Single parenting is not a recent phenomenon Nigerian family system: from time immemorial, women have had to raise children by themselves after the end of a marriage- either by the death of the husband or the man leaving the union. However, in recent times, the “baby mama” syndrome has become more mainstream, courtesy of celebrity men who have children out of wedlock, with women they’re not necessarily committed to.
This past week, the Nigerian media space was inundated with the matter between Shola Ogudu, a 27-year-old woman who has a child with pop star Wizkid. She alleged that the singer was an irresponsible parent who she has to beg before receiving financial support to raise their son.
Although the issue made news because of Wizkid’s standing as a public figure, Shola’s plight is one that is shared by many Nigerian women.
Ese (not her real name) became solely responsible for raising the family when her husband relocated to Canada, ostensibly for greener pastures. Since then, he only sends just enough money to pay the house rent and nothing else. Regular bills such as feeding, school fees and other things are borne by the Ese, a tailor by profession. On more than one occasion, he has threatened to move their son away from her since all she does is demand money.
Fati, a single mother who had a child out of wedlock struggles the same way. In her case, her boyfriend at the time did not claim paternity until a year after the child was born.
Faith Abati is a single mother who got pregnant out of wedlock. In her case, her boyfriend at the time did not accept paternity until a year after the child was born. When she put to bed, the office she worked at did not give her maternity leave, claiming that she wasn’t married and could only use that period as her annual leave. Today, the child is six years old and only receives irregular school fees from the father.
At that time, she was only granted annual leave instead of maternity leave because she was not married. Today, the child is six years and the only support ever gotten from the father is irregular school fees.
Efe Ugboro, a Lagos based practitioner who spoke to NET told us all that most Nigerians do not know that they could approach a family court to resolve such matters. According to her, the Child Rights Act provides for such matters to be handled legally.
“It states that ‘every child is entitled to parental care, protection and maintenance’. This means that every parent, single or married, should be responsible for their offspring as the law transcends family and cultural traditions.” But she explains further that most people rather choose to settle child support issues by running to family members instead of the court.
She pointed out though, that the courts generally do not enforce child support rulings and that men get away with abandonment. As a result, women are intimidated and no go seek legal redress, instead opting for traditional settlement.
In Lagos State, for example, the 2007 Child’s Right Law states explicitly that every child is entitled to the respect of the dignity of his or person. Consequently, having a mother begging for funds for the upkeep of a child contravenes the law. But is not on record that any man has actually served a jail term to deter such behaviour. It is the court responsibility to enforce the ruling. “In a case where the income is not sufficient, the courts can help determine how much each parent should contribute towards’s upkeep,” Ugboro said.
Also on the case of Faith who was denied maternity leave because she is single, Efe Ugboro noted that the Nigerian Labour Law provides that all female employees (whether single or married)ate entitled to six weeks leave before expected delivery date and another six weeks after delivery date. She also noted that Nigeria is not yet at that stage where a lady can decide to have a child without wanting to get married.
She advised that women in these situations should take advantage of the legal system to avoid unnecessary drama, the likes of which was seen in the case of Shola Ogudu and Wizkid.
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