Gender Opinion

Opinion | Consent/Adulthood Under Nigerian Law

The age of Consent to Marriage in Nigeria is provided as 18yrs in the Child's Rights Act and 21yrs in the Matrimonial Act.
By Esiri Ukueku-Uduaghan

I think it’s high time I made this clarification because so many of you are getting it twisted.

When you say the age of consent in Nigeria is 11yrs. Consent to what exactly are you talking about?

Is it – #CONSENT #TO #MARRIAGE?

The age of Consent to Marriage in Nigeria is provided as 18yrs in the Child’s Rights Act and 21yrs in the Matrimonial Act.

The exception to this is the legal backing which the Constitution gives Sharia law in the northern states, which arises from and is in consonance with Islamic custom.

Therefore marriage under Islamic custom/Sharia law in the north can be contracted by a person below 18yrs of age PROVIDED parental consent of said person is obtained.

Please note that you cannot enagage in a statutory marriage before a Nigerian Registry in the north if you are below 18yrs of age.

Also note that if you are married under statutory law(ie registry marriage/court marriage, as it is popularly called) your marriage will not be governed by the provisions of sharia law as provided in the penal code in that regard.

Therefore the age of Consent to marriage is 18yrs in Nigeria, with the exception of those who contract marriage under Sharia law in the Northern states with the consent of the minor’s parents.

Is it – #CONSENT #TO #SEX?

The age of Consent to sex in Nigeria is 18yrs.

If you are above 18 yrs and you engage in sexual activity with a person below 18yrs you are guilty of a crime termed statutory Rape.

Is Statutory Rape different from Rape simplicita? Yes it is

Please note that unlike Rape, all that is required to prove Statutory Rape is the fact that an adult engaged in sexual activity with a minor.

The issue of proving the presence or absence of consent, sexual violence, etc is not a necessity in this instance.

The only issue of importance is whether or not he/she (an adult) had carnal knowledgeable (ie sex) of a minor?

Once you can prove that intercourse occured, it is regarded as Rape by default, because under the law a minor doesnt possess the capacity to give consent. Therefore if you had sex with a minor, there was no consent.

Now, Consent to sex is 18yrs through out Nigeria, with the exception of girls who have been married under sharia law/Islamic custom with the consent of their parents.

I’m making this distinction to say this; it is still a crime if you go and have sex with a northern girl under 18yrs of age, whom you are not married to.It is still Statutory Rape.

The only exception to this is that you must be married to her with her parents consent.

Therefore, if you take a minor and marry her before a church, a mosque or in any other way without the consent of her parents, the marriage is invalid.

And if you proceed to have sex with her, you have committed statutory Rape.

Therefore the age of Consent to Sex in Nigeria is not 11 yrs, or 14 yrs as some of you are erroneously quoting. It is 18yrs.

Outside the bounds of marriage backed by parental consent under sharia law in the north, you cannot legally engage in sexual activity with a person under 18yrs anywhere in Nigeria.

Finally let’s talk about #ADULTHOOD.

What is the age of Adulthood in Nigeria? An adult in Nigeria is regarded as any person of 18yrs and above.

Please note, that marriage backed by parental consent under sharia law doesnt interfere with the age of adulthood in this regard.

In actual fact, such marriages involving minors in the north are regarded as CHILD marriages, which is why consent in such marriages cannot be given by the minor getting married.

Such consent will be regarded as inappropriate because a MINOR/CHILD lacks the capacity to give consent, and so it has to be the consent of the parents.

The only exception to the age of adulthood being 18yrs in the constitution was made in reference to the denouncement of citizenship.

And it basically provides that a person must be 18yrs and above to be able to denounce his/her citizenship. However, if a person below 18yrs is married, he/she would be regarded as a person of full age (ie 18yrs/an adult) for this purpose.

I do hope I’ve been able to provide the much needed clarity on this issue.

You are welcome.🙏

Esiri Ukueku-Uduaghan, an attorney and social commentator, wrote from Lagos.

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