Is Polygamy Legal in Nigeria?

Last updated on August 3rd, 2023 at 12:29 am

Is Polygamy legal in Nigeria? This is a recurring question often asked by people. Polygamy is the practice of having multiple spouses simultaneously. This practice has been a longstanding tradition in various cultures around the world. Nigeria, a country with a diverse population and a rich cultural tapestry, is no exception. The legal status of polygamy in Nigeria is a complex matter, shaped by customary, religious, and statutory laws.

polygamy in Nigeria

With different legal frameworks applying to different regions and religious groups, understanding the legality of polygamy in Nigeria requires delving into the intricacies of its legal system. In this article, we will explore the question, “Is polygamy legal in Nigeria?” and shed light on the diverse perspectives and regulations that govern this age-old institution in the country.


Polygamy refers to the practice of having multiple spouses or partners simultaneously. It is a form of marriage or relationship structure where an individual is married to or involved in intimate relationships with more than one person at the same time. Polygamy can take different forms:

  • Polygyny: This is the most common form of polygamy and involves a man having multiple wives. In such cases, a man is legally married to more than one woman simultaneously.
  • Polyandry: This form of polygamy involves a woman having multiple husbands. Although less common than polygyny, it exists in certain cultures and societies.
  • Group marriage: This type of polygamy involves multiple individuals, both men and women, entering into a marriage or long-term committed relationship with each other. It can include multiple husbands, multiple wives, or a combination of both.

Note: Polygamy is not universally accepted and is illegal or restricted in many countries around the world. It is often a topic of debate due to its implications. This article will look at whether polygamy is legal in Nigeria.


Polygamy is legal in Nigeria, as it is regulated by customary and Islamic laws. Nigeria is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, and different regions have their own legal systems that recognize polygamous marriages.

Under customary law, which applies to various indigenous ethnic groups in Nigeria, polygamy is allowed, and men can marry multiple wives. Islamic law, which is practiced by a significant portion of the population, also permits polygamy, with Muslim men being allowed to have up to four wives under certain conditions.

However, it’s important to note that Nigeria also has a statutory legal system influenced by British common law. Under the Nigerian Marriage Act, which applies to non-Muslims, polygamy is prohibited. If a couple marries under the statutory law, any subsequent marriages entered into by either spouse are considered void and may lead to legal consequences.

In summary, while polygamy is legally recognized in Nigeria under customary and Islamic laws, it is not permitted under the statutory law for non-Muslims. The legal status of polygamy depends on the religious and cultural backgrounds of the individuals involved.


There are two main types of marriage systems in Nigeria: monogamy and polygamy. These systems are governed by different laws. Monogamy, considered a statutory marriage in Nigeria, is regulated by the Nigerian Marriage Act. Once a Nigerian man enters into a monogamous marriage, he is not allowed to marry another wife while the first marriage is still valid.

On the other hand, polygamy is the practice of marrying more than one wife, and this article focuses on this type of marriage. Polygamy in Nigeria is regulated by the native laws and customs of the man. It is strictly considered a customary law institution.


Here are some answers to recurring questions about the legality of Polygamy in the country.

  • Is polygamy legal in Nigeria?

Yes, polygamy is legal in Nigeria. The country recognizes and allows polygamous marriages under certain conditions.

  • What are the conditions for practicing polygamy in Nigeria?

In Nigeria, the conditions for practicing polygamy vary depending on the legal framework governing marriage in different regions. Generally, Islamic law (Sharia) governs marriage for Muslims, while civil law applies to non-Muslims. Under Islamic law, a man can marry up to four wives, provided he meets certain conditions, such as financial capability and treating all wives equally. In civil law, polygamy is also allowed, but the consent of the first wife is typically required.

  • Are there any restrictions on polygamy in Nigeria?

Yes, there are some restrictions on polygamy in Nigeria. As mentioned earlier, the consent of the first wife is usually required for subsequent marriages. Additionally, certain states in Nigeria have enacted legislation that regulates polygamous marriages, imposing conditions such as obtaining a court’s permission or meeting specific requirements.

  • Can women in Nigeria have multiple husbands?

No, polyandry (where a woman has multiple husbands) is not legally recognized in Nigeria. The legal framework in Nigeria permits polygyny (a man having multiple wives), but not polyandry.

  • Are there any debates or discussions on the legality of polygamy in Nigeria?

Yes, the legality and practice of polygamy in Nigeria have been the subject of debates and discussions. Some individuals and organizations argue that polygamy perpetuates gender inequality and poses challenges for women’s rights. Others believe that polygamy is a cultural and religious practice that should be protected.

  • How prevalent is polygamy in Nigeria?

Polygamy is relatively common in Nigeria, particularly among Muslim communities where it is sanctioned by Islamic law. However, its prevalence varies across different regions and ethnic groups within the country.


Polygamy has been a long term practice in Nigeria, even before the advent of religion. The country’s diverse legal landscape recognizes customary and Islamic laws that permit men to have multiple wives. However, under the statutory law applicable to non-Muslims, polygamy is prohibited, and subsequent marriages entered into by either spouse are considered void. Nigeria’s legal stance on polygamy reflects the complex interplay between traditional practices, religious beliefs, and the influence of colonial-era laws. It is better to understand the legal framework surrounding polygamy in Nigeria. That’s why we had to come up with this article on the legality of polygamy in the country.

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Oluchi Chukwu

Oluchi is a seasoned Information blogger, content developer and the editor of Nigerian Queries. She is a tech enthusiast who loves reading, writing and research

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