Child Adoption in Nigeria


The legal Requirements

Child adoption is an act of love and compassion that holds the potential to change the lives of both the child and the adoptive family forever. In Nigeria, adoption has been practiced for centuries. Over time, the process of adoption has evolved, incorporating legal frameworks and institutional support to ensure the welfare of the children involved. This article explores the current state of child adoption in Nigeria, using Lagos State as a case study, highlighting its legal framework and the procedure.

Adoption is a legal procedure that bestows the right of parentage on a person or married couple over a child that is not naturally theirs. It severs a child’s tie with the birth parents and enables another to take and raise the child as their own in place of the child’s birth parent. Adoption is most suitable for children who are in an irreversible situation of abandonment[1], it offers children without biological parents or whose parents cannot provide adequate care a chance to experience stability, love, and security.[2]

Legal Framework

The adoption process in Nigeria is governed by legal regulations to ensure that the rights of both the child and adoptive parents are protected.  The Child Rights Act of 2003 serves as the country’s primary legal instrument for child adoption. However, adoption is a matter of state and not federal law, as the rights and welfare of children are within the legislative jurisdiction of the states under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 [3]. Each state in Nigeria has its own adoption laws and guidelines. These laws outline the eligibility criteria for prospective adoptive parents, the procedures for adopting a child, and the adoption agencies’ responsibilities. The guidelines promote transparency safeguarding against child trafficking and illegal adoption.

The Child Rights Act 2003 (CRA 2003): The Child Rights Act is a critical piece of legislation that seeks to promote and protect the rights of children in Nigeria. It was enacted to domesticate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which Nigeria ratified in 1991. The CRA provides a comprehensive legal framework for the rights and responsibilities of children, and it includes provisions specific to child adoption. The CRA 2003 has also been adopted by various states in Nigeria[4].

Adoption laws of various states: Adoption is a matter of state and not federal law as such every state in Nigeria has its own distinct adoption law, procedure, and practice. Adoption in Lagos state is regulated by Child’s Rights Law 2007 as amended in 2015.

The Family Court Civil Procedure Rules of Various States in Nigeria: Every state in Nigeria has Courts; either the Magistrate or High court designated as the family court. In Lagos state child adoption procedure is regulated by The Family Court (Civil Procedure) Rule 2012

Who can be adopted?

The CRA 2003 defines a child as a person under the age of 18[5]. By the provisions of the Adoption laws of various states, only a child/juvenile can be adopted, however, definitions of the term child/Juvenile are not uniform, as they vary across the states. The Child Rights Law of Lagos state provides that a child is a person below 18 years old[6], Edo and Delta Adoption Laws have similar definitions. While in some other states (Anambra, Delta, Edo, Imo, Lagos, Rivers, Ogun) Adoption laws a juvenile is defined as a person below 17 years. Therefore, only a child below the age bracket of 18 or 17 depending on the state can be adopted.

In Lagos state, aside from age, two conditions must exist before an adoption order can be made; such a child must be one whose parent consent[7] or a child ill-treated, neglected, or abandoned, and the parents or other relatives are unknown and cannot be traced by the court[8].

Eligibility Criteria for Prospective Adoptive Parents

To be eligible to adopt a child in Nigeria, prospective adoptive parents must meet certain criteria, which may vary slightly among the states. However, some common eligibility requirements include:

Marital Status: Married couples and single individuals are generally eligible to adopt.  However, a married person is required by the Act to obtain the consent of his spouse before applying for adoption[9]

Age: Prospective adoptive parents must be; in the case of married couples at least 25 years old each, and there is an order authorizing them to jointly adopt, or in the case of an unmarried person; 35 years old provided the child is of the same sex as the adopter. (order(26) (1)(j) In every case, the prospective adopters are required to be at least 21 years older than the child they wish to adopt.[10]

Health and character: Prospective adoptive parents must be physically and mentally fit and should be of unquestionable character.

Financial Stability: Adoptive parents are expected to have a stable income to provide for the child’s needs.

Residency: Prospective adoptive parents typically need to be residents of Nigeria to adopt a child within the country. However, if they reside outside of Nigeria there are extra steps required before the child can be taken out of Nigeria.

Where the prospective adoptive parents satisfy all the criteria highlighted, they can commence with an adoption application.

The Adoption Process

 The adoption process in Nigeria typically involves two stages; the formal application to the relevant authority and an application to the court. Each of the stages involves several steps which may vary slightly depending on the specific state regulations and adoption agency involved. For this article, we would consider the adoption process in Lagos state[11]. The process generally includes the following steps:

Application and Documentation: The prospective adoptive parents (Applicants) submit an application letter addressed to the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Youth and Social Development Lagos State.

Interview/counseling: Applicants have a briefing session with an officer at the adoption unit of the Ministry, where an interview is conducted and forms handed to them with a list of the requirements which may include; necessary documentation such as birth certificate, marriage certificate (if applicable), medical certificate of fitness from a government hospital, passport photographs, means of identification, proof of financial stability, and written consent of the spouse in the case of a married person.

Home study:A social welfare worker conducts a home study to assess the suitability of the Applicants. This assessment includes evaluating their living conditions, financial stability, and ability to provide the child with a safe and loving environment[12].

Payment of Administrative Charges: Where the assessment and screening has been concluded, the applicant will be required to pay the administrative charges. The administrative charges differ based on the nature/type of the adoption. The adoption could be local, adoption by Nigerians Living in a foreign country, or inter-country adoption.

Screening by the Adoption Panel: The Applicants will be screened by a panel consisting of a senior officer from the Ministry, a Police officer(s), a Magistrate, the Permanent Secretary, and an immigration officer.[13]

Matching and placement: After the screening, they are issued with an approval letter and a list of registered orphanages for matching. Once the adoption agency finds a suitable match between the child and the prospective parents, a counseling session educating the prospective adoptive parents on proper parenting is conducted by the ministry. Thereafter, the child is placed in the adoptive home for a trial period. This period allows the family and the child to get to know each other before finalizing the adoption.

Post-Placement Assessment: After the child is placed with the adoptive parents, a post-placement assessment is conducted by the Ministry to ensure the child’s well-being and adjustment to the new family environment. This assessment helps determine if the adoption is proceeding smoothly.

Court Proceedings: After the trial period and successful bonding, where the ministry is satisfied, it files a petition for adoption in court. The court then reviews the case and, if satisfied, grants the adoption order.

Post-Placement Supervision: Following the court’s approval, post-placement supervision is conducted to ensure the child’s well-being and to support the adoptive family’s adjustment to the new dynamic.

Issuance of Adoption Certificate: Once the post-placement supervision is complete, the court issues an adoption certificate, legally confirming the child’s adoption by the prospective parents.

Post-Adoption Report: The adoptive parents are required to provide reports to the ministry regarding the child’s well-being and adjustment after adoption.

Legal consequences of adoption

Adoption under Nigerian laws has several legal consequences that affect both the adoptive parents and the adopted child. These consequences are designed to establish a legal relationship between the adoptive parents and the child, ensuring the child’s well-being and safeguarding their rights. Here are some of the key legal consequences of adoption under Nigerian laws:

  1. Transfer of parental rights and responsibilities: An adoption order legally severs the child’s natural parents’ legal rights and duties toward the child, while similar rights and duties are transferred to the adoptive parents.[14] The biological parents lose their legal rights over the child once the adoption is finalized. They no longer have a legal claim to custody or decision-making regarding the child’s upbringing. This means that the adoptive parents gain the legal authority to make decisions for the child, including matters related to upbringing, education, healthcare, and more.
  2. Maintenance and support: The adoptive parents are bound by law to provide for the child’s maintenance, support, and general well-being. This includes all the basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing, and education.[15] The child is entitled to all the rights and privileges of a biological child in the adoptive family.[16]
  3. Change of name: The adopted child’s name may be changed to reflect the new family’s identity, and their birth certificate may also be amended to include the child’s new name as well as the names of the adoptive parents.
  4. Inheritance Rights: Adoption bestows upon the child the right to inherit from the adoptive parents, they have rights under family and succession laws, allowing them to benefit from the property and estate of their adoptive parents.[17] These rights are similar to the rights of biological children in the family. It also enables the adoptive parents to inherit the estate of the child in the event that the parents survive the child.
  5. Prohibited Degree of consanguinity and affinity: Adoption places the child and the adoptive family within the prohibited degree of consanguinity (related by blood) and affinity (related through marriage)[18].

Traveling out of Nigeria with an adopted child

Where the adoptive parents reside outside Nigeria and desire to migrate with the adopted child, they would be required to obtain the following:

  1. The Ministry’s statement of consent/letter of authority to travel abroad with the child.
  2. Letter to the Immigration office for applying for the child’s passport.

Conclusion: The legal framework and process of child adoption in Nigeria are designed to ensure that the best interests of the child are upheld[19] while also providing a transparent and accountable system for prospective adoptive parents. By adhering to these guidelines and working together with adoption agencies and social welfare workers, Nigeria continues to facilitate the adoption of children into loving and nurturing families, giving them a chance at a brighter future.

Child adoption is a significant commitment, and the process can take varying amounts of time, from 12 to 18 months depending on individual circumstances and the availability of suitable children for adoption. Therefore, it is essential to work closely with a reputable firm to help you navigate the process by ensuring compliance with all legal requirements and safeguarding the best interests of the child throughout the adoption journey. For further enquiries you can reach us via so**********************@gm***.com or if*@so***********************.com.

[1] Childs’s Right Act 2003 (CRA) section 128

[2] Section 135 Child’s Rights Law of Lagos State

[3] The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria section….


[5] Section 227 Child Rights Act

[6] Section 261, Child’s Rights Law of Lagos State

[7] Section 138 Child’s Rights Law of Lagos State

[8] Section 118, Child’s Rights Law Lagos State

[9] Section 132, Child’s Rights Act, Sec. 121 Child’s Rights Law Lagos State

[10] Section 129, Child’s Rights Act

[11] Section 139 Child’s Rights Law of Lagos State

[12] Section 129 CRA

[13] Section 140 – 141 Child’s Rights Law of Lagos State

[14] Section 32 CRA 2003

[15] Section 40 CRA 2003

[16] Section 133 CRA 2003

[17] Section 35 CRA 2003

[18] Section 3 first schedule and Section 115(1)of Matrimonial Causes Act 1970

[19] Section 137 Child’s Rights Law of Lagos State