Divorce rate in Nigeria seems to be rising. The main reasons are incompatibility and intolerance of couple, writes Chris Onokpegu with additional reports from NCR.
The extant law provides that a marriage should last at least two years before it can be dissolved. But in most cases, couples seek
dissolution of marriages less than one year old. Taiwo Olanrewaju, a marriage counsellor believes the marriage institution is gradually failing due to high rate of divorce. A source at the Federal High Court Abuja told this magazine that there are many pending divorce cases before the court.
Although he could not give the exact number, the source revealed that in the state high courts divorce cases are handled almost every day. Some years back, marriage was a sacred institution and was respected and preserved. Couples, who took the sacred oath of ‘for better, for worse, till death do us apart’ before ministers of God, observe such oath and remained in marriage till death did them part. A lawyer, Mrs.Yemi Ajayi explains that marriage then was a worthwhile venture especially among Christians, Muslims and traditional religion worshipers.
Parish Priest of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Isashi, Lagos, Rev. Fr. Ukoma Andrew attributes the high rate of divorce in the country to western influence on families, greed, and negative impacts of Nigeria’s dwindling economy. He laments that the basic foundation of marriage has been destroyed; consequently, many couples no longer have respect for the institution of marriage.
“Marriage is no longer seen as a sacrament whereby a man and a woman are married for life. The injunction that they will remain married till death do them part no longer means much to a Westerner. Unfortunately, they are trying to impose that on Africans, and particularly Nigerians. Today, people marry for the wrong reasons either because the bride or groom is from a rich home or is rich.”
Rev. Fr. Ukoma Andrew regrets that the rate of divorce is high even among Catholics and adds,“The Church has never relented in teaching members through homilies, writings and seminars, but unfortunately people will always do that which appeals to them.”
A marriage counsellor, Dr. Eunice Iheanacho blames the high rate of divorce in the society on immaturity of couples. Iheanacho says couples these days are always impatient, full of pride and lack understanding, wisdom and are unable to take corrections or correct another’s mistakes. There is case of a couple that sought the dissolution of their marriage simple because one of them jokingly used derogatory language on the other.
Vincent Nwana, a lawyer, believes that “if every couple exhibited some level of tolerance, this would elicit mutual understanding among the spouses which would go a long way in reducing factors responsible for divorce.” He cautions presidents of customary courts and magistrates to exhibit a high level of discretion in handling divorce cases so as to reduce the incidences of divorce.
Abraham Ojekanmi of the School of Marriage International lists infidelity, finance, and intrusion by third party as some of the reasons. He explains that friends cause more problems for couples than enemies, “because if you know your enemy, you distance yourself from him.” Pastor Ojekanmi argues that the reasons why couples decide to divorce are not tenable before God.
“God expects them to stand straight and continue the marriage till death do them part because God does not recognise divorce in marriage.” The impact of Western culture has been identified as one of the reasons why the marital institution is suffering serious setback in the country.
Often times, couples go into marriage without understanding the character of the other spouse or their compatibility. Some women, in their desperation to get married, ignore marriage counselling and courtship. “Most young women feel it is a must to get married at an early age while the older ones cannot stand the stigma of not being married.
Therefore, they enter into marriage not minding what it may cost them in future,” observes Linus Okwara. Parents who impose spouses on their children also share part of the blame. Such marriages, according to Mrs. Nkechi Amanambu do not last as soon as the couple realise that the union is against their will. Femi Awodele, a social commentator says the inability of a couple to spend time together contributes a lot to marriage failure. Quest for mundane things hardly give couples the time to stay together and understand themselves better.
Worried by the development, some lawyers at a press conference in Lagos called on couples to show mutual understanding and tolerance of each other. They identified inability of prospective couples to determine their compatibility before marriage as one of the factors responsible for the alarming rate of divorce.
Religious organisations have roles to play for marriage stability. Some of them organise marriage counselling up to three years for intending couples. Because of rising divorce rates and to ensure women have something to fall back on in the event of marriage collapse, religious organisations insist that couples get married in court before the white wedding. There have been cases of divorce where the man goes away with all the property including the one jointly owned with the woman.
Court marriage also makes divorce diffi cult since the court processes must be exhausted before the marriage can be dissolved. Divorce comes with social effects especially on woman and children. While the woman is seen as an irresponsible person who is unable to keep her home, the children lack parental care and are prone to societal ills.
Alfa Delesolu says such children are exposed to vices and may end up as street kids. He notes that the divorced couple are negatively affected too especially if one of them still loves the other. That could lead to lack of concentration at work or eventual loss of job, illness and lots of other terrible things. Musa Ahmed, a lawyer, says the effect of divorce is particularly grave on the children. “Most children you find roaming the streets hawking are largely products of broken homes.
The society is continuously put at risk if these children are not catered for. Eventually, they may turn out to be a nuisance to the society,” he adds. Ojekanmi believes that divorce also affects the man psychologically, emotionally and socially. A study in the United States of America, reveals that most of the unruly behaviours in the country are caused by people who have divorced; a man tends to misbehave when the wife is not with him again.
Most people believe that one of the ways to put a stop or reduce divorce is for couples to avoid suspicion, find time to confirm any allegation by their spouse and should not allow intrusion in their marriage. On how to avoid divorce among couples, Rev. Fr. Ukoma Andrew recom that couples should always feel free to bring their challenges to their priests.
“Often when the challenges come, couples keep them to themselves without the aid of prayer and the aid of the spirit of God. Such marriage is bound to collapse. I advise Catholics that whenever they are faced with challenges of marriage, they should first of all report it to their marriage sponsors.
If their marriage sponsor cannot solve the problem, let them bring it to their Priest who is always there to cater for the spiritual and psychological well being of the members.” Husband and wife should pray. Every marriage faces challenges. But God is greater than all family challenges.
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