Alhaji Danjuma is a community leader. About three years ago, some members of the vigilante group in the neighbourhood where he lives came to inform him in the early hours of a particular day that they perceived some living object wrapped inside a sack, was moving inside drainage in the area. He followed them to the drainage and in his presence, the vigilante members brought out the sack containing the moving object.

Lo and behold, the moving object turned out to be a new baby who had obviously been dumped by someone. It had rained seriously the previous night and it was clear that the intention of whoever dumped the baby in the drainage was for it to be washed away by erosion into a big river close by.

The baby lives today with Alhaji Yussuf as one of his children. He proudly pointed at the boy and thinking I was aware of the incident, he said: “Lawyer that is the boy we rescued that day.” I asked “which day?” since I could not remember being aware of the incident. That was when he told me the story I just narrated above.

A Deacon of the Baptist extraction adopted over seven years ago two babies born as twins who were about to be killed in this age and time because of the cultural belief that for their mother to have died during their birth, the babies were evil. You would marvel at the bond that exists between them and the Deacon and other members of his family. The boys are well taken care of and they are growing so well!.

I had more respect for former Governor Raji Fashola the day I learnt from his response to the campaign against him some weeks back that he actually adopted some children whose parents died in one of the air mishaps which we have experienced as a nation in this clime in the last decade. Just imagine what could have happened to those children if they had not been adopted by their adoptive parents.

Today’s topic is meant to encourage those who have been nursing the idea of adopting a child but are bothered about cultural inhibitions and procedural bottlenecks involved in so doing legally. I am sure that there are several Nigerians and many people the world over who have taken to adopting children as their own way of making the world a better place. May God reward their labour of love. You want to adopt a child or you are already taking care of a child without having adopted them properly according to the law? Then, the following hints may be helpful.

There is no uniform adoption law in Nigeria. This is because the issue is within the legislative competence of state governments. However, within the space allowed on this page, we shall discuss some basic principles guiding adoption in Nigeria.

In all jurisdictions in Nigeria, it appears that emphasis is on adoption of children and not adults. The maximum age of a child to be adopted ranges between 17 and 18 years of age. It is expected that a person adopting a child has the financial capacity to raise the child. Applications for adoption are made to the appropriate government authority. In most states, it is usually the magistrate’s courts. The court to which the application is made, appoints a guardian ad litem who is usually a welfare officer or any person the court considers suitable for that purpose. The duty of the guardian so adopted, is to visit the adoptive parents. The child to be adopted must have stayed with the adoptive parent for at least three months. During this period, the welfare officer will make visits and make his confidential report to the court.

Upon being satisfied by the report given by the welfare officer, the court then makes an adoption order. The fact of the adoption order being given is then entered in the Adoption Register. If the adoptive parents intend to take the child out of the country temporarily or permanently, they need to get a letter from the welfare officer to the immigration according to the adoption laws of some states.

Adoption under the statutes in Nigeria envisages permanent severance of a child from his biological parents. The adoptive parents assume all legal rights, duties and privileges over the adopted child. The children so adopted under the law enjoy all the rights and privileges like the biological children.

Customary law equally allows adoption but it does not envisage permanent severance of the child from his biological parents. It usually starts with guardianship and matures into adoption with time. Adoption is not allowed under the Islamic law. It is only the concept of guardianship that is recognised by that law.

The case of OLAIYA V. OLAIYA (2002) 8 NWLR (PT 782) 652 is quite instructive. A couple married under the Marriage Act of England. The couple had no biological child of their own before the husband died in 1981 intestate. The husband’s brothers took over the management of the husband’s property without recourse to the surviving wife.

The wife sued claiming, among other things, that she and three children of the deceased husband were entitled to the inheritance of the deceased’s property. The wife’s evidence was that two of the three children were validly adopted under the applicable law.

The trial court held that the children were entitled to share from property of the deceased and this decision was upheld on appeal to Court of Appeal. On further appeal to the Supreme Court however, the Court held oral evidence of adoption was not enough and that a party alleging that adoption was properly done must prove this by tendering Adopted Children Register under the relevant adoption law.

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