Through adoption, children who will not be raised by their biological parents can legally join another family as full members while retaining their genetic and emotional ties to their original parents. Having children can be seen as one of the things required by us from God, but some people either naturally cannot conceive either by choice or biologically and that is when adoption comes in. Adoption in Nigeria is common, though not all are legal. Some families are gratuitous enough to take in children that are orphaned or whose father or mother passed away, in this form of adoption there is no legal backing and sometimes, it is merely implied.

There are certain ways in which adoption can be implied, an example is when a parent leaves the child with another and does not provide support or maintain a significant parental relationship with the child for a period of time.[i]

Through Legal Adoption a child’s legal relationship with his or her biological parents is ended by adoption, this automatically creates a new relationship between the child and the adoptive parents. Adoption could either be statutory or customary in Nigeria:[ii]


This can either be done formally or informally, when done formally the birth parents are asked expressly to transfer the child’s parental rights and obligations to the party seeking to adopt them, this is very essential in adoption.[iii] This type of adoption is seen clearly in Akinwande v Dogbo[iv]. For informal adoption, it is the incorporation of the child into a family over a lengthy amount of time, guardianship or fostering, maintenance, and upbringing of the child are strong indicators.


A formal and legal form of adoption governed by written law is known as statutory adoption. One aspect that sets statutory adoption apart from customary adoption is the fact that, in juxtaposition to customary forms of adoption, where the child’s rights and legal relationship with his or her natural parents are preserved, statutory adoption permanently terminates those rights and relationships. A legal adoption in Nigeria is governed by The Child Rights Act 2003 Cap. C.50, Laws of Federation of Nigeria, this is the principal legislation regulating adoption in Nigeria and It outlines the requirements one must meet in order to be qualified to adopt a child. It provides for the qualifications of persons eligible to adopt and be adopted, conditions for adoption, consents required before adoption, procedures to be followed in adoption matters, and the legal effects of adoption

The act in Section 129 provides for the category of persons who may Adopt a child in Nigeria, From the provision: 

The following persons may apply for an adoption order-

  • a married couple where-
  • each of them has attained the age of twenty-five years, and
  • there is an order authorizing them jointly to adopt a child; or
  • a married person, if he has obtained the consent of his spouse, as required under section 132 of this Act; or
  • a single person, if he has attained the age of thirty-five years, provided that the child to be adopted is of the same sex as the person adopting; or
  • in all cases specified in paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) of this section, the adopter or adopters shall be persons found to be suitable to adopt the child in question by the appropriate investigating officers.


Legally, an applicant must not be less than 25 years of age and must be at least 21 years older than the child[v]. Therefore, if you want to adopt a child who is 10 years old, you must be at least 31 years old. It is worthy of note that cohabiting and same-sex couples are not permitted by law to adopt children under Nigerian law. Character and Finances also play a role when it comes to adoption as The Child’s Rights Act provides that the applicant should be a person of unquestionable integrity and must have the necessary financial capability and means to take adequate care of the child.

There is also a question as to who can be adopted as Only a young person or a Juvenile can be adopted. A juvenile is a person under the age of eighteen in the states of Edo and Delta, and a person under the age of seventeen in the states of Lagos, Anambra, Imo, and Ogun. As a result, once a child reaches the applicable age, the law may permit the adoption of that child depending on the State. The Adoption law of Lagos State only allows for the adoption of a person under the age of seventeen years who is abandoned, or whose parents and other relatives are unknown or cannot be traced after due inquiry certified by a juvenile court.

Automatically, certain legal ramifications accompany Adoption[vi] by virtue of sections 12(1) Adoption Law of Lagos state, sections 15(1), 17, and section 25 of the Ogun State Adoption Law.

  1. An adopted child has the same rights and obligations as the biological children (if any) of the family he is joining once the adoption order has been made. Since the relationship with his or her biological parents has been severed, this relationship is not restored by the death of the adoptive parent(s).
  2. Any person who had previously been required to maintain or take care of the juvenile is released from their obligation once an adoption order has been made.
  3. Once an adoption order has been made, an adopted child has the same right to inherit from adoptive parents as natural children, and also the adoptive parents can inherit the assets of an adopted child who passes away before them.
  4. once an adoption order is made, there is an automatic blood relationship between the child and his new family which places them in the prohibited degree of affinity and consanguinity.

While Adoption is regulated by the act, anyone who wishes to adopt a child in Nigeria will have to do so under the laws of the state in which he resides.

The legal procedure for adoption is provided in Section 126(1) of the Child’s Right Act of 2004, which provides for the adoption of a child in Nigeria it Stipulates:

  • An application for adoption shall be made to the court in such form as may be prescribed, and shall be accompanied with-
  • where the applicant is a married couple, their marriage certificate or a sworn declaration of marriage;
  • the birth certificate or sworn declaration of the age of each applicant;
  • two passport photographs of each applicant;
  • a medical certificate of the fitness of the applicant from a government hospital; and
  • such other documents, requirements, and information as the court may require for the purposes of the adoption.
  • On receipt of an application under subsection (I) of this section, the court shall order all: investigations to be conducted by-
  • a child development officer;
  • a supervision officer; and
  • such other persons as the court may determine, to enable the court to asses ‘the suitability of the applicant as an adopter and of the child to be adopted.
  • The court shall, in reaching a decision relating to the adoption of a child, have regard to all the circumstances, first consideration being given to-
  • the need to safeguard and promote the welfare and the best interest of the child throughout childhood of that child; and
  • ascertaining, as far as practicable, the wishes and feelings of the child regarding the decision and giving due consideration to those wishes and feelings, having regard to the age and understanding of the child.


With all things considered the legal process of adoption in Nigeria is expected to take about 1 – 2 years from application to adoption completion[vii]. Finally, The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) or other law enforcement agencies prosecute parties who are caught or involved in kidnapping and child trafficking, which includes adopting a child without following the law.

[i] Implied Consent Adoption in Alabama – Allums Welsch, PC (


[iii] Osondu A.C, Modern Nigerian Family Law &Practice

[iv] Unreported Judgment of the High Court Abeokuta Suit No. AB/26/68 Delivered 14th July 1969

[v] Section 129 Child Rights Act 2003.

[vi] Adoption in Nigeria and the Provisions of the Law – SabiLaw


Written bEsegi Maureen for The Trusted Advisors

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