Seizing or Destroying the Property of a Spouse is a Crime.

Seizing or Destroying the Property of a Spouse is a Crime. Daily Law Tips (Tip 747) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LL.M, ACIArb(UK)

Introduction: 

Like the popular Nigerian singer, Mr. Flavour, (Chiendu Izuchukwu Okoli), puts it in his song (titled; Wiser); “E bidosa o na-ato, darling, darling, … sweetie, sweetie, …”, (marriages and friendships start happily but may end sadly), there are shades to a marriage. Marriage, like any other human relationship, has its own seasons.

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Well, no matter the season or shade of a marriage that a person is experiencing in Nigeria, dealing on or with the property of a spouse can be a criminal offence. In family law and criminal law practice, it is common to find spouse that seized and tore the original certificates of their other spouses. Some spouse even burnt cars, houses and precious items.

Family Law and Criminal Law; Where is the Boundary? 

Common responses in Nigeria, when law enforcement agents or concerned citizens interfere with the criminal conducts of a spouse to the other, are; “Abeg leave it, it is a family problem and it does not concern you” or “wetin concern you?” (Is it your business?), or “Is it your die?” (are you the person to die, why worry?). The responses are designed to scare aware third parties from the affairs of a couple, even where there is a crime. There is a generally assumption that anything that happens between a couple is a family issue and should not be treated in a court or be reported to any law enforcement agent.

Hello, this view is very wrong. There can be a criminal offense between a couple or in a family. A criminal offence may arise from a family matter. Marriage/love is not a defense for any criminal offence committed by a spouse against a spouse. Being in love does not exonerate any person from being charged to court. People in marriages and relationships owe duties to their partners and have no right to commit any crime against their partners. Every person in a relationship is first of a human being with fundamental human rights. And, no marriage or relationship can waive any human right. Seizing or destroying the property of any person is a crime in Nigeria, whether the owner or the offender is a spouse/lover is immaterial.

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Aside the various criminal laws in states across Nigeria, that have made general provisions against crimes on relating to the property of a person, some states have gone further. Today, to protect all persons against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), many states in Nigeria have enacted SGBV laws. Also, the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, is not left out, having enacted the popular “Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act in 2015. This federal law operates in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, providing protection and care to victims and severe punishments to offenders. It has been the model to many state SGBV across Nigeria.

The Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act (aka, VAPP Act) has criminalized the destruction of any property of another person with an intention to cause the victim distress or annoyance. It is an offence punishable with not more than 2 years imprisonment or fine of not more than N300,000.00 or both. Also note that, it is an offence to merely attempt to commit this offence or to incite or aid another in the commission of this offence. It is also punishable with imprisonment for not more than 1 year or fine of not more than #200,000.00, or both.

Conclusion: 

Marriages and love relationships do not turn a human being to an animal or to a less being. They do not waive the rights of any person. So, a couple in any relationship have equal human rights and each of them can sue the other for any violation of human right or for any criminal matter. A criminal matter between a couple or people in love is not a family matter. A criminal case is to be reported to the nearest law enforcement agency and not to be forgiven, prayed over or reported to family members and clergies. Hiding criminal offenders and criminal cases is a crime on its own and emboldens criminals.

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, 11, 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. The Supreme Court’s judgment in the case (on how to prove rape) of NDEWENU POSU & ANOR v. THE STATE (2011) LPELR-1969(SC).
  7. Onyekachi Umah, “Why Lagos State Needs A VAPP/SGBV Law” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 26 January 2021) <https://sabilaw.org/why-lagos-state-needs-a-vapp-sgbv-law/> accessed 2 March 2021.
  8. Onyekachi Umah, “Lagos State Has No VAPP/SGBV Law !” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 8 December 2020) <https://sabilaw.org/lagos-state-has-no-vapp-sgbv-law/> accessed 26 January 2021.
  9. Onyekachi Umah, “An Access To Criminal Laws In Nigeria” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 4 December 2020) <https://sabilaw.org/an-access-to-criminal-laws-in-nigeria/ > accessed 7 December 2020.
  10. Onyekachi Umah, “8 New Things About Rape Laws In Nigeria” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 3 December 2020) <https://sabilaw.org/8-new-things-about-rape-laws-in-nigeria/ > accessed 7 December 2020
  11. Onyekachi Umah, “ChannelsTv Interviews Onyekachi Umah on Rape and the Laws.” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 20 November 2020) <https://sabilaw.org/channelstv-interviews-onyekachi-umah-on-rape-and-the-laws/ > accessed 2 December 2020
  12. Onyekachi Umah, “Can A Woman Be Charged With Rape” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 24 June 2020) <https://sabilaw.org/can-a-woman-be-charged-with-rape-daily-law-tips-tip-595-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-ll-m-aciarbuk/ > accessed 2 December 2020
  13. Onyekachi Umah, “Can A Husband Rape His Wife” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 19 June 2020) <https://sabilaw.org/can-a-husband-rape-his-wife-daily-law-tips-tip-592-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarbuk/ > accessed 2 December 2020.
  14. Warif Center, “Rape Stats In Nigeria” (warifng) <https://warifng.org/rape-stats-in-nigeria/> accessed 2 December 2020
  15. 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 <https://doi.org/10.3402/gha.v7.25583> accessed 2 December 2020
  16. Onyekachi Umah, “When Is Seduction Or Indecent Dressing A Justification For Rape In Nigeria?” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 18 June 2020) <https://sabilaw.org/when-is-seduction-or-indecent-dressing-a-justification-for-rape-in-nigeria-daily-law-tips-tip-591-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarbuk/ > accessed 2 December 2020
  17. Onyekachi Umah, “New Punishment For Rape In Nigeria” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 23 June 2020) <https://sabilaw.org/new-punishment-for-rape-in-nigeria-daily-law-tips-tip-594-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarbuk/ > accessed 2 December 2020
  18. Onyekachi Umah, “Rape Cannot Be Settled Out Of Court (No Room For Pay-Off/Forgiveness/Withdrawal Of Complaints” (LearnNigerianLaws.com,26 June 2020) <https://sabilaw.org/rape-cannot-be-settled-out-of-court-no-room-for-pay-off-forgiveness-withdrawal-of-complaints-daily-law-tips-tip-596-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarbuk/ > accessed 2 December 2020.
  19. Onyekachi Umah, “A Female Too, Can BE Guilty Of Rape” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 13 December 2018) <https://sabilaw.org/daily-law-tips-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-tip-248-a-female-too-can-be-guilty-of-rape-in-nigeria/ > accessed 2 December 2020
  20. Onyekachi Umah, “Ages At Which Sexual Intercourse With Consent Will Amount To Rape” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 20 February 2020) <https://sabilaw.org/ages-at-which-sexual-intercourse-with-consent-will-amount-to-rape-daily-law-tips-tip-509-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarbuk/ > accessed 2 December 2020
  21. Onyekachi Umah, “How To Prove Rape In Nigeria).” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 2 July 2019) <https://sabilaw.org/how-to-prove-rape-in-nigeria-daily-law-tips-tip-363-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarb-uk/ > accessed 2 December 2020.
  22. Onyekachi Umah, “Child Marriage/Abuse Is A Crime (Rape): An Exposé On Laws Prohibiting Child Marriage” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 22 June 2020) <https://sabilaw.org/child-marriage-abuse-is-a-crime-rape-an-expose-on-laws-prohibiting-child-marriage-daily-law-tips-tip-593-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarbuk/ > accessed 2 December 2020
  23. Onyekachi Umah, “Forced Marriage Is An Offence In Nigeria.” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 21 October 2020) <https://sabilaw.org/forced-marriage-is-an-offence-in-nigeria/ > accessed 2 December 2020
  24. Can a Married Woman Inherit Her Parents’ Property?”, Onyekachi Umah (Daily Law Tips [Tips 535]) <https://sabilaw.org/can-a-married-woman-inherit-her-parents-property-daily-law-tips-tip-535-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarbuk/ > accessed 2 October 2020.
  25. Onyekachi Umah, “Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting/Elongation, Breasts Ironing And Forced Marriage Are Now Criminal Offences In Nigeria” (Daily Law Tips [443]) <https://sabilaw.org/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-elongation-breasts-ironing-and-forced-marriage-are-now-criminal-offences-in-nigeria-daily-law-tips-tip-443-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarb-uk/ > accessed 12 October 2020.
  26. Onyekachi Umah, “Harmful Widowhood Practices (Traditions) Are Illegal In Nigeria” (Daily Law Tips [Tip 589]) <https://sabilaw.org/harmful-widowhood-practices-traditions-are-illegal-in-nigeria-daily-law-tips-tip-589-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarbuk/ > accessed 12 October 2020.
  27. Onyekachi Umah, “Forceful Isolation/Separation Of Family Members/Friends Is Now An Offence In Nigeria” (Daily Law Tips [356]) <https://sabilaw.org/forceful-isolation-separation-of-family-members-friends-is-now-an-offence-in-nigeria-daily-law-tips-tip-356-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarb-uk/ > accessed 12 October 2020.
  28. Onyekachi Umah, “Abolished Anti-Women Custom of Onitsha People of Anambra State, Nigeria” (LearnNigerianLaws, 10 March 2020) <https://sabilaw.org/abolished-anti-women-custom-of-onitsha-people-of-anambra-state-nigeria-daily-law-tips-tip-522-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarbuk/ > accessed 2 October 2020
  29. Onyekachi Umah, “Citizen By Marriage Is Discriminatory and Against Nigerian Women”, (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 14 September 2020) <https://sabilaw.org/citizen-by-marriage-is-discriminatory-and-against-nigerian-women/ > accessed 2 October 2020.
  30. Onyekachi Umah, “Abolished Anti-Women Custom of Yoruba People of Nigeria”, (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 11 March 2020) <https://sabilaw.org/abolished-anti-women-custom-of-yoruba-people-of-nigeria-daily-law-tips-tip-523-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarbuk/ > accessed 2 October 2020.
  31. Onyekachi Umah, “Can a Married Woman Inherit Her Parents Property?” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 27 March 2020) <https://sabilaw.org/can-a-married-woman-inherit-her-parents-property-daily-law-tips-tip-535-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarbuk/ > accessed 2 October 2020.
  32. Onyekachi Umah, “Approval For Marriage Of Female Officers/Staff Is Unconstitutional and Discriminatory”, (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 23 September 2020) <https://sabilaw.org/approval-for-marriage-of-female-officers-staff-is-unconstitutional-and-discriminatory/ > accessed 2 October 2020

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