Adultery and Infidelity (Prohibition) Bill: A Citizen’s Quest to Stem Homicide, Other Crimes Needs State Support, as Lawyers Give Views

Citizen Macpherson Chukwuma is hoping his bill to prohibit adultery and infidelity in Nigeria would get the attention of the National Assembly, but no lawmaker seems to be eager to touch the “sensitive” issue. He said his foundation, Obasi-Pherson Help Foundation, had conducted a research to ascertain the causes of murder in Nigeria; and findings, according to him, showed relationship matters as the highest cause. So, if and when adultery and infidelity becomes prohibited with severe punishment for defaulters, Chukwuma believed this would stem the tide of violent crimes such as murder in the country.

His proposed bill, titled ‘Adultery and Infidelity (Prohibition) Bill, 2019’, may, however, never see the light of the day in the National Assembly because, according to him, the lawmakers he had contacted have been dodging the bill. From the 8th Assembly to the 9th Assembly, Chukwuma said none of the lawmakers, including the one from his Ahiazu Mbaise/Ezinihitte federal constituency of Imo State, wanted to have anything to do with the bill. He said some legislators he met with on the bill had suggested that it may cost his foundation between N3-5million to sponsor the bill at the National Assembly.

He added that another problem the bill faced was because many of the lawmakers he had contacted had decided to put their pecuniary gains ahead of public interest. “Getting a sponsor is the issue.”

They said I had to finance it,” Chukwuma said, adding that having worked on the bill for over two years, he was disappointed to find out that lawmakers he approached were “dodging it, maybe because of the financial aspect.”   Lawmakers’ silence Efforts to get reactions from several lawmakers on the issue, including Emeka Martins Chinedu, Chukwuma’s representative at the House of Representatives, have so far proven abortive. Some of them said they did not want to talk about it, while others simply ignored calls and text messages sent to them.

Lawyers’ views

Several lawyers spoken to agreed that since laws are made to regulate conducts that are regarded as vices which impact negatively on citizens, it would not be out of place for lawmakers to consider the bill. Abuja-based lawyer, E.M.D Umukoro, added that where a citizen has conducted a research to ascertain that such vices were having negative impact on the society, the least expected from lawmakers was to help amplify the research and sponsor the bill on the floor of the Assembly, where it can be subjected to arguments for and against. “It will not be right for the lawmakers to shy away from it (the bill) simply because they don’t like it”, he said, adding that what they should do is to sponsor the bill and allow the people to decide if there is a need for the bill or not. He added that while bigamy (the offence of marrying someone while already married to another person) was already provided for in penal and criminal codes, as well as marriage act, lawmakers can look at  the proposed Adultery and Infidelity (Prohibition) Bill, vis-a-vis the extant laws and see how to fine-tune it to address the problem it was meant to solve.

On his part, human rights activist, Hameed Jimoh, a lawyer, said, “One of the reasons it is always said that adultery is not an offence in Nigeria is because there is no law at present that criminalises it, but that does not mean that it cannot be criminalised, or that the legislature does not have the constitutional powers to make law criminalising adultery.” He added that whether the bill would succeed would depend on the people’s will to criminalise same, and that the view of Nigerians on the bill can only be known when it comes to the public through the lawmakers. “While adultery is already a capital offence under the Islamic criminal law, though not practised in Nigeria, I see it as a good law if successfully passed,” he added.

However, Rachael Adejo-Andrew said because of religious differences in Nigeria, adultery and infidelity might be looked at from different prisms. Adejo-Andrew, who is the chairperson of the Abuja chapter of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), said the bill might be interpreted as bringing morality and religion into law, adding that morality and law are on parallel lines  

Overview of the bill

Defined as “A bill for an act to define adultery as a crime within Nigeria and to provide penalties for offenders, including compulsory counselling services for repeat offenders upon prosecution and conviction, and to provide protection for the innocent victims of adultery and infidelity; and for related matters,” it seeks to provide that, “Any married person who, during the subsistence of his or her marriage, and without prior obtaining a divorce from his or her current spouse, engages, or has sexual intercourse with another person, commits a crime known as adultery and shall, upon conviction, be liable to a term of imprisonment or penalties as prescribed under section 4 of this act.”

The bill also provides that, “Any unmarried person, prior to contraction of a valid marriage who engages or has sexual intercourse with a married person commits a crime known as adultery.” Section 3(a) of the bill provides that, “It shall be a duty of any person who has knowledge of the commission of adultery or infidelity to report such to the nearest police station;” and section 3(b) provides that it shall be the duty of the police to make a formal record of reported cases of adultery and infidelity within two weeks and undertake a prosecution within one month of the date of the report. The penalties provided for defaulters under the bill include term of imprisonment of not less than five years, upon conviction.

In addition to the imprisonment, should the convict infect the innocent marriage mate with any sexually transmitted disease or cause death or permanent disability on him or her, the convict would be liable to pay a compensation of not less than N1 million. It also provides that should pregnancy result from the adulterous affair, “the offending marriage mate shall pay the entire costs of welfare, upkeep of child from date of birth until the age of 18.’’ Furthermore, the innocent marriage mate would reserve the right to seek a divorce “upon formal report of such adultery to the police.”

The bill further provides that, “In addition to the penalties prescribed under section 4(1) and (2), where the offender is a second time offender, they shall, upon conviction, be liable to undertake a compulsory counselling training in a government-approved psychiatric hospital.”

The bill defines marriage to mean marriage contracted in accordance with the Marriage Act, Matrimonial Causes Act and any other relevant customary laws. Related

Culled from Daily Trust

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