Having multiple wives is called polygamy and in Nigeria, it is only permitted in Islam and the traditional marriage. Christianity which is one of the dominant religions in Nigeria frowns at it, as it does not consider it legal to have 2 wives in Nigeria.
Islam gives a cap to the number of wives as four. Civil law in Nigeria does not allow polygamous marriage, as polygamy is only allowed by 12 Muslim states under Sharia Law. Also, the customary law permits a Nigerian man to marry as many wives as possible.
Polygamy and perceptions
Polygamy is largely categorized as illegal because it creates room for an unequal relationship. Polygamy permits competition and rivalry.
It causes a situation where the children are suffering from divided attention from the parents. Children from polygamous homes tend to have issues accommodating other people. It is noteworthy that some polygamous homes are knit together as one union, having a harmonious relationship.
Despite the negativity attached to polygamy, it is believed that men who practice polygamy tend to live longer than men who practice monogamy. The attention usually enjoyed by a polygamous man from the wives tends to create the love enjoyed by a newborn baby which makes the man live longer.
Polygamy is highly selfish and mainly centered on the man’s needs against what the woman may primarily feel.
In an age where women’s liberation is being preached and practiced, polygamy should be seen as a thing of the past, even though for now it is legal to have 2 wives under certain conditions.
Can a woman marry more than one husband in Nigeria?
The saying that what is good for the goose is good for the gander may not be true with regards to women marrying more than one husband.
This is so because despite it may be legal to have 2 wives in customary and Muslim marriage, the woman cannot have more than one husband at a time. Polyandry is the act of a woman marrying more than one husband.
In Nigeria, society explicitly frowns at polyandry. it is believed that polyandry would limit population growth as against polygamy that increases it.
Though polyandry is illegal in Nigeria, however traditionally the people from the Northern part of Nigeria from Irigwe practice polyandry. where the women are allowed to have several husbands and also give birth for them. This practice of the Irigwe people was outlawed by their council in 1968.
Can a man marry two wives in court?
Marriage under customary law in Nigeria is a marriage bound by native law and custom of an ethnic group in Nigeria.
Customary law in Nigeria permits polygamy which makes it legal for a man to have 2 wives in Nigeria.
There are several customs in Nigeria but there is the general custom. Unlike the customary law concerning marriage in Nigeria, civil law does not permit polygamy.
Polygamy and Poverty in Nigeria
There is no evidence to formally attribute polygamy to poverty but it remains evident that regions in Nigeria that have a high level of polygamy also have a high rate of poverty.
It is expected that people who take multiple wives should have resources to take care of them.
This position suggests that wealthy men have fewer wives, even among the Muslim faithful. Nigeria’s president for example has only 2 wives, less than the four approved for a predominant Muslim.
This shows that though religion may consider it legal to have 2 wives in Nigeria, poverty is mainly the determining factor to marry more than one wife.