Child rights: Parental rights and Custody of child/Discipline of child in Nigeria

In Nigeria, parental rights developed from customary and common law, but are no longer relevant in cases of custody or guardianship, where the courts consider only what will best promote the child’s welfare.

Parental rights include the “rights, powers, liberties and duties, which a parent has with respect to his or her child”[1]. This parental right is covered under various international conventions guaranteeing on the rights of the child in which Nigeria is a signatory.

Under the Convention on the Right of Child, Nigeria (a State party) “…shall respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents or, where applicable, members of the extended family or community as provided for by local custom, legal guardians or other persons legally responsible for the child, to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate, direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognized in the present Convention”

The convention recognizes the right of the parents to the extent of that it is not contrary to the rights of a child.

The convention recognizes the right of the parents to the custody of a child only when such is not in contrary to the best interest of a child.

Parental rights to the custody of the child include the right to physical custody and to determine education, religion and other moral values of the child until he, or she reaches the age of discretion. A child cannot be made to receive religious education or instruction or take part in any religious ceremony which is not his own or approved by his parents or guardian.

This right also includes the right to the child’s services,[2] the right to discipline and chastise the child, which “recognizes the supervisory role which a parent has in respect of a child who is under his custody, care or control”[3]

Any discipline meted out by parents must not however be excessive else, it may lead to a criminal offence, depending on the circumstances.[4]

Parents have the right to consent to the marriage of their children and receive dowry under Islamic or customary law[5]

[1] J. M. Eckeedar “What are Parental Rights?” (1973

[2] Animashawun v. CT Wang 1974 11 CC HCJ 1793 quoted by E.N.U. Uzodike, Implications and Limits of Parental Rights in Nigeria, published in the African Society of  International and Comparative Law, Vol.2 pt 2, p. 282

[3] E.N.U Uzodike, op. cit., p. 287

[4] Section 295 OF THE Criminal Code

[5] Osanwonyi v. Osanwonyi (1973) 3 UILR 527.