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Domestic Violence Is A Crime Not A Family Dispute.

Domestic Violence Is A Crime Not A Family Dispute.

Domestic Violence Is A Crime Not A Family Dispute. Daily Law Tips (Tip 713) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LL.M, ACIArb(UK)


Recently in Nigeria, a video of a medical doctor that was beaten by her husband went viral. However, the same victim of domestic violence was seen in another video, begging Nigerians to forgive her husband (criminal suspect) and promised to continue living with the husband. According to the victim, the crime has been settled by the Governor of Benue State (H.E, Samuel Ortom). 

The above events have greatly set a tone and further deepened the worries of many Nigerians, as to whether domestic violence is a criminal offence or a mere family dispute that may be settled and prayed away. This work focuses on the crime of domestic violence in Nigeria; defines and lists out domestic violence offences as well as condemns the settlement of domestic violence crimes.

What Is A Crime In Nigeria? :

Nigeria is a democratic state, with written laws and as such all criminal offences and their punishments in Nigeria must be written in laws. No person in Nigeria can be prosecuted in any court in Nigeria for a crime that is not written in a law in Nigeria. For example, not having a religion is not a crime in Nigeria and as such, no person in Nigeria can be arrested for not having a religion.

A criminal offence can be created by laws made by the Federal Government of Nigeria or by a state government of in Nigeria or by a government of a Local Government Authority in a state in Nigeria. For example, possession of India hemp (weed) is a federal offence because it is prohibited by a federal law made by the Federal Government of Nigeria. Physical or Verbal abuse of a wife/husband is a criminal offence created by state laws in many states in Nigeria. Failure to pay tenement rates for developed property is a criminal offence created by bye-laws in many Local Government Areas in Nigeria. 

A crime in Nigeria is any act or omission, action or inaction or anything that any written law made by a government in Nigeria, defines to be a crime. A crime is what the law says is a crime. So, what a religion, group, school, organization, association or community states as a criminal offence is not an offence. And, whatever criminal offence that is created by law by any government in Nigeria cannot be waived, settled, changed or resolved by any person, religion, group, school, organization, association or community. Law making is the business of the legislature, interpretation of laws is the business of courts and the enforcement of laws is the business of the executives. 

Where there is a crime or a suspicion of a crime, the law enforcement agencies are supposed to investigate the matter and prosecute the suspected offender. It is only a court of law that can determine any case of domestic violence. Every crime has a punishment, including domestic violence. 

What Is Domestic Violence In Nigeria? :

There is no national (federal) law on domestic violence rather domestic violence is a criminal offence created by laws in states in Nigeria. Generally, summarizing from laws on domestic violence in states across Nigeria, domestic violence is any act done to any person in a domestic relationship, that may harm or cause fear of harm to the person’s health, wealth, safety or well-being. It is any form of abuse, ill treatment or fear of such, done to any person in a domestic relationship by another. However, it is important to state that some states, have expanded their domestic offence to cover any person, whether or not the person is in a domestic relationship or not. 

Domestic violence includes all forms of abuse, harm, violence and the fear of such, including; “rape”, “inflicting of physical injury”, “harmful traditional practices on widows”, “forced financial dependence or economic abuse”, “emotional, verbal and psychological abuse”, “female circumcision and genital mutilation”, “ejection of spouse from home”, “forced isolation or separation from family and friends”, “abandonment of husband or wife, children or other dependents without any means of sustenance”, “stalking”, “political violence”, “indecent exposure”, “hiding domestic violence”, “frustrating investigation of domestic violence”, “damage to property in order to cause distress”, ”intimidation”, “spousal battery”, “attack with harmful substances”, “poisoning”, “incest”, “sexual abuse”, “sexual assault”, “sexual exploitation” and “sexual harassment”  among others.

The Principles of “Wash A Pig …“:

A “Pig” is an animal on four legs, that is very popular because of its cleanliness. There is a popular saying that goes this way; “Wash A Pig, Comb A Pig, A pig Is still A Pig”. This emphasis the fact that cleaning a pig does not change the fact that the pig is a pig. Bringing this saying to the subject matter, it will read; “Wash A Crime, Comb A Crime, A Crime Is Still A Crime” or better still, “Conceal A Crime, Forgive A Crime, A Crime Is Still A Crime”. 

Domestic Violence is a criminal offence (crime) in Nigeria. Every case of domestic violence should be investigated and prosecuted. Domestic Violence is not a mere family dispute that can be resolved by family members, friends, relatives, clergies, political leaders and community leaders. Victims, their families and any of the above-mentioned leaders should always report cases of domestic violence. 

Domestic violence is often caused by some level of mental imbalance. Hence, it is dangerous to live with a violent person, the victim may die without a warning. It is advisable that while victims of domestic violence receive both medical and psychological treatments, the offenders should equally receive medical (mental) treatment. 

Forgiving a domestic offender is a violation of law and continuing to live with a domestic offender (without mental treatment of the offender) may lead to death. Also, the “Wash A Pig …” principle applies to this, because “Conceal A Domestic Offender, Forgive A Domestic Offender, A Domestic Offender Is Still A Domestic Offender”.  Also, “Conceal An Abusive Spouse, Forgive An Abusive Spouse, An Abusive Spouse Is Still An Abusive Spouse”. 


Forgiveness is an important tool for living but there are several things that forgiveness cannot solve. A criminal offence is a crime against the victim of an offence and against the state. This is the reason that, although an individual suffers the direct impact of a crime, it is the government that fights for the individual by investigation and prosecution of an offender. Investigation and prosecution of an offender can be done with and without the support of a victims/family members of a victim. Investigation of crime and prosecution of suspected offenders in courts are government duties and cannot be stopped by any victim. 

Concealing Domestic Violence will only lead to more domestic violence. Most persons that have died from domestic violence knew they were living or relating with an abuser and a ticking time-bomb. The true love that can be shown to an abuser is to ensure he/she receives adequate medical treatment and that the law enforcement agencies investigate the case. To report any violence, kindly contact the nearest law enforcement agency. Report all forms of domestic violence to save lives and property. Domestic violence is a crime and not a family dispute, family issue, family matter, religious affair, customary case or political point. Settlement, concealing, hiding or overlooking domestic violence is a crime, too!

My authorities, are:

  1. Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
  2. Sections 1, 47 and 48 of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2015 and other similar laws in states of the federation.
  3. Sections 1, 2, 418, 419 and 420 as well as the entire Chapter 25 of the Lagos State Criminal Code, 2011
  4. Sections 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 18 and 19 of the Lagos State Prohibition Against Domestic Violence Law, 2007. 
  5. Sections 1, 2, 62, 63, 64 and 65 of the Ekiti State Gender Based Violence (Prohibition) Law, 2019.
  6. Onyekachi Umah, “An Access To Criminal Laws In Nigeria” (, 4 December 2020) < > accessed 7 December 2020.
  7. Onyekachi Umah, “8 New Things About Rape Laws In Nigeria” (, 3 December 2020) < > accessed 7 December 2020
  8. Motolani Alake, “Governor Ortom and his shameful normalization of domestic violence [Pulse Editor’s Opinion]” (Pulse, 8 December 2020) < > accessed 10 December 2020
  9. 0lusegun Adeniyi, “Ortom and the Wife Beater” (ThisDay, 10 December 2020) < > accessed 10 December 2020
  10. Micheal Bamidele, “The Angbos: Ortom’s Mediation And Trivialisation Of Violence Against Women” (TheGuardian, 8 December 2020) <> accessed 10 December 2020
  11. OluTimehin Adegbeye, “Nothing Happens When Women Are Raped in Nigeria” (TheNewYorkTimes, 4 September 2020) < > accessed 2 December 2020
  12. Onyekachi Umah, “ChannelsTv Interviews Onyekachi Umah on Rape and the Laws.” (, 20 November 2020) < > accessed 2 December 2020
  13. Onyekachi Umah, “Can A Woman Be Charged With Rape” (, 24 June 2020) < > accessed 2 December 2020
  14. Onyekachi Umah, “Can A Husband Rape His Wife” (, 19 June 2020) < > accessed 2 December 2020.
  15. Warif Center, “Rape Stats In Nigeria” (warifng) <> accessed 2 December 2020
  16. Morenike Folayan, Morolake Odetoyinbo, Abigail Harrison and Bradon Brown, ”Rape in Nigeria: a silent epidemic among adolescents with implications for HIV infection” [2014] 7(25583) Global Health Action <> accessed 2 December 2020
  17. Onyekachi Umah, “When Is Seduction Or Indecent Dressing A Justification For Rape In Nigeria?” (, 18 June 2020) < > accessed 2 December 2020
  18. Onyekachi Umah, “New Punishment For Rape In Nigeria” (, 23 June 2020) < > accessed 2 December 2020
  19. Onyekachi Umah, “Rape Cannot Be Settled Out Of Court (No Room For Pay-Off/Forgiveness/Withdrawal Of Complaints” (,26 June 2020) < > accessed 2 December 2020
  20. Adetomiwa Isiaka,“Nigeria declares ‘state of emergency’ on rape and sexual assault” (global voices, 3 July 2020) < > accessed 2 December 2020
  21. BCC, “Nigeria’s Kaduna passes law to castrate child rapists” (BBC, 11 September 2020) < > accessed 2 December 2020.
  22. Onyekachi Umah, “A Female Too, Can BE Guilty Of Rape” (, 13 December 2018) < > accessed 2 December 2020
  23. Onyekachi Umah, “Ages At Which Sexual Intercourse With Consent Will Amount To Rape” (, 20 February 2020) < > accessed 2 December 2020
  24. Onyekachi Umah, “How To Prove Rape In Nigeria).” (, 2 July 2019) < > accessed 2 December 2020.
  25. Onyekachi Umah, “Child Marriage/Abuse Is A Crime (Rape): An Exposé On Laws Prohibiting Child Marriage” (, 22 June 2020) < > accessed 2 December 2020
  26. Onyekachi Umah, “Forced Marriage Is An Offence In Nigeria.” (, 21 October 2020) < > accessed 2 December 2020










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