6 Weird and Harmful Traditional Practices in Nigeria

by Ann Okoroafor
harmful traditional practices

Have you ever told someone to do something for you, and you hear them say, “It’s against our tradition o! Do you want me to run mad or die?

Whatever the case is. These practices started with one person or a group of people and, over time, became a custom. 

Many years have passed, and the people of that community cannot do anything against that tradition.

The worst part is that these practices harm the health of the people who practice them, but this is not to conclude that they practice no positive customs.

In this article, we will focus on the harmful traditional practices because there is a need to sensitize the people and help them see things from a better perspective. The thing about these traditional practices is that they started due to little or no enlightenment. 

People faced with specific problems sorted a way out, and it seemed like these practices were the solution to that problem, so they made it a custom. Before we go further, what are harmful traditional practices?

Harmful Traditional Practices

Harmful traditional practices are practices that have detrimental effects on people’s health. These practices affect not only the physical health of its victim but also their mental and emotional health.

Let’s take a look at some of these harmful traditional practices:

List of  Some Harmful Traditional Practices

  1. Female genital mutilation 

Female genital mutilation is a practice that involves partially or removing the female external reproductive organ or inflicting a certain kind of pain on it for no healthy purpose. Worldwide, over 200 million females alive have had their genitals mutilated.

This practice is widely believed to curb a woman’s sexual urge. This act is practiced majorly in Ibadan, Oyo  state and also in Delta state and it is still in practice. All efforts to eradicate the practice have been futile. 

It is believed that a woman’s urge for sex is insatiable if the clitoris is not removed. However, these harmful traditional practices have long-term effects on these victims.

Consequences of Female genital mutilation

This harmful traditional practice has no health benefits. All it does is hurt the female gender in more than one way. Some of these ways are short-term, while others can be long-term.

  • Severe pain
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Infections
  • Urinary complications
  • Scars 
  • Mental health problems.
  • Childbirth complications
  • Sexual health complications
  • Menstrual problems.
  • Death 

Read also: Traditional marriages of various tribes in Nigeria. 

  1. Wife inheritance practices

This is majorly practiced by the Yoruba and Igbo tribes. When a woman’s husband dies, especially when she’s still a young and beautiful woman, she is given out in marriage to her husband’s brother or close relative. It’s usually worse if she didn’t give birth to children for the dead man or she gave birth and is not capable of catering for the children alone.

They practice this in order to either bear children for the man or to prevent the widow from living a promiscuous life.

  1. Harmful widowhood practices

I’m still in doubt about which of these practices is worse. When a husband dies, his widow is expected to prove her innocence by doing all sorts of unhealthy things.

These things include; wailing all day, drinking water gotten from bathing her dead husband’s body, having her hair shaven, being locked up in the same room with her husband’s corpse etc.

In some cultures, they include that she sleeps with the Chief Priest of the land, with the belief that the act will cut off all ties she has with the dead.  

When the burial is over, she is expected to mourn her husband, wearing either a white or black dress for over four months.

Not to rule out wicked in-laws who seize the opportunity to sell off most of her husband’s properties under the disguise of “fundraising” for the dead husband’s burial. Some even go as far as kicking her out of the house and keeping what’s left for themselves. 

Yet, this narrative is different from the men’s. When a man’s wife dies, he is not subject to all these practices. As a matter of fact, they make it essential for him to remarry almost immediately.

Sadly, this is still practiced in the Eastern parts of Nigeria, especially in Imo and Anambra State.

  1. Male preference

In typical Igbo land tradition, a woman is not termed a bonafide wife until she bears her husband a male child. It’s her business if she gives him 12 females, those girls are almost insignificant, and neither is the woman, until she bears a son.

The girl child has no inheritance in her Father’s house. Instead of giving his assets to the girl, when a man dies without a son, his brothers will take his properties.

This affects how the girl child is treated in the home, and these ill treatments she receives especially from her father, affects her psychologically. They put the blame on the woman forgetting totally that the man is responsible for giving out the ‘Y’ chromosomes that make a son, while the woman gives back whatever she receives from the man.

This tradition is still practiced in the eastern parts of Nigeria.

Read also: Masquerade festivals in Nigeria’s history and in the western world.  

  1. Early and forced marriage

Early marriage is when a child, in most cases, the girl child is given out in marriage to a man who is way older than she is, especially when she is less than 18 years.

Due to the belief that women are for domestic chores and childbearing, girls are given out in marriage at an extremely young age.

They are not allowed to choose the man they want, and they are not allowed to go to school. 

I believe that one of the reasons these female children are denied education, especially in northern Nigeria, is that those years spent going to school will not only help them advance in age but will also make them exposed and confident to make decisions for themselves.

This is still practiced in Kano and Imo states defiling the Child Rights Acts that illegalize marriage before 18 years.

  1. Arranged marriages

You see this on here? It is basically practiced by all tribes in Nigeria. Matter of fact, even the rich practice this too. Most of the traditions we’ve been discussing so far seem to affect the poor and average but that’s not the case for arranged marriages. 

Parents and elders in a family organize a spouse and the marriage ceremony for two people who probably have never met, for self reasons like establishing partnership or getting access to a huge contract.

This is still practiced in Nigeria and it’s very harmful. Most times, these young people or even their parents are not aware of the true character of the other young persons. They have no idea what they are capable of, and are left to discover that in the marriage. Some of these bad characters could be life-threatening.

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Causes of Harmful Traditional Practices

The causes of these harmful traditional practices are not so many, but, as little as they may seem, they have caused a lot of Nigerians pain.

Before we even begin to discuss those, who else noticed that most of these harmful traditional practices affect only the female? 

Let that be a punchline for “later discuss”. Let’s focus on some of the causes of these harmful traditional practices: 

  1. Lack of proper education

This affects both the victim and those who made these traditions. The ignorance caused by lack of education makes the victim settle for whatever is thrown at them because they do not know their human rights…Scratch that. They are not even aware that they have human rights.

  1. Poverty

When you look closely, you will find out that these traditions, most of the time, do not affect the wealthy and influential. This proves that these practices may not even do what they claim they will when ignored.


There are many other reasons why people still practice these harmful traditions, but whatever their reasons may be, the consequences of these practices are never profitable.

It is believed that if anyone goes against these traditions, they would either run mad, die or be banished from that land…but beyond these consequences, going through these practices has adverse effects on the victims too.

The consequences could be loss of will to live, low self-esteem, psychological trauma, death and much more. So we need sensitization and enlightenment, but I know that no matter the extent of enlightenment, these harmful traditions will take a very long time to be eradicated.

What’s your take on this? What harmful tradition is practiced in your hometown? Let’s know in the comment section.

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About Author

Avatar of Ann Okoroafor
Ann Okoroafor
Hi there! I'm Ann Okoroafor, but you can call me ZY.

ZY is a lover of God, Storyteller, Voiceover artist, Moderator, and Content Creator.

Passionate about showing young people that they could be the best version of themselves through Creative content.

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Avatar of Ogunsanya ifeoluwa hephzibah
Ogunsanya ifeoluwa hephzibah August 27, 2023 - 5:37 pm

God bless this sight. it really helped me with my social studies assignment. and also i pray God will heal nigeria from all these harmful practices.

Avatar of Halimat Chisom
Halimat Chisom October 2, 2023 - 10:26 am

Hi Ifeoluwa,

I’m glad you found this piece useful for your assignment. I hope you benefit more from us in the future. Amen to your prayers.


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