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New Issues About Change Of Names By Nigerians – Lifestyle Nigeria

Given at birth, names of individuals are supposed to run from cradle till death, but many change or correct their names over time and for the wrong reasons.

Names are perhaps the easiest and fundamental means of identifying an individual. The rationale behind it is to distinguish one individual from another since no two persons can have exact names. Given at birth, it runs from cradle till death.

In Nigeria, the law is that a person’s name and initials must be constant and consistent as the rising and the setting of the sun. However, not all Nigerians like their names. This is why newspapers daily publish thousands of change/correction of names on their pages and at the request of citizens who pay for them.

According to a lawyer, although the law in Nigeria allows citizens to change their names, only those who are 18 years old and above can do so. No one is however allowed to modify their names to escape a debt or financial liability or to escape criminal liability.

Also disallowed is change of name to evade the law, escape persecution or for personal reasons like experimentation or to avoid being traced by ex-partners or stalkers.

So how can an individual go about a change/correction of name? The law says that the first thing is to obtain a sworn affidavit from the court or a Notary public. For the change/correction of name to be legally binding, a Newspaper publication must publicize it based on the sworn affidavit.

Overall, the reasons for change/correction of names vary among individuals and may depend on personal or societal circumstances.  Many Nigerians change/correct their names for cultural reasons, or to reflect a new personal identity. Some do so so due to religious beliefs. For instance, when a person converts to a new religion like Islam or Christianity, they may adopt a new name to reflect their new faith.

Others may modify their names to avoid discrimination or stigmatization or do so if their names sound ethnic or tribal, which may affect their chances of getting employment or promotions.

The rise of social media platforms and the internet has also contributed to the trend. Many people adopt pseudonyms or alter egos to protect their privacy online. Celebrities, artists, and influencers often use stage names or aliases to establish their brand and maintain their public image.

Very often some Nigerians modify their names by either replacing a former first, middle or surname in favour of a new one. Others add new names to their existing names, or completely adopt a new ones. Observers say the ambiguity of the law on correction or change of name is to blame.

Some examples of Change of name in Nigerian newspapers:

1. “NDAU: I formerly known as MISS NDAU Christy now wish to be known as MRS KOTIBA Christy NKIRUKA…”

   This is by a lady who got married. She is required to change her surname NDAU, since she now wants to be known as MRS. OTIBA. Instead she retains her first name, Christy, adds her spouse name, OTIBA as well a new name, NKIRUKA.

2. “PUTA: I formerly known and addressed as Juliana Puta and Puta Juliana now wish to be known as AJUMA EPUTE…”

     This a classic case in the sense that instead of replacing any of her known names, the applicant takes a new name entirely, as becomes a completely new person.

    Those who do this do so because they want to use the documents belonging to another for a particular purpose. This is wrong in the eyes of the law, but he was allowed to swear to the affidavit which the newspaper published in his favour.

3. “IMUWAHEN: I formerly known and addressed as IMUWANEN Sonia Isi now wish to be known as IMUWANEN Sonia Isi..”

   In this case the applicant is correcting a misspelling in her surname. This is a proper correction of name. Her first name and middle names remain the same while she corrects her surname.

4.  ” EBUKA: I formerly known and addressed as Miss EBUKA Ruth now wish to be known as MRS RICHARD Ruth..”

     This is another case that the law approves. The lady changed her surname in favour of her spouse , RICHARD.

While many can change their names, as it were, at will, it is not unlikely that their new names are usually in conflict with those on their Birth Certificates and other documentations like their employment letter, schools and other Bank records, Creditors and Debtors, telephone company, Utility Companies, Tax office, Insurance Agencies, Elections agency and the Passport Office, among others.

It is nevertheless difficult to determine with certainty if there has been a steady increase in individuals modifying their names in Nigeria since 2018, when the country began a database for all citizens, as comprehensive data on name changes is not readily available.

However, a look at some daily newspaper publications suggest that the correction or change of names have been on a steady rise in Nigeria.

One reason is the government’s establishment of a National Identity Database (NIDB) with the objective of capturing the biometrics including the names of its over 200million citizens. Those captured were issued a National Identity Number which is an exclusive number attached to their names.

So far, officials say the database managed by the Nigerian Identity Management Commission, has issued about 70million of such National Identification Number or NIN to Nigerians.

For those who have their NIN, the Commission says any of them can only modify their names by applying and paying the necessary fees, after a year of being issued the NIN.

In this category of Nigerians who are allowed to modify their names, are ladies after they got married or divorced, and those who erroneously supplied wrong names, or changed names (in the case of a man as a result of religious conviction or family decision).

Again, lawyers argue that change of names or modification of names in Nigeria involves bilateral processes. In this case, the deponent or maker has to swear an affidavit stating the intention to change or correct his name. An affidavit is simply a written statement of fact that is signed under an oath in presence of an official recognized authority such as a Solicitor, a Notary of the Public, Justice of the Peace, or Commissioner of Oath, etc.

Once this has been done, the deponent or maker of the affidavit is to publish the notice of change of name in a national newspaper. This is to ensure the general public becomes aware of the change in name and subsequent correspondence or interaction should reflect the new name.

A court however, recently held that, “the affidavit of correction and confirmation of name does not  conform to the proper manner of changing a name or correcting a name on a certificate and that it is only by deed poll, and not by mere deposition that a name on an official certificate can be effected and further that the procedure necessarily affects official record and archives of the nation.

Furthermore, the difference between an affidavit of change of names and a deed of poll is that while the former has to be witnessed by a recognized authority, the latter is to be witnessed by two adults who should not be related to the maker. The lawyers argue that the two processes have the same legal effects – that is, changing one’s name.

While the reasons for name changes are diverse, the trend is likely to continue as individuals seek to redefine their identities in an increasingly globalized world. As societies become more accepting of individualism, changing one’s name has become more socially acceptable, and it is likely that the trend will only continue to grow in the future.

The courts are making money from those who desire name modify and come forward to pay and swear to affidavits. In like manner, the Newspapers are making advert money and accept all who indeed come with a request to modify their names armed with a sworn affidavit. No questions are asked

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