A perusal on the legal implications of infidelity in Nigeria
Infidelity as defined by Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary means ‘unfaithfulness in marriage or other moral obligation’. The ambient of this definition extends to cover adultery, lesbianism, sodomy, bestiality, forming of undue romantic interest in a third party etc.
Sex outside marriage and other sought of unfaithfulness is seemingly becoming a culture in some parts of our country and the world in extension. These illicit sexual activities has been orchestrated in magazines, videos, songs, cartons, comedy shows and even in some religious organisations.
In some climes, there are some popular aphorisms of “no matter what you do for a man, no matter how good you are to him, no matter what you give to him, he will still cheat”, “men will always be men”, one man can never be enough”, “awoden isitreke brusas” (man can never sleep one sided) and many more.
The widespread of this deadly syndrome has as a matter of fact become a nematode to the downfalls of many families and misfortune to so many youths from divided households. It has also brought lasting shame to many families and individuals in their course of life on earth.
Considering how widely spread the nemesis emanating from infidelity is, some have been moved to ask the well-meaning question whether or not the Nigerian laws are silent on the issue of infidelity invariably supposing to have curb this menace?
The quest for clarification of the above question has ipso factor form the crux of this discussion. The positions of the law in the southern and northern Nigeria will be dissected and discussed seriatim, comparing and analysing same forensically.
As in addendum in helping to bring out the thrust of the subject matter, references will be made to the scriptures as the grond norm of the marriage institution.
In the northern states of Nigeria, Adultery (infidelity) is an offence punishable under section 387 to 390 of the Penal Code of Nigeria. The aforementioned provisions have defined the meaning and scope of adultery to include both sexes having sexual intercourse outside marriage to be guilty of this offence, stating their punishments accordingly.
This simply means that adultery has been criminalised in the northern part of our country and defaulters may be arraigned, tried and convicted accordingly for the said violation of law, which may in turn serve as a lesson and deterrent to others, making them refrain themselves from such loose conduct, pushing the public shame that accompanies it aside.
Adversely, in the southern part of Nigeria where the Criminal Code applies as against the north, adultery is not a punishable offence in the eyes of the law. This does not in any way promote immorality and infidelity in matrimonial homes. How?
Adultery in southern Nigeria is still frown at by the regulating laws. Infidelity is one of the grounds that an aggrieved party in a marriage can raise in filling his or her petition of divorce in the court of law. Put it differently, infidelity forms a valid ground for dissolution of marriage.
In buttressing the above points, section 15(2)(b) of then Matrimonial Causes Act states: “ The court hearing a petition for a decree of dissolution of a marriage shall hold the marriage to have broken down irretrievably if …the respondent has committed adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent”.
From the extant provisions of the above law, once the innocent party has been able to lead evidence to prove the infidelity of the other party, the court will consider the marriage to have been broken irretrievably and will grant the prayers of the petitioner, dissolving the marriage in question.
Beyond the dissolution, the consequences of marriage dissolution should not be kept in isolation. The cost of litigation to dissolve the marriage should be considered, the faith of the children of the dissolved family, the positions of the parents and the lasting shame should also be put into consideration.
From the ecclesiastical jurisprudence, adultery is the one and only ground for dissolution of marriage or divorce. “I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except on the grounds of sexual immorality, and marries commits adultery” -Matthew 19:9.
More than the divorce that the innocent party may seek; does it mean that the defaulted partly will only go with the emotional pains and nothing else? What does is the take of the originator of marriage institution? What will be the possible punishments in his eyes?
Hebrews 13:4 answers accordingly it accordingly. It sates: “Let marriage be honourable among all, and let the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge sexually immoral people and adulterers”
The above scripture attests to the fact that no matter how infidelity is widely spread and practiced, it does not in any way mitigate its punishment or change it status as a sin in the eyes of our creator who will judge us accordingly. The long duration of indulgence in this wrong practice will never perfect its sinful status to a good one.
Fellow Nigerians, before we resort to evoking our constitutional powers under section 6 (6) (b) of approaching the court of law to ventilate our grievances, seeking for divorce when cases of infidelity arises, we should always sit back to reconsider the possible outcomes of the actions we are about taking, it is better to be late than late.
From the forgoing, it has been deduced that infidelity is legally and morally wrong thus we should refrain ourselves from it. The shame, trauma, bad name, human and divine punishments should deter us from thus unwholesome practice.
If we don’t wake up to fight this nemesis before this world permeated with immorality eat us up, our future generation will suffer to the extreme as broken homes and wayward children will keep on increasing on daily basis due to dissolution of marriages triggered by the untold level of infidelity.
Enough is enough; let’s use our senses and consciences.
Edikan Ekanem is a contemporary writer and a columnist. He can be reached at 08130015006 or [email protected]