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Surrogacy Insights


In Nigeria, the legal landscape surrounding surrogacy is complex and largely uncharted.   Surrogacy is a method of assisted reproduction where a woman voluntarily agrees to carry and deliver a child for another individual or couple. 


Absence of Specific Legislation

One of the foremost challenges in understanding surrogacy within the Nigerian context is the absence of specific laws governing its practice.  Unlike some countries that have enacted comprehensive legislation to regulate surrogacy arrangements, Nigeria lacks clear legal guidelines regarding the practice of surrogacy.


Legal Vacuum and Implications

The absence of specific surrogacy laws in Nigeria has significant implications.  Firstly, it means that there are no explicit prohibitions against engaging in surrogacy arrangements.  Consequently, individuals or couples pursuing surrogacy within the country are not subject to legal prosecution solely on the basis of participating in such arrangements.  If a criminal case were to be filed it would most likely be under the laws of child trafficking if payment were made to the surrogate.


Utilization of Foreign Legal Precedents

Without domestic legislation, the legal framework for surrogacy in Nigeria is often guided by foreign legal precedents, particularly those from jurisdictions with established surrogacy laws.  For instance, many assisted reproductive technology (ART) clinics in Nigeria adhere to guidelines derived from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 107 of the United Kingdom.  This reliance is rooted in Nigeria’s historical ties to the UK and the adoption of English common law principles.


Challenges and Limitations

However, the application of the UK law is not without challenge.  While UK legal frameworks provide some guidance, they are not directly applicable to the Nigerian context.  The Nigerian Interpretation Act permits the adoption of English statutes predating January 1, 1900, yet no relevant laws specifically addressing surrogacy existed before this date.  Consequently, the applicability of foreign laws to resolve surrogacy-related disputes in Nigeria remains uncertain.


Need for Domestic Legislation

The absence of clear surrogacy laws in Nigeria underscores the pressing need for domestic legislation tailored to address the unique socio-cultural, ethical, and legal considerations within the country.  Such legislation would serve to safeguard the rights and interests of all parties involved in surrogacy arrangements, ensure accountability, and provide clarity on issues such as parental rights, financial compensation, and the welfare of children born through surrogacy.


Parental Rights

In Nigeria, where there is no legislation to recognize the parental rights of the intended parents, the surrogate is likely to be acknowledged as the mother. Consequently, the intended parents will likely need to initiate an adoption process to establish their parental rights and gain formal recognition as the legal parents of the child.



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Future Legal Developments



Nigerian Assisted Reproduction Authority was presented before the National Assembly in 2012. However, this Bill was not passed into law as it did not enjoy the support of the majority of the legislature.



The National Health Act was enacted. However, there was confusion in the wording as this Bill seemed to outlaw IVF.  



The ART Bill was introduced.  This Bill made third-party services available to single people, and married and unmarried couples. Compensated surrogacy was allowed and foreign people can partake in surrogacy in Nigeria. This Bill was not passed as law. 



Two bills concerning surrogacy in Nigeria, namely the National Health Act (Amendment) Bill and the ART Regulation Bill, await voting. If passed, these bills, possibly with modifications, would establish the groundwork for regulating surrogacy agreements in Nigeria. Unfortunately. as of May 2024, these bills have not been enacted into law.