The Rate of Divorce in Nigeria

Ufoh Uche

This Article was Reviewed by The Chief Editor, Godfrey

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Have you seen the news lately? The rate of divorce in Nigeria seems to be increasing every year. Though we may argue that it is not as high as that of the western nations, it is increasing as registered divorces roll in daily. This article explains divorce in Nigeria and the most common reasons for divorce.

If you ask most people why they think there is a high divorce rate in Nigeria and other African countries, they would most likely attribute it to Western influence, amongst other things. This is because, until recent years, Africans considered the marriage union unbreakable. So, no matter what a married couple may face in their relationship, they stick it out.

Unfortunately, sticking it out is not a practical solution these days. Why? Because it is now apparent that tolerance wears thin eventually. So, instead of acting rashly because of intolerance, it is better and safer to pull out when both parties can, so they can move on.

The High Rate of Divorce in Nigeria

As the divorce rate in the country increases each year, it is possible to wonder if the court has made it so easy to dissolve a marriage. Well, let’s see what the divorce process is like in Nigeria.

In Nigeria, before marriage is dissolved in court, the court expects the Petitioner (the one asking for the divorce) to have justifiable reasons (grounds) for wanting the marriage to end. The Petitioner’s reasons must fall or tally with the grounds for divorce under the Marriage Act before the divorce can be finalized.

The grounds for divorce in Nigeria are as follows:

  • That the respondent (the partner who has to defend their own case in a divorce case obstinately refused to consummate the marriage.
  • That the respondent has committed adultery since the marriage and that the Petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent
  • That the respondent has acted in such a way since the marriage that the Petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent;
  • That the respondent abandoned the Petitioner for at least one year immediately preceding the presentation of the petition;
  • That the parties to the marriage have been separated for at least two years before the filing of the petition, and the respondent does not object to a decree being granted;
  • That the parties to the marriage have been separated for at least three years immediately preceding the filing of the petition;
  • That the other party to the marriage has failed to comply with a decree or restitution of conjugal rights issued under this Act for a period of not less than one year;
  • That the other party to the marriage has been absent from the Petitioner for such a period of time and in such circumstances that reasonable grounds for assuming the respondent’s death exist.
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It is important to note that regardless of the grounds, Nigeria’s court cannot dissolve a marriage if it is less than two years. But if the Petitioner demonstrates exceptional hardship and depravity on their part, the court can grant the petitioner leave.

The court can also grant leave to the Petitioner in marriage under two years in the following cases:

  1. Repeated and willful refusal to consummate the marriage;
  2. Adultery since marriage and intolerance on the Petitioner’s part; and
  3. Rape, sodomy, or bestiality.

Suppose a petitioner can successfully prove any of the above reasons as their grounds for asking for a divorce. In that case, the court will usually issue an order and a court judgment to the respondent.

Usually, the respondent is expected to appeal the case. But where there is an absence of an appeal from the respondent, the order becomes absolute after three months. Once the decree becomes final, the respondent has no right to appeal the court’s decision. Yes, that’s the divorce process in a nutshell.

You may have thought, “So simple, this may be why the rate of divorce is high.” But the truth is that it is more complex than most people think because no one goes into a marriage expecting it to end with divorce all too soon rather than the definitive statement “… till death do us part”.

Different reasons can force a couple to choose divorce as the best option.

Reasons for Divorce

1.   Lack of Planning

Lack of planning is one of the top reasons for the high rate of divorce in Nigeria as well as in other countries. You find out that two people meet, and after a few dates, decide to get married at the spur of the moment. They do not understand that physical maturity is not all it takes to be married.

Most of the time, couples are not emotionally, psychologically, or even intellectually ready to face challenges that may arise in marriage. People rush into marriage and expect that it will all work itself out. And unfortunately, it doesn’t happen that way.

For this reason, we should allow people to plan and be ready, not shame or pressure them into getting married. Marriage is an institution you step into when you are ready, not when society expects.

2.   Absence of Courtship

Courtship is the period before marriage when a couple learns each other’s personalities, habits, and life perspectives. This sharing phase is so critical to the longevity of a marriage, but most people don’t know. And even if they do, they don’t take it seriously.

Some young lovers avoid this process entirely, while others want to have fun during this time, not thinking about long-term issues. Having a superficial courtship is the same as having none at all.

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3.   Compatibility Issues

One of the things to check during your courtship is compatibility. This is because physical attraction alone cannot sustain a marriage. Hence, knowing and understanding your partner’s temperament, intellect, and habits is essential before you commit to marriage. Compatibility issues are one of the primary reasons most marriages don’t last, and the rate of divorce in Nigeria is constantly increasing.

4.   Lack of transparency

Some people marry their partners without telling them the stories that matter because they want to appear perfect. They hide things and necessary information that would have grave consequences in the future. Some even go to the extent of deceiving and blackmailing their partners into marriage. Without transparency in a marriage, it will not stand the test of time.

5.   Age disparities

The age gap between a couple is another common reason for divorce. Though we may want to argue that age is just a number, in reality, we all know that there are expectations that may not be met in this kind of relationship because of the age difference.

For example, a man in his fifties getting married to a woman in her twenties may not be able to keep up with his blossoming and youthful bride since he is an aging man, while a woman in her forties getting married to a man in his twenties may not be able to conceive as much as the man wants. Realizing this late can strain the marriage and eventually lead to a divorce.

6.   Intellectual misalignment

Everyone undoubtedly needs someone who can reason with them on their intellectual level. This is about the way of reasoning rather than the level of education of each partner in the marriage. Marriages work best if couples can understand each other perfectly. There should be a match in interests and intellectual development if a couple is to last long together.

7.   Infertility

Another common reason for the high rate of divorce in Nigeria is infertility. The issue of infertility in a marriage can be complex. It may be the man or woman who is infertile in the relationship. However, in most African countries, women are mostly blamed for the lack of children in the home.

Infertility may arise because of some medical issues or for some other reasons. Some couples don’t share this information with their partners but conceal it. However, once the situation is discovered, the marriage eventually falls apart.

8.   Unmet expectations

People go into marriage expecting their partners to be this or that, more or less, but they end up broken-hearted and frustrated when it doesn’t happen. Being in love, most young couples forget that their partners are not obligated in any way to meet their expectations. So, if these expectations are not met, then, of course, the marriage is bound to fail.

9.   Infidelity

Infidelity is also one of the common reasons couples divorce. Marriage is supposed to be an exclusive relationship where both parties are expected to be faithful to each other. But if one partner cheats, it is almost inevitable for the marriage to crash.

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10.   Failure to communicate

Lack of communication is another major cause of divorce. When spouses refuse to speak or neglect the importance of communication in their relationship, it is sure that little matters will grow into complex problems which will be challenging to resolve.

11.   Domestic Abuse

Domestic violence has also contributed to the high rate of divorce in Nigeria. A marriage where one partner is cold, disrespectful, and abusive to the other will never last long. In fact, no one should be encouraged to endure inhumane treatment, restrictions, humiliations, and beatings to keep a marriage together.

12.   Financial Issues

The survival of any marriage mainly depends on how a man can take care of his family and provide for them. And he needs money to do that.

Most marriages fail because couples fail to realize that it is essential for both partners to build a solid financial capacity. They feel it’s just for men. Well, it is not only for men to be financially buoyant. A woman also needs to be economically buoyant so both can pull from their resources to sort out financial challenges.

13.   Unusual Habits

Marriages also break because of unusual habits. Habits like gambling, drunkness, smoking, and other risky behaviors can be intolerable for a person in a marriage. Most significantly, when the other party doesn’t know about it.

The rate of divorce in Nigeria will continue to increase until individuals and the society at large look for ways to ensure that any of the above-listed reasons is canceled in marriages.

However, no one should be encouraged to stay in a dysfunctional or unproductive marriage for whatever reason.

Staying in a dysfunctional marriage to save face is as good as putting a knife to your neck because you might eventually be forced to do something rash or, in the worst-case scenario, lose your life. But, couples should be willing to work hard in their relationship, be patient, tolerate, and try working things out. Divorce should be a last resort.


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About the Chief Editor

Godfrey Ogbo, the Chief Editor and CEO of AtlanticRide, merges his environmental management expertise with extensive business experience, including in real estate. With a master's degree and a knack for engaging writing, he adeptly covers complex growth and business topics. His analytical approach and business insights enrich the blog, making it a go-to source for readers seeking thoughtful and informed content.

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