What’s New on MzAgams’ Blog?

Its been a crazy few months that started this year. The story is coming up. Stay tuned. But just a few tit bits about what I’ll be bringing your way for the rest of the year.

I’d like to thank all of you that have read and commented on the ‘How To Get A Divorce in Nigeria’ Series that I wrote in 2012. It’s been great fun reading and answering your questions. And its really satisfying to see blogs inspired by that series popping up all over the place in the past couple of years. I need to update and I’ll be doing so over the next few weeks bringing you the latest decisions in family law, child custody, and related family law matters. And maybe even a something from a guest blogger.

I’m also starting a new series on Customary Marriage including Islamic Marriage. It will tell you everything you need to know about women’s rights under various customary from around the country and Islamic law and how they are evolving. I have a couple of guest writers  eager to share what they know with you.  Antony C. Diala who is writing his PhD on living customary law will be contributing.   So will Barrister Amina Abubakar who is with the Human Rights Commission.

I’m expanding and trying something new – I’ll be bringing you vlogs and podcasts of your favourite topics. Keep sending in your questions and comments. I’m here to ensure you know what your rights are as a woman within your family – the family you were born into and the family you married into.  Knowledge is power. There are a lot of lies and half truths circulating in popular media about women’s rights within marriage that are deliberately created to exploit, oppress and even cheat women. Don’t be one of those women.

Shine your eye. Know your rights. Women’s rights are human rights.

And read my blog post about protecting your assets after marriage here.

That’s not all.

Working with the theme “Women Activists; Women’s Activism” this year I’m going to interview some of the women that work hard to advance and expand women’s rights in Nigeria and anywhere else we find them. My first interview is going to be with Josephine Effah Chukwuma of Project Alert on Violence Against Women. Got any questions you want to ask her?  We’re at the cutting edge of change in Nigeria. What does it take to build and sustain an organisation like hers in an environment like ours? Find out.

I’ll probably be interviewing a lot of Ashoka fellows. I worked with them over the years and I think they’re great. They’re the best that the social enterprise sector has to offer any where in the world. You don’t want to miss anything they have to say.

Do you have any suggestions about some woman or women that are doing great work in advancing women’s rights that I should talk to? Let me know. Drop a comment. Tell me what they do and where I can find them and I will. I’m always looking for shero’s to promote. So much of women’s work is hidden and unsung its no wonder people end up  thinking we aren’t doing anything much.

Elections are around the corner. More women are expressing an interest in contest for public office. Some people say we should vote for them just because they’re women and get more women in the political space. Some people say we should hold them to the same standards we hold male contestants. Its a hard choice believe me. I’ve been on both sides of the fence. Maybe we should just listen to the women contesting and hear what they say. I’ll score some interviews with female contestants and ask them some questions too.

Its going to be fun filled and informative. I promise.

 

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Are Prenups Valid in Nigeria and Other FAQs

A UK client  who was about to marry a Nigerian got in touch with me to draft a mirror prenuptial agreement and later in a mirror post nuptial in Nigeria. A mirror prenup is  recommended for people with multiple international domiciles, citizenship or businesses.

 

In the context of international prenuptial agreements, a mirror agreement is  drafted in one jurisdiction to follow the terms of an agreement that applies in another jurisdiction. It maximises the chances of enforcement of the agreed terms in multiple jurisdictions.

 

International prenuptial agreements are becoming increasingly popular as the world gets smaller and despite THIS rather regressive point of view about prenups in Nigeria more Nigerians are being asked to sign prenups by foreign and domestic partners. 

 

I especially recommend prenups for women who have a high net worth prior to marriage. While high net worth men that initiate divorce often evict their spouse from the matrimonial home without any assets whatsoever, and often even without her personal effects, high net worth women often lose joint property to their spouse when divorcing. At least this has been my experience as a divorce lawyer for over twenty years in Nigeria.

 

I’m not going speculate as to why this is so here.

 

Here are some FAQ’s about prenups in Nigeria;

 

Question: Do pre-nuptial agreements or a similar document exists in Nigeria

 

Answer: Yes, pre-nuptial agreements do exist in Nigeria and are treated primarily as valid contracts. 

 

Question: Are the valid contracts referred to “binding” or “just influential”?
 

 

A prenup is influential and not binding. Section 72(2) of the Matrimonial Causes Act recognises the right of parties to execute pre- and post-nuptial agreements. The relevant provisions are permissive and not interpretative and the courts retain unfettered exercise of their discretionary powers in divorce settlements.


Nevertheless, a prenup agreement would be upheld to the extent it is just and equitable. The courts determine marital property based on evidence of contribution by the applicant. The Married Women’s Property Act 1882 is still a statute of general application in Nigeria.    

In practice, however, the courts often direct divorcing parties to submit terms of settlement to avoid lengthy, contentious and difficult settlement and division property disputes. 

 

The Court of Appeal indirectly pronounced on the validity of prenup agreements, when it ruled that a trial court was right to hold that the respondent had a joint interest in a property belonging to the parties, because it was not referred to in their pre-nuptial agreement (Oghoyone v Oghoyone (2010) 3 NWLR (Pt. 1182) 564).

 

It is helpful to understand the intention of the client when drafting a prenuptial agreement – is it to protect property acquired before marriage? or is it to ensure adequate  maintenance/child support/settlement in the event of divorce separation? or protection for joint property/marital assets? 

Question:  Are there any criteria which must be followed when entering into a valid prenuptial contract in Nigeria? For example, in England a Pre-Nuptial Agreement, to be influential, must be:-

 a)     Fair;

 b)    Signed more than 28 days before the wedding;

c)     Both the wife and husband must have received independent legal advice (this is evidenced by the legal advisors signing the Pre-Nuptial Agreement);

 d)    Both parties must have disclosed to each other their financial circumstances; their assets, liabilities and income.

 
Answer: There is little or no case law or court rules guiding prenuptial agreements in Nigeria and the only statutory criteria is that it is fair and equitable. However, an agreement that attempts to oust or control the jurisdiction of the court will be considered contrary to public policy and probably ignored.

 

Otherwise, English law retains a strong influence on  judicial decisions in Nigeria and it would be good practice to conform to the criteria established in England.

 

The same answers would apply to questions about post nuptial agreements.

 

For more on joint ownership of property in the context of marriage in Nigeria read THIS.
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The Oxfam Saga Continues

“The experience of those who reported abuse, including a former Oxfam country director who said she survived a rape attempt at headquarters in Oxford, did not encourage others. Lesley Agams, who had been highly rated at Oxfam, said she was handed a dismissal letter by the man who attacked her.

The UN whistleblowers in Haiti also suffered; although they were not forced out, they received anonymous threats while the investigation was going on, and their careers did not flourish after it finished.

“They had taken a very difficult step, because it is essentially saying goodbye to your career,” the former UN staffer said. “If you blow the whistle when you are out in the field, you may never be hired again – it makes you very vulnerable.”

The Guardian

Behind the sex parties and scandals in Haiti lies a culture of secrecy and lack of diversity

 

What’s In A National Anthem? #NGWomen4Peace

In 1978 Obasanjo’s military government decided to change the national anthem as part of its preparations to hand over power to a democratically elected government after 12 years of military rule and a 3 year civil war.   As a true Nigerian man he was offended that the previous anthem was written by two white women, if he could have changed the country’s name coined by another white woman he probably would have. The new anthem was written by 5 men and the music composed by the director of the Nigerian Police Band. Women were not considered good enough for such an important task. The new anthem sounds very masculine and military and the sovereign motherland of the first anthem became the fatherland, with all the character of a fascist sound track. Hitler would have been proud.  It sounds ominous, brooding, saturnine, and paternalistic. It announces – women beware, we are a nation of men – men of war.

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Dr. Gloria Laraba Shoda, President NCWS at Press Conference announcing their alliance with #NGWomen4Peace on 28 September 2017

How To Register a Statutory Marriage in Nigeria

  • Marriage is registered at a local public registry or the marriage registry usually found at every local government secretariat
  • The intending couple files a Letter of Marriage Intention and pays of a fee of Naira 2,000.
  • A person under 18 years of age, who wishes to register a marriage, is required to present a letter of consent from his or her parents.
  • The registry will display the Letter of Marriage Intention for 21 days on a public notice board.
  • Provided that no objection to the intended marriage is made during the 21 day period, a couple may then register their marriage.
  • Birth certificates or official documents showing the ages of the couple are required together with the results of HIV and genotype tests.
  • A divorcee must produce a divorce certificate, while a widow or a widower is required to present the death certificate of the late spouse.
  • A marriage registrar may witness the exchange of oaths by the couple.

(H/T Australian High  Commission. Beautifully simple.)

 

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Independence Day Statement from #NGWomen4Peace

 

On 7 September 2017, women from across Nigeria met in Abuja to discuss the need:

  1. for a platform (NGWomen4Peace) for women to voice their concerns about key issues which negatively impact on us, our children and our families and
  2. to organise women to promote a stronger sense of ownership and belonging in the country and build our confidence to contribute positively to making a difference to the present alarming trajectory of our country.

#NGWomen4Peace is a movement of women and women’s groups representing all parts of Nigeria concerned with the current state of affairs and focused on ensuring that Nigeria remains a country of peace, prosperity and participation for all.

We have observed the following:

  • An increased wave of hate speech and inciting statements,
  • An increased spate of violent conflicts around the country, and
  • That women, who bear the brunt of the violent conflict, are not consulted when ethnic, religious and political groups publish their statements which threaten the peace and security of Nigerians.
  • That despite almost two decades of activism women are still not proportionally represented in politics, peace and security decision making and governance

We acknowledge the efforts of the security sector, the humanitarian community, CSO, religious and traditional authorities and individuals who are trying to manage the problem. We have mobilised to add our voices and assert our rights as citizens, as mothers, as women and as one half of the population of this nation in pursuit of peace, dialogue and deescalation.

OUR DEMANDS

We are not begging. We are not asking. We are insisting. We are demanding

DIALOGUE & DEESCALATION

An immediate cessation of all hostilities across the country and a demand for all stake holders and state and non state actors to begin a process of deescalation and dialogue that will include women in proportional representation as active participants, negotiators, referees, observers and peace keepers.

The are numerous violent conflicts ongoing all across the country – in the north east, in north central, in the south east, in the south south, a nation wide conflict nomadic pastoralists and farming communities.

Nigerian women demand that all violence end immediately and all parties and stakeholders begin a process of dialogue.  Whatever the demands – restructuring, devolution, inclusion, marginalisation, secession, religious freedom, ethnic protectionism – they can and must be negotiated. We will no longer tolerate the blood of our children be spilled to sustain untenable positions of violent insurrection and dominance in a democratic federation.

No Be Fight. We are a civilised and modern nation. We will dialogue and we must start with immediate deescalation.

We call on Arewa Youths, IPOB, Boko Haram, Oduduwa, Ohaneze, the Federal Government and its agencies.

INCLUSION

Increasing women’ s active and full participation in politics, peace and security negotiations, decision making, conflict resolution and peace agreements. There are over 200 MDAs in Nigeria and women must be proportionally included and represented in all. For immediate action –

  • The newly formed House of Representatives committee saddled with the responsibility of fostering national unity led by the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Yusuf Sulaiman Lasun should appoint a female representative as its deputy and of the nine other positions at least half should be filled with women.
  • Project Steering Committee for the implementation of the 54.5 million euros support project for the North-east inaugurated in August 2017 should have at least 50% female membership, line ministries that are on the committee must nominate women to fill their position.
  • The National Judicial Council (NJC) under the chairmanship of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, established a Corruption and Financial Crimes Cases Trial Monitoring Committee (COTRIMCO) to monitor judges and courts handling corruption and financial crimes cases in the country. The membership of the committee is almost entirely male, with a lone female representing the NGO sector. We demand a review and women to be immediately take 50% of the membership.
  • Immediate implementation of Chapter 2 Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria especially section 14(3) and (4) on Federal character to immediately implement representative inclusion of women in all federal, state and local government agencies and a 50% affirmative action policy.

We will in collaboration with our members and allies over the next 30 days continue to identify and various committees, bodies and institutions where women are not adequately represented and demand inclusion and nominate capable women for inclusion. We will use legal means and judicial process as appropriate and various other means of protest and pressure where appropriate.

Zonal and State Working committees of NGWomen4Peace will also articulate and announce specific demands that will be pursued at the zonal and state level to ensure dialogue, deescalation and inclusion of women and respect for the constitution and rule of law. These plans will be announced in a series of press conferences over the next week.

We will assess the response to our demands and our strategies for their enforcement over the next 30, 60 and 90 days and continue to adjust our actions to ensure compliance and update the press and our fellow Nigerians on progress towards peace and women’s inclusion in governance, conflict resolution, peace building and decision making.

We live in hope for a better Nigeria where every individual has equal opportunities to be the best they can be for themselves and their communities. Nothing good comes without hard work and sacrifice but we, Nigerian women, declare that we can and must build the country of our dreams without sacrificing the lives of innocents.

We continue to build a critical mass of women and women’s groups in a grand alliance of women waging peace and will launch the White Blouse Campaign for Peace to build women’s solidarity, visibility and support for our movement.

Signed By:

  1. Iheoma Obibi – Alliances for Africa, Imo State
  2. Esther Eshiet – After School Centre for Career Development, Akwa Ibom
  3. Mabel Ikoghode – Girls Power Initiative, Delta State
  4. Dr. Alice Musa – University of Madugiri, Borno State
  5. Dr. K. Kwari – University of Madugiri, Borno State
  6. Ayisha Osori- Self, Kaduna State
  7. Azeenah Mohamed – Independent, Nassara State
  8. Patricia Onyekwelu – WILPF Nigeria, Enugu State
  9. Ifeyinwa Omowole Nigeria Association of Women Journalist, Lagos State
  10. Ballason Gloria – House of Justice Kaduna State
  11. Osai Ojigho – Self, Delta State
  12. Nnenaya Emeremadu – CARA Development Foundation. Imo State
  13. Jemila Barkindo – Women Peace and Security Network, Adamawa State
  14. Amy Oyekan Monii Development Consultant, Delta State
  15. Ify Malo – Clean Tech Hub, Anambra State
  16. Eleanor Nwadinobi – Gender Expert, Abia State
  17. Olufunke Baruwa – Nigerian Women Trust Fund, Ekiti State
  18. Priscilla Achakpa – Women Environment Program, Benue State
  19. Blessing Usie – Open Society Justice Initiative, Delta State
  20. Felicia  Onibon – Change Managers International Network, Edo State
  21. Edna Mathews-Njoku – Joel Women Youth Development Initiative, Imo State
  22. Ndi Kato – NNidari Empowerment Foundation, Kaduna State
  23. Natasha Akpoti – Builders Hub Foundation, Kogi State
  24. Lesley Agams – Consultant, Abuja FCT
  25. Mariam Aldu – Self, Adamawa State
  26. Amina Salihu, Gender and Security Consultant
  27. Blessing Duru – Program Manager, Alliances for Africa
  28. Ogechi Ikeh – Program Officer, Nigerian Feminist Forum