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Examining Paternity Fraud in Nigeria

February 9, 2021 | Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes
Written by Tolu Okunade

 “Fear Women” and “Men are Scum.”

These are statements that are not far from the lips of many young Nigerians. Many say this in a bid to warn others to take caution when in dealings with the opposite sex, especially when it pertains to romantic relationships. These people are often victims of failed love stories. While these heartbreak stories are evenly distributed, my focus this week would be on the Paternal Fraud.

Paternal Fraud can be simply defined as the pretence that a father is the biological father of a child. It happens when a woman intentionally misidentifies a man as the biological of her baby. This devilish act can remain undetected for many years. While women who have multiple sexual partners might not be able to tell who exactly is the father of her child, some are aware. A perfect illustration of this would be Barrister Cecilia Ototo.

According to a Press Statement by Honourable Justice Anthony Okorodas of the High Court of Delta State on the 29th of January 2020, he and Barrister Cecilia were married for a brief while and the union produced three kids. The youngest of them is now 17 years old. Following a tip-off of the paternity of the children, he proceeded to carry out a DNA test that proved that all three of those kids were not his. He then went further to confront her in the presence of her family with these allegations and she confessed that she had an affair during their marriage.

He was broken beyond repair that children he had consistently called his own and knew him as father were not his. Perhaps the most heart breaking part would be that he had been solely responsible for their upbringing for over the last two decades. He, however, despite the outcome of the DNA test promised to continue to provide and support these kids. Luckily for him, he has since remarried after the divorce and his present union has produced four kids all of which are his.

Sadly, this is the case prevalent in most Nigerian homes today. According to a DNA expert from The Lagos University Teaching Hospital, 30% of the Nigerian men who went to paternity testing centres were not the biological fathers of the children in their custody. And it has been said that the figure might double as more tests are carried out. According to Abasi Ene-Obong, CEO and Co-founder of Stack Diagnostics:

“Nigeria ranks high in paternity fraud. The current statistic for this puts Nigeria as the second highest in the world with around 30% of cases of paternity fraud in the population. However, as to whether the 30% statistics can be relied upon, he added that “as with most health-based statistics in Nigeria, they are either under-reported or exaggerated because the problem typically lies in how the sample is collected. It is possible that there was some sampling bias to this 30% number but even for sampling biases, that number is quite high. We can’t actually be sure of this. It is a possibility if you take the study at face value because 30% equates to 3 out of 10.”

In the Western world, the United States, for instance, paternity fraud is a criminal offence, and one of the most prevalent court cases. Why? The answer is straight forward — Child support: women seize opportunities to receive a higher child support award than the biological father of the child can provide.

In truth, cases of paternity fraud aren’t common in Nigeria, largely because they are either often settled out of court, or swept under the carpet. In a Nigeria, like other countries in West Africa, fathers cater for children born prior wedlock, or out of extramarital affairs, without the involvement of the court. So legal cases of paternity fraud are not common.

The major cause of paternal Fraud is Sexual Promiscuity. The result of research on the sexual promiscuity among Nigerian female undergraduates who are in relationships indicated a 79 per cent agreement on the prevalence of sexual promiscuity amongst female undergraduates.

We should also understand that some women might be promiscuous due to the inability of a man to father a child. And in most African Cultures, infertility in marriages is often blamed on the woman. However, this isn’t reason enough. While some women and men have tried to defend women caught in Paternity Fraud by saying that Mix-ups at birth in maternities happen, they must also bear in mind that in such a case, a maternity test would come out negative too.

The implications of paternity fraud are major, disrupting relationships, homes, and marriages. Victims of this crime – father or child – stand the risk of depression and mental health problems. A child victim is more likely to have self-esteem issues and anxiety.

I’m not a misogynist. This is not to excuse men of their shortcomings. They too have their many shortcomings. Scum has no gender and as such, men too act in engage in extramarital affairs. In Paternity Test Frauds, we focus on the women. How about the men who go-ahead to have unprotected sex with married women? They have their fair share of the blame too.

For a nation so religious and moral, this is a slap in the faces of our people.

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