A few months ago I watched a heart
wrenching video of an Igbo man who discovered his only son was not actually his
biological child. After 32 years of being a wonderful and loving father and
relocating the boy’s destiny to England, the boy’s mother calls them to drop
the bombshell. Recently, we have been seeing a lot of news about paternity
testing in Nigeria. There have been many funny memes about it, but anyone who
has actually faced this in reality will tell you that it is not a laughing

This just made me wonder; a lot of the time
when a woman gives birth in Nigeria she tends to be married, and the father of
the child is presumed to be the woman’s husband. In almost all instances where
a woman tells a man that he is the father of her child, she would be offended
if he asked for a paternity test. However, after talking to several friends about
the topic, one comment that was reoccurring was, “Ivie you cannot even begin
to understand how many men in Nigeria are raising children that are not
biologically theirs. Many of them continue with the marriage because of image,
but tend to start misbehaving uncontrollably
This article talks about paternity fraud
and the legal implications in Nigeria and abroad for same.
Paternity Fraud
Paternity fraud is where a woman leads a
man to believe he is the legitimate and biological father of a child. This may
be either by misidentification, where the woman is wrong in her own belief as
to who the child’s father is; or may be outright fraud, where the mother knows
categorically that the man is not the child’s biological father, but for
reasons best known to her, continually tells him “You Are The Father…”.
In 2015 a survey conducted by Durex
revealed that Nigerian women are amongst the most unfaithful in the world; the
DNA department of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital has estimated that
approximately 30% of Nigerian men are not the biological fathers of their
children. However, many others believe paternity fraud is even more prevalent
than this. Some argue that in most cases women know who the biological father
of their children are and that misidentifications are rare.
The Legal Implications – Abroad
In other jurisdictions, paternity fraud is
a very serious issue. As you can imagine, with the gravity of child maintenance
in these countries, such a mistake often turns out to be a very expensive
mistake. In this case, the authorities have the right to use the affidavit of
paternity or birth certificate, both signed by the father, as proof of
paternity in child maintenance cases.
The laws relating to child maintenance vary
from region to region; however, what resonates is that the best interests of
the child are of the utmost importance. Thus, where there have been confirmed
cases of paternity fraud, the courts have the onus of determining whether
payments should continue, or whether the father may cease continuation of
It has not been unheard of, for a man to be
mandated to continue child maintenance payments for a child who has been
revealed as being unrelated to the man where maintaining the status quo has
been deemed as being in the best interest of the child.
Implications Of Paternity Fraud
Depending on jurisdiction, women involved
in paternity fraud are often guilty of a criminal offence, however many courts
are unwilling to convict on grounds of paternity fraud. This is because, the
best interests of the child are of paramount concern.
Where the mother is able to prove that the
matter is a genuine misidentification, as opposed to outright fraud, then this
may successfully mitigate any possible liability she may have; or rather, the
presiding judges willingness to extend the full ambits of the law against her.
In most instances, the only recourse a man
would have is a monetary claim against the woman for all the monies exhausted
on that child, however the likelyhood of her having the capacity to repay
monies, expanded over the course of several years in one lump sum, are slim to
none. Where the child is a teenager, damages awarded in such an instance could
run into the millions.
The Legal Implications – Nigeria
Unfortunately there seems to be no case
history in a court of record for paternity fraud in Nigeria. As stated above,
it is something that is definitely happening in our society. Regrettably, due
to our culture of keeping things in house, in most instances parental/community
intervention and church counselling, are the primary means of conflict
The most one might possibly hear is that,
Tunde and Yinka are no longer together, and that Tunde doesn’t even take care
or see his “daughters” again.
Some believe that another reason for sweeping
things under the carpet is that in most instances there is no court
intervention, where a man has a child through extra-marital affairs or out of
wedlock. Fathers simply know that they have an obligation to cater for their
children, and so tend do so. Thus why would there be court intervention in this
Unfortunately in Nigeria we have not gotten
to the stage where any man has actually sued a woman for paternity fraud.
However, just like spousal support for men, any man who establishes that he has
been wrongly maintaining a child who is not his biological child, has a claim
against the mother of said child – in the form of monetary damages. How the
Nigerian courts might decide to handle the matter is an entirely different
Any man who believes that a child is not
his biological child should seek a DNA test immediately. I believe, for the
well-being of the child, it is something that really should be highlighted and
rectified as soon as possible. Every man has the right to be able to forge
solid relationships with their biological children and every child has the
right to know their biological fathers.
Many men sign a child’s birth certificate
without “doing the needful” and I believe this is where the problem lies.
Mandatory paternity tests at the time of birth will significantly solve the
issue of paternity fraud.
In Nigeria we are very far from such an
order being likely to be implemented. If all else fails, I would advise women
to simply pray that the child is a splitting image of the identified father,
thus avoiding unnecessary questioning.

Energy & Finance, Associate at Templars

This article was first published here