Aug 7, 2019

Family Law Dynamics in the Face of Current Realities of the 21st Century #NBAAGC2019

Family law gives birth to several key issues like divorce, nullity, adoption, custody of children, cohabitation, spousal rights and so on. Family law in Nigeria is regulated by several laws which are the Matrimonial Causes Act 1970, now Cap. M7 LFN 2004, which regulates marriages, breakdown of marriages and the welfare of children, The Child Rights Act 2003 which has been adopted by several states and it covers matters related to adoption and welfare of children.
In 2012, Lagos State enacted the family law rules pursuant to the Child’s Right Law of Lagos State. The rules simplified procedures on custody, guardianship and welfare of children. Others include the Maintenance Orders Act 2004, The Married Women’s Property Act 1882, the Law against Domestic Violence in Lagos State, Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2013.
Family law is not fully developed in Nigeria in contrast with other jurisdictions as there are several lapses in our laws pertaining to emerging issues like surrogacy and pre-nuptial agreement.
Under the Nigerian Law, the only ground for dissolution of marriage is that the marriage must have broken down irretrievably. There are several factors under this provided in Sections 15 and 16 of the MCA. These provisions are fault based, that is, fault must be alleged and proved by the party seeking dissolution of marriage. For example, adultery, persistent refusals to consummate marriage and so on. However, there are situations where the petitioner need not allege fault. For example, where the parties have lived apart for a continuous period of two to three years.
In Nigeria, in some cases, the courts have refused to dissolve parties’ marriage. This act is alien to the western world where divorce is a norm. This was seen in the case of Ubi Franklin and Lilian Esoro where the court held that their reason for divorce was invalid. Should Nigerian Courts refuse parties willingness to dissolve their marriage?
On the issue of adoption, the procedure is cumbersome as the adoption process takes time to complete. The procedures and documents to be submitted is stipulated in the Child‘s Right Act 2003. Adoption in Nigeria is not so common in contrast with other jurisdictions and as a result, the process is highly regulated and less cumbersome. Why should families be required to go through cumbersome processes to adopt a child?  
Another controversial issue on family law is on spousal rape. Is it possible for a husband to rape his wife and vice versa? Are there any laws in place regulating this?
The various questions, issues and challenges of family law and the way forward would be discussed at the Plenary Session of the NBA Annual General Conference scheduled to hold on;
Date: Tuesday, 27th August 2019
Time:  9.00 – 10.30
Venue: Iris, Eko Hotel
Moderator: Hon. Justice Elsie Thompson
Panelists:  Kikelomo Ayeye
                    Abdulraman Mohammed
                    Chioma Onyenucheya - Uko
                    Taiwo Akinlami