Domestic violence and definition of personhood in Nigeria

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Domestic violence

Football teams have different players with different specialties like goalkeepers, strikers, wingers and midfielders who combine their efforts to achieve a common goal. Since they are a team and contribute to their common goal, each person works to support other members of the team. When some players feel stronger and lose focus of the team’s purpose, they oppress other teammates thereby affecting overall team performance. Also, the family and society consist of differently skilled individuals working together for collaborative productivity and progress. When some individuals feel stronger and forget the society’s purpose, they adopt domestic violence and oppress people they should support for the society’s progress.


Though it has been in many places and families, the emergence of social media in Nigeria is exposing the expanse of domestic violence. These domestic violence include rape, murder, beating, hitting, hot water or acid bath and verbal abuse. Guardians, husbands, wives, teachers, nannies and even children are caught up as both offenders and victims of domestic violence. However, the most common victims of domestic violence are wives, children, maidservants and live-in relatives from poor backgrounds. Some offenders claim a right to domestic violence as correction: I can beat him/her as I want as I am responsible for him/her as my wife, daughter, son, relative or dependant. Many of these victims are unable to report the offenders due to lack of alternatives, status and economic dependence or fear.


Religious people insist that God gave humans dominion over all creatures for procreation, sustenance and fulfilment. This power to dominate nature manifests when humans develop their social and scientific intelligence for exploring and utilizing natural resources. Men’s rough energy manifests in producing houses, tools, vehicles, communication and entertainment equipment, tractors and other material products. By collectively conquering their environment, men create wealth to satisfy their needs for food, family, society, security and property. Men’s rough energy dispose them for tougher roles in security and production from hard natural resources, while women manage, modify and distribute these products for social harmony. Each person is legally protected and enabled to develop and contribute their best to the society according to their talents and dispositions. When a society undervalue human potentials, they become careless about some people’s physical, intellectual and emotional development. Hence, they tolerate domestic violence.


Before the colonial invasion and their social-disordering activities, Africa’s kingdoms and communities had different social orders. Some of them were administered by traditional rulers and chiefs according to age grades for males and females. Apart from the family support and protection for individuals, the age grades support and protect their members’ interests. Each group and age grade educated and enabled their members for their productive roles in the family and society. Though some form of domestic violence may have happened then, the people’s productive roles and social-support systems made them valuable and less exposed to domestic violence.


Presently, the increasing rate of domestic violence in Nigeria signifies immense underrating of human potentials and social support systems, manifesting in unproductivity and poverty. Yet, underrating human potentials in Nigeria is not the different people’s natural feature, but a product of several factors like:


  • Imposed social structure for unproductivity: colonialists created Nigeria by violently merging different unconsented kingdoms and communities under a militarized government[1] for exploiting resources.[2] They killed those who resisted their invasion[3] and imposed constitution to guide the indigenous assistants they trained to enforce the exploitation.[4] At independence, colonialists replaced themselves with indigenous officials from few communities to continue exploiting the different people’s resources for former colonialists[5] in exchange for foreign goods and services. Since the imposed government seizes all people’s production resources[6][7][8] for foreigners, many Nigerians stay unproductive and poor.


Today, Nigerians lack a common conception of nationhood,[9] and the brutally-merged peoples continue fighting one another under colonially-imposed political order.[10] In such frustration, some people transfer the aggression to people around them, resulting in domestic violence.


  • Psychological need to prove dominance: human instinct for domination and victory regularly seeks expression through intellectual, physical and psychological battles. Thus, bright societies create healthy means of productively expressing dominance and victory using sports, music, arts, debates and technological exhibitions. However, when the instinct of dominance is not properly channelled to productivity and social responsibility, it resorts to vices like domestic violence. Hence, some people engage in domestic violence, not because they lack money, but because they want to feel dominant or victorious over something.[11]


Nigeria’s militarily sustained structure does not support productivity and progressive show of human instinct for dominance. Politicians are more interested in getting money from selling people’s mineral resources than supporting productivity. Therefore, avenues for expressing healthy dominance like sports, arts, technology, academics and industry lack support. Also, getting materials for positively engaging activities is unsteady since they depend on expensive importation, instead of local productivity.


  • Economic and psychological dependence: most victims of domestic violence come from poorer backgrounds or social alienation. Because they depend on others for survival and emotional wellbeing, these group of people are unable to report or resist domestic violence. Nigeria’s imposed government seizes and exports people’s mineral resources that they could have used for producing what they need. In defence, Nigeria’s colonially-imposed government create states, local governments and ministries to share few foreign products as salaries, infrastructure and charity handouts. Since then different Nigerians struggle to occupy political offices to enjoy foreign money from seized mineral resources. Obtaining survival products now require marketing foreigners’ products or assisting politicians distract or suppress the exploited people.


With the seizure of people’s production resources, the few people who get political power or higher access to foreign products can suppress others without opposition. Now, individuals from families with political connection or more access to foreign products can maltreat others, even their spouses without fear. And since the victims are economically or emotionally dependent on them for survival or social recognition, they endure.


  • Child and forced marriage: the low economic status and enlightenment about human potentials results in child marriage. Due to the retrogressive economic structure, some families see their daughters as link to richer families. Then, they marry these girls off to far older men, who often carry out several acts of domestic violence on them.


  • Feminism: current feminist waves attack men and their roles in the family, thus eliciting domestic violence in men who lose their tempers. The seizure of mineral resources took away the opportunity for many men to earn from using their mineral resources for production. Most decent jobs now are management jobs for counting, marketing and distributing imported goods and services. Due to their soft-skills and gentle touch, women seem more disposed to succeed in the service economy than men. Getting higher income, some women begin to dominate and disrespect their men both verbally and physically, leading to domestic violence.


  • Legal loopholes: laws are made to protect members of different societies from different forms of pain and guarantee their wellbeing. Law is a product of reason made and promulgated for common-good by those who have legitimate charge of a community. Unfortunately, Nigeria’s laws did not proceed from the legitimate custodians of different Nigerian communities and kingdoms. Instead, Nigeria’s laws, political offices and functions from the constitution, were imposed by colonialists on defeated kingdoms and communities. Under colonial successors, the alien laws suppress the different people’s values and effort for local productivity and social responsibility, and protect post-colonial exploiters.


Today, the politicians following colonialist guidelines multiply and implement only laws that suit them, while neglecting human resource development. Thus, many laws lack provisions for human resource development and protection, but support oppression and exploitation. Some of the laws supporting oppression, and by extension, domestic violence are found in both the criminal code and penal code.[12]


Defence for assault on women

  • Criminal code 353: any person who unlawfully and indecently assaults a male person is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for three years. S.360: any person who unlawfully and indecently assaults a woman or girl is guilty of misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for two years.
  • Penal code 55(1) (d): “nothing is an offence, which does not amount to grievous harm upon any person and which is done by a husband for the purpose of correcting his wife”


Tactical defence of rape against women

  • Criminal code 221: “a person cannot be convicted of the offence of unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl being of or above thirteen years and under sixteen years of age; or knowing a woman or girl to be an idiot or imbecile, has or attempts to have unlawful carnal knowledge of her, upon the uncorroborated testimony of one person.”
  • Penal code 182: “sexual intercourse by a man with his wife is not rape if she has attained puberty”


With these legal loopholes, it becomes difficult for domestic violence victims to obtain justice, especially when the offender is wealthier. Different groups, NGOs and associations continue in their damage-control effort to save the few people they can from domestic violence.


Reorganizing the society for proper management against rape

Despite many efforts to condemn and legally combat domestic violence, it continues even among social protectors. So, Nigeria requires a better strategy to deeply control the social, psychological, legal and economic factors in domestic violence. We noted that human instinct to conquer and dominate turns to domestic violence when it lacks proper direction and resources for productivity and social responsibility. Hence, the new strategy will emphasize social reorganization for productivity and social responsibility above importation and distribution. A sincere government will arise and the following:


  • Conduct a social research to discover and acknowledge the different Nigeria’s peoples, their beliefs about humans and their respective lands and resources.[13]
  • Organize intercommunal conferences among kingdoms, local governments and districts for a national conference where Nigerians will discuss and agree on their mode of partnership.[14] Hence, the constitutional decisions and laws will reflect the people’s beliefs and agreement for human development and productive partnership.
  • Invite and integrate local and foreign-trained specialists to train the various natives to process their local resources for more industrial production. Then establishing secondary industries to use the processed mineral resources for productivity.
  • Release people’s lands and resources for industrial productivity and eventual tax-payment to the central government. This will encourage the government to protect the people’s productivity for better tax-returns, and encourage citizens to become productive and socially responsible. Productive and socially responsible men with active industries will have enough resources to provide for and defend their relatives from domestic violence. As the major problem in managing rescued victims of domestic violence is resources for sustenance.


Managing the new society against rape

Despite enabling productivity and creating jobs, some people may not easily give up the habit of domestic violence. Hence, the sincere government will adopt other regulatory measures like:

  • Conscientize the society about the value of human potentials using mass-media, preachers, movies, songs and interactive talk-shows. Despite not condemning domestic violence, this method extols the development of human potentials in both male and female. This will motivate parents to seek the development of both their male and female children, instead of using them as commodities.
  • Rediscover, modernize and fund different indigenous games and sports as healthy means of expressing the natural instinct of domination. Also, properly organize and fund other sports like football, basketball, volley ball, tennis, boxing, arm-wrestling, wrestling, swimming and general athletics. Sustenance of this activities will demand more productivity from Nigeria’s local producers for the nation’s economic sustenance.
  • Fund and widely publicize competitions in academic works, technical exhibitions, arts, music, fashion and works that promote creativity and social responsibility. This will inspire indigenes to discover, develop, impact the society and earn from their potentials and resources.
  • With a properly adjusted constitution as stated earlier, it becomes easier to make laws that appreciate, develop and protect human potentials. These laws on domestic violence could provide for prison-term and fines for social, physical and psychological damages to victims.
  • Register, educate and empower aid agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence and provide counselling, protection and reintegration of the victims.


It is in human nature to conquer and dominate his environment either as an individual or as a group. Nature gave them rough and jagged energy to conquer elements in their environment for their good. When a society denies men access to natural resources to conquer productively, they can often unleash their jagged energy in domestic violence.


Human instinct to conquer something turns to domestic violence when it lacks proper direction to productivity and social responsibility. Without directing human energy to productivity, we can only engage in damage control, not proactively stopping or managing the occurrences of domestic violence.

[1] S. O. Oyedele, “Federalism in Nigeria” In Issues in contemporary political economy of Nigeria. edited by Hassan A. Saliu. (Ilorin: T.A. Olayeri Publishers, 1999), p.57

[2] Walter Rodney, How Europe underdeveloped Africa, 2009 edition (Abuja: Panaf publishers, 2009), p.217

[3] Oladele Fadeiye, European conquest and African resistance (Lagos: Murfat publications, 2011) pp.64-65

[4] Walter Rodney, How Europe underdeveloped Africa, 2009 edition (Abuja: Panaf press, 2009) p.317-319

[5] Walter Rodney, op. cit. p.319

[6] Nigerian minerals and mining act 2007 act no. 20, chapter 1, Part 1, Section 1, paragraph 2

[7] Nigerian minerals and mining act 2007 act no. 20, chapter 1, Part 1, Section 2, paragraph 1

[8] Nigerian minerals and mining act 2007 act no. 20, chapter 1, Part 1, Section 1, paragraph 3

[9] Richard Dowden, op. Cit. p.3

[10] Lee Kwan Yew, From third world to first (USA: HarperCollins, 2000), p.357

[11] Nigel, Barber, “Is rape about control or sex?” in Psychology Today Apr 05, 2011.

[12] Aminu Hassan Gamawa, “How Nigeria legalizes discrimination against women” in Premium Times, July 28, 2013. retrieved 29th May, 2019.

[13] Chukwunwike Enekwechi, “The social research for a new Nigeria” in Restartnaija June 5, 2018. retrieved 29th May, 2019.

[14] Chukwunwike Enekwechi, “Organizing the national conference for a new Nigeria” in Restartnaija February 5, 2019. retrieved 29th May, 2019.