People have the right to adopt children or juveniles in Nigeria. Adoption process must be done in accordance with the law. The procedure provided in our laws are very stringent and there are certain restrictions placed on adoption in Nigeria. These measures are put in place for the protection and safety of the child.
It is pertinent to note that the law regulating adoption in Nigeria is the Child rights Act of 2003. However some states have enacted their own adoption laws and made certain guidelines and restrictions on age of persons who can be adopted amongst other restrictions.
Adoption is the legal process whereby a person obtains judicial or administrative authorization to take (usually but not invariably) the child of another person as his own and parental rights and obligations are permanently transferred from the child’s natural parents to the adopter.
PROCEDURE FOR ADOPTION
S. 126 of Child rights Act 2003.
—(1) An application for adoption shall be made to the Court in such form as may be prescribed, and shall be accompanied with— (a) where the applicant is a married couple, their marriage certificate or a sworn declaration of marriage ;
(b) the birth certificate or sworn declaration of age of each applicant ;
(c) two passport photographs of each applicant ;
(d) a medical certificate of the fitness of the applicant from a Government hospital ; and
(e) such other documents, requirements and information as the Court may require for the purposes of the adoption.
(2) On receipt of an application under Subsection (1) of this section, the Court shall order an investigation to be conducted by—
(a) a child development officers ;
(b) a supervision officer ; and
(c) such other persons as the Court may determine, to enable the Court to assess the suitability of the applicant as an adopter and of the child to be adopted.
(3) 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—
(a) the need to safeguard and promote the welfare and the best interest of the child throughout the childhood of that child ; and
b) 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.
127. The Court shall, in placing a child for adoption, have regard, as far as is practicable, to the wishes, if any, of the parents or guardian of the child as to the religious upbringing of the child.
128. The Court shall not make an adoption order in respect of a child unless— (a) the parents of the child or, where there is no surviving parent, the guardian of the child consents to the adoption ; or
(b) the child is abandoned, neglected or persistently abused or ill_treated, and there are compelling reasons in the interest of the child why he should be adopted.
WHO CAN APPLY FOR ADOPTION
S.129 Child Rights Act.
The following persons may apply for an adoption order—
(a) a married couple where— (i) each of them has attained the age of twenty_five years, and (ii) there is an order authorising them jointly to adopt a child ; or
(b) a married person, if he has obtained consent of his spouse, as required under Section 135 of this Act ; or
(c) 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
(d) 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.
RESTRICTION ON ADOPTION ORDER
1) An adoption order shall not be made in respect of a child unless—
(a) the applicant or, in the case of a joint application, one of them, is not less than twenty-five years old and is, at least, twenty_one years older than the child ;
(b) the applicant, or in the case of a joint application, both or, at least, one of them and the child are resident in the same State ;
(c) the applicant has been resident or, in the case of a joint application, both of them have been resident in the State in which the application is made for a period of, at least, five years ;
(d) the applicant is a citizen or, in the case of a joint application, both applicants are citizens of Nigeria ;
(e) the child has been in the care of the applicant for a period of at least three consecutive months immediately preceding the date on which the order is made; and
(f) the applicant has, at least twelve months before the making of the order, informed the social welfare officer of his intention to adopt the child.
(2) On the application of a married couple, if they consist of a parent and a step parent of the child, the Court shall dismiss the application if it considers that the matter would be better dealt with under Part Vii of this Act. S. 131.
Lagos State adoption law applies only to 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 enquiry certified by a juvenile court. S.1.
Section 2 provides that “the court may upon the application of any person in the prescribed manner, make an adoption order, authorizing such a person to adopt a juvenile.” This is a general provision, which simply gives any individual the right to adopt upon application and approval by the courts. The Lagos State adoption law also provides that an adoption order may be made upon the application of two spouses authorizing them jointly to adopt a juvenile, but in no other case shall an adoption order authorize more than one person to adopt a juvenile.
In conclusion, adoption of a child is not as easy as it seems. The order can be denied when the adopter does not meet the legal requirements for adoption.These stringent measures are put in place for the safety of the child and order can only be granted where the applicant meets the requirements.
Mpi Elton Chizindu Esq