How many wives can a man have in Nigeria?

Published on: January 4, 2021 (Updated on: April 22, 2024)

How many wives can a man have in Nigeria

It is not unusual for people to ask that how many wives can a man have in Nigeria. There isn't a straight forward answer. This is because about 3 types of marriages are recognised in Nigeria.

The number of wives a man can have in Nigeria would depend on the type of marriage in question

There are 3 types of marriage in Nigeria:

  • Traditional or customary marriage
  • Statutory marriage (includes church weddings conducted at licensed places of worship)
  • Islamic marriage

In Nigeria, there are so many tribes with different traditions and customs. So, while some tribes permit a man to have as many wives as he wants, others do not. At the end of the day, it's all about creating a community with a common goal, interests and a unique custom or tradition.

However, let me add this. When it comes to creating one unique custom in Nigeria, well, let's just say it's been challenging and we aren't there yet. I mean, who can blame anyone? We're all just trying to preserve our cultures, right?

So, if we haven't been able to create one unique tradition for all to follow, the question of interest here is, how many wives can a man have in Nigeria?

Okay, so here's how it works:

Under the civil law in Nigeria, a man cannot marry more than one wife. It means that polygamy is frowned at.

However, as far as customary or traditional marriage is concerned, there is usually no limit on how many wives a man can marry. So, the number of wives he is expected to marry, however, depends on his community. Nigerian Afro music legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, reportedly married 27 wives in one day.

Nigeria is made of about 250 ethnic groups and tribes. Various ethnic groups have their reasons for permitting a man to marry more than one wife.

For the Igbos, marrying many wives is mostly due to one reason. Yes, there is the issue of Patriarchy, where an Igbo man feels the need to show off his wealth by the number of women he marries. However, most Igbo men, today, only marry many wives if they can't get the first wife to give them a male child. The Igbos place so much value on the male child than the female. They believe a male child is the future of the family to carry on their legacy.

In the northern parts of Nigeria where Sharia law is practiced, men may marry up to 4 wives.

Hausa polygamy allows a man to marry up to 4 wives as long they can take care of all the wives equally. This custom of marrying many wives is supported by their holy book, “Marry of the women, who seem good to you, two or three or four; and if ye fear that ye cannot do justice (to so many) then one (only) or (the captives) that your right hands possess.”

12 out of 36 states in Nigeria Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara are governed by Sharia law.

So to answer the question, 'how many wives can a man have in Nigeria?', here is a summary:

  • Marriage under Sharia law: 4 wives.