Adoption of a Child in Nigeria

What is Adoption?

Adoption is the legal process in which a child’s legal rights and duties towards its natural parents are terminated and substituting similar rights and duties to its adoptive parents.

Who May Adopt?

From the provisions of the Child Rights Act 2003, only persons who are adults of not less than 25 years can adopt a child. While married couples can adopt a child of either sex, an unmarried person who wishes to adopt a child can only adopt a child of the same sex as him or her.

Who can be adopted?

Not all persons are eligible for adoption, only a juvenile can be adopted. A juvenile is a person below the age of 17.

The Adoption Procedure in Practice

An application is usually made to the court in a prescribed form accompanied by relevant documents. (In practice, the application to the court cannot be made by the adopter on his own without first obtaining the consent of the government welfare agency or department.)

From the provisions of the Child Rights Act the relevant documents are

1.Where the applicant is a married couple, their marriage certificate or sworn declaration of marriage;

2.Birth certificate or sworn declaration of age of the applicant or each of the applicants as the case may be;

3. Two passport photographs of the applicants or each of the applicant as the case may be;

4. A medical certificate of fitness of the applicant or each of the applicants from a government hospital;

5. Such other documents, requirements and information as the Court may require for the purpose of adoption

Once the court is satisfied with the application and the relevant documents, the court will order for an investigation into the applicant, so as to assess the suitability of the applicant as an adopter. The investigation is usually by a Social Welfare officer, Supervision Officer and any other persons as the Court may determine.

A guardian ad litem may be appointed by the court for the juvenile to represent him or her in the adoption proceeding. The guardian ad litem investigates the circumstances relevant to the proposed adoption and reports in writing to the court. The  guardian ad litem is usually either the welfare officer in charge of the area where the juvenile resides or a probation officer or some other person suitably qualified in the opinion of the court.

The juvenile must have continuously been in the care and custody of the applicant for at least 3 months immediately preceding an adoption order. The welfare officer makes a confidential report after several visits to the applicant and being satisfied of mutual compatibility between the juvenile and adopter during the three months.

Where a positive report is given to the court and the court is satisfied, the court will then make an adoption order. The entire adoption proceeding and outcome is entered into the adoption register.


In conclusion, the process of adoption begins with identifying the child to be adopted. The process of adoption differs somewhat from state to state in Nigeria, as such it is important for prospective applicants to look at the specific provisions of the laws that govern adoption in the state of choice.

The services of a legal practitioner can be engaged to facilitate the adoption process.

Written By Efemena Ighorimoto

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