that an applicant must have fulfilled the condition precedent at the Child Welfare Department and obtain a report stating that the applicant is a proper person to adopt the child. The report would accompany the application for adoption.”

Even though the court may request other information as deemed necessary for the purposes of the adoption, requesting for a woman to get approval from her male relative would be contrary to Section 42 of the Nigeria constitution, Saidu Muhammad Lawal, the Managing Partner of Spectrum Legal told the FactCheckHub.

Section 42 reads:

“Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognised and guaranteed in the present Charter without distinction of kinds such as race, ethnic group, color, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status”.

Lawal noted that there is no uniform adoption law in Nigeria. The Child Rights Acts applies only to the 25 Nigerian states and the FCT who have domesticated and adopted it as law in their respective localities.

He observed that the requirement in the claim made by Pamela may be a requirement in a state, “But even if it exists in whatever state, it is unconstitutional; therefore, it is something that can be challenged on the grounds of its inconsistency with the constitution,” he reiterated.

Section 125 of the child protection law mandates every state government, for the purpose of adoption to “establish and maintain within the state, and in the case of the Federal Government, within the FCT, Abuja, a service designed to meet the need of a child who has been or may be adopted.

Section 129 states that married or single persons are eligible to adopt, however consent from spouse is required only for married people. This consent will be in line with section 132 which speaks on consent.

Section 132: Where a married person is the sole applicant for an adoption order, the Court may, if it
thinks fit, refuse to make the order if the consent of the spouse of the applicant to the making of the
order is not first obtained.

In Nigeria, 25 states have adopted and domesticated the child right act and only 11 states are yet to.

The 11 states include Kebbi, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Jigawa, Zamfara, Bauchi, Yobe, Gombe, Borno and Adamawa.

As at February 2021, most of these states which are yet to adopt and domesticate the Child Rights Acts do not allow for adoption or are silent on adoption. This invariably means the requirement that a woman needs to get the consent of a relative does not arise in the aforementioned states.

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A survey shows that North-East sub-region of the country is yet to make provision for the adoption of children in their statute, the Vanguard Newspaper reported.

The survey by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) conducted in Bauchi, Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Gombe states shows that authorities in those states prefer allowing applicants to serve as ‘Foster’ parents.

Audu Haruna, the Director, Social Welfare Department, Adamawa State’s Ministry for Women Affairs, Youths and Social Development, said “we do not have a child adoption policy in Adamawa; in place of that, we encourage foster child policy.”

Bauchi state also allows for only fostering while Borno has no specific policy.

Similarly in Gombe, the state Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Welfare, Naomi Joel, says the state government only gives out children for fostering and not adoption. This also applies to Yobe state.

In Kano, Hajiya Binta Nuraini, the Director, Child Development in the state’s Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, said “we don’t adopt in Kano State because it is a Muslim state; as Shari’a law is practised and the majority of the people in the state are Muslims, we only foster.

In reaction to Pamela’s post, a Twitter user Temitayo O. Esq with the Twitter handle @Tbabz__ said even though it is not a statutory requirement, consent from the male relative of a woman who wants to adopt is required. He wrote;

As an adoption lawyer, I can confirm that this is technically true because I prepared dozens of that ‘approval’. It’s not a statutory requirement but procedural. If you’re solely adopting as a female, the MYSD [Lagos State Ministry of Youth and Social Development] will not accept your application if that male ‘approval’ is missing.

Temitayo went on to reiterate that “As long as you’re female, the evidence of your relationship with a male figure who can play a paternal role in the child’s life must be reflected in your application. [It] has no basis in law”.

He however stated that he doesn’t know if this practice is applicable to men as he is yet to meet “a Nigerian man who wants to adopt on his own”.

A reaction to the claim.
A reaction to the claim.

Olaore Feyisayo, an Assistant Director and Head of Adoption in the Lagos State Ministry of Youth and Social Development debunked the claim that women cannot adopt a child until a male relative’s approval is secured during the adoption application.

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“That’s not true sir,” she told the FactCheckHub in a phone interview. “Whatever we do in Lagos state, we are guided by the law. And in the law, a single unmarried man and a single unmarried woman can adopt but the only condition is that they must be at least 35 years old in age.”

For administrative purposes, she said the office engages in counselling of those interested in adoption, “but it’s not in the law that they cannot adopt without validation from someone.”

As for married women, adoption can also be done alone but this would have to be with the husband’s written consent. However, she was quick to add that the procedure is peculiar to Lagos state as the legal framework for child adoption in other states could vary.

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Conclusion

In summary, the Child Rights Acts makes provision for the adoption of a child. This means it’s not mandatory to get approval from a male relative as a requirement before a woman can adopt. Unless she is married, then she will need her spouse consent; the same applies to married men. The Child Rights Acts have been adopted and domesticated by 25 states and the FCT. Most of the 11 states which have not, do not allow adoption or have no specific policy.  Even if such a requirement exists, it is procedural and not statutory; as such, it can be challenged on the ground of its inconsistency with Section 42 of the Nigerian constitution.

The verdict

The claim that a woman cannot adopt a child in Nigeria without the approval of a male relative is MOSTLY FALSE. This is because such a requirement does not exist in the Child Right Acts. Even if such is introduced by a state while domesticating the CRA, it is contrary to the Nigerian constitution. Consent/Approval is only sought from spouse for married persons, irrespective of gender.

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