Dreadful Cultural Practices in Nigeria That Need to be Abolished/Reformed

by Timileyin Precious
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Dreadful Cultural practices in Nigeria

There are so many beautiful cultural practices in Nigeria; we basically have our (imposed) diversity to thank for that. Still, we cannot deny that there are some dreadful cultural practices in Nigeria and that we need to do away with. What do I mean?

Cultural Practices in Nigeria

Nigeria is one of the most diverse countries in Africa. It has well over 200 ethnic groups. It is quite interesting that these different ethnicities seem to have a lot of customary similarities. There are however some bits of our beloved culture that we need to weed out. There are some traditions that we need to adjust to fit into the standards of humanity.

Weeding out? We should be proud of our culture, why should we alter it? Of course, this is not some tale that consigns our culture to the dungeons of inferiority. No! This isn’t some Eurocentric story of cultural superiority.

It is not that, It is simply a voice of reason, one that calls for the necessary evolution that we need. By the time you see some of the practices in question, I am sure you would agree with me (that is of course if you are human) on totally abolishing some of the practices in question, and of course reforming the others

4 Dreadful Cultural Practices in Nigeria That Need to be Abolished/Reformed

1.     Female Genital Mutilation

FGM tops the list of the dreadful cultural practices in Nigeria that we need to abolish. What does it mean? Female genital mutilation is simply mutilating (cutting) the external female genitalia. It is a family tradition that girls between the age of 0-15 years of age experience.

Of course, there is a cultural perspective to this. I mean why would our forefathers decide to hurt their children? What reasons did they have?

Beliefs about Female Genital Mutilation

  • Some cultures believe that “cutting” the external female genitalia ensures the virginity of the girl in question. Virginity is an integral part of the Nigerian marriage culture. The belief is that it (virginity) symbolizes honour and decency. Of course, they would go to any length to uphold that honour.
  • There is also the belief that cutting the external part of the female genitalia helps to boost sexual pleasure in the man when the girl marries.

The above are not only unhealthy, they are based on very wrong assumptions. Considering how ridiculous and wrong the reasons are, FGM is a really dreadful cultural practice that we need to get rid of.

Consequences of Female Genital Mutilation

The information that FGM is done based on wrong assumptions probably isn’t convincing enough; in that case, the consequences should drive home the point.

  • Victims stand the risk of infection. The perpetrators often carry out the act in unsterile conditions with unsterilized objects. The victim risks contracting a sexually transmitted disease.
  • There is a very high chance that the victim experiences complications in urination and most importantly menstruation. Female genital mutilation alters the external genitalia and may damage the part that allows the passage of urine, blood and other body wastes.
  • Victims are more likely to die from childbirth as a result of physiological complications during or after giving birth.
  • Victims of FGM may have lots of psychological problems ranging from low self-esteem to depression.

Sure, the circumstances that birthed the practice is different, our ancestors probably had no knowledge of the consequences. Now that we do, we all should work towards abolishing this dreadful cultural practice in Nigeria.

2.     Tribal Marks

The tradition of tribal scarification (I decided to choose this word) is a dreadful cultural practice in Nigeria that we need to reform (depending on the feasibility of what I want to propose). Tribal marks are very common in the southwestern and southeastern part of Nigeria; the Yoruba and the Igbo especially. Why this?

Beliefs about tribal scarification

  • Tribal marks – especially in Yoruba land – are an integral part of our cultural identity. You could literally tell where a man is from by looking at the pattern of his tribal mark.
  • Beautification is another reason for Tribal marks. The Yoruba especially, believe so much that tribal marks make the bearer more beautiful.

In very recent times, there seems to be an increasing cultural awareness in Nigeria. The intelligentsia seems to be working towards the resuscitation of some of our forgotten practices (Tribal marking inclusive).

However, the procedures seem a lot like that of FGM. The child in question is incised with sharp objects. Some locally made substances are afterwards added to the incision to dull the pain and bolden the marks. Aside from the pain, an individual also stands a higher chance of infection due to the unsterile equipment that is used for the incision. What kind of reform could this possibly use?

Here is the good news, we draw tattoos, don’t we? Tattoos are legal and of course, if done at the right place are considered safe. Why not do the same for tribal marks?

Suggested Reforms about Tribal Scarifications

  • Tribal marks should be something of choice just like tattoos. Children should not be made to have them compulsorily.
  • Since it involves incision like tattoos, tribal marks can exactly be done using the same healthy practices.
  • Abolishing unhealthy, superstitious and unsterilized equipment that are used to make these incisions in local households.

Of course, it is no delusion; we can stay healthy and protect our cultural identity at the same time. It is definitely possible.

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3.     Child Marriage

Child marriage is one of the dreadful cultural practices in Nigeria (surprising prevalent) that we need to totally abolish. It is simply the matrimony of any person below the legal age of marriage (18 years in Nigeria).

It is much more common in the North-western and North-eastern part of Nigeria. Different arguments have stemmed around this practice. The most prominent of them is the “subjectivity” of the legal age of marriage.

Beliefs about Child Marriage

Before I point out why the above arguments do not hold sway, let’s see some other causes of child marriage in Nigeria (aside from this flawed cultural belief).

  • Poverty; This probably sounds very cliche (I mean, poverty is responsible for many things in Nigeria). However, poverty – in a way – cements this cultural bias. This huge trigger cannot be overlooked.
  • Illiteracy; Some cases of child marriage, especially in the northern part of the country are simply because the perpetrators are ignorant (this is not even a stereotype). They do not know or see any big deal in forcing their daughters to marriage.
  • Violence and Terrorism; Constant violence, insurgency and the consequent instability is a major catalyst of child marriage. The northeastern part of Nigeria is a good major case study.

Of course, we have seen quite a number of individuals without the above circumstances perpetrate child marriage. They do it under the guise of subjectivity of the legal age of marriage. I mean, the argument actually sparked serious deliberations in the Nigerian national assembly not too long ago.

Well, below are some reasons why child marriage (marriage of any child below 18 years) is physically and mentally unhealthy.

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Dangers of Child Marriage

  • Girl children forced into marriage stand a very high chance of maternal mortality. This is quite obvious; most adolescents are not physically and physiologically ready for childbirth. The World Health Organization concluded that pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of deaths in girls aged 15-19 years. Why push our children to die in the name of culture?
  • The offspring of adolescent mothers have a higher risk of being preterm. There is also a very high risk of infant mortality during childbirth.
  • Victims of child marriage are ill-prepared for the responsibilities attached to being a parent. Family management requires a considerable amount of physical and psychological maturity.
  • Girls that are victims of child marriage are more likely to suffer from domestic violence and marital rape.
  • In most cases, Child marriage ends the victim’s education; he or she has to take on responsibilities of upbringing another.

The above are a few out of many consequences of child marriage in Nigeria. By all standards of humanity, they are enough call to action. All hands should be on deck to get rid of this dreadful cultural practice in Nigeria.

4.     Gender Preference in Children

Gender preference in Children still surprisingly still exists as one of the dreadful cultural practices in Nigeria. This bias is common to majority of the ethnicities in Nigeria. In most instances, a male child seals the” legitimacy” of a marriage in many parts of the country (No, this is not just in Nollywood Movies).

Even among the supposedly exposed, there is an unspoken underlining preference for a male child, especially in families of affluence. This creates huge self-esteem loopholes in the psychology of first-hand victims. The world is healing itself of the erstwhile disregard for the achievement/existence of the female gender. Our culture should evolve too don’t you think?


Evolution is one of the fundamental things that we need to put into consideration in the course of cultural sustenance. In as much as we do not want our culture to fade into nothingness, we have to take active steps towards cutting off the less human part of it.

The world does not deserve to see these dreadful cultural practices in Nigeria, but the beauty of our cultural practices. Long live Nigeria!

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About Author

Avatar of Timileyin Precious
Timileyin Precious
Akinmoyeje Timileyin Precious is interested in code, history and culture, and philosophy. He is a fellow at the African Leadership Institute. He does writing as a thing for the culture.

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