Marriage and children

Large families are common in Nigeria and communities place a high value on getting married and having children. Traditionally, the size of a man’s family is believed to signify his wealth.

A Nigerian family posing for the cameraPolygamy is still practiced in certain cultures, where a man takes more than one wife. This happens in both Muslim regions (the Koran stipulates a man may have up to four wives) and also in southern areas where traditional beliefs are still followed. Taking more than one wife gives men the opportunity to have larger families.

However, in Christian communities, men have only one wife. Marriage ceremonies are also becoming more Western-style with church weddings, though some elements of traditional culture are kept. For example, gifts such as a bridal dowry, yams, palm wine or livestock may be given to the bride’s family.

But Nigerians are increasingly thinking about whether they can support a large family financially. And across the country as a whole, family planning is becoming a political issue. With around 160 million people, Nigeria already has the largest population in Africa (one in six Africans is Nigerian). By 2050, this is forecast to more than double to reach 390 million. Already one of the most densely-populated countries, Nigeria is having to consider how the country would support all these people.