Nigeria is governed by laws. These laws were formed with the utmost desire to protect the lives of every Nigerian citizen and if an activity, no matter how harmless or personal it may seem, can cause death in high numbers, then it is considered a crime. Abortion being the removal of an embryo or a fetus is considered very unsafe and a major contributor to the high maternal death and ill health in the country today hence one of the reasons Abortion is considered a crime in Nigeria.
In Nigeria, northern Nigeria is governed by the penal code while southern Nigeria is governed by the criminal code. For the criminal code, the abortion laws are clearly stated in sections 228, 229, and 230; section 228 states that any person providing a miscarriage to a woman (I.e helping with abortion) is guilty of a felony and is subject to 14 years imprisonment. Section 229, further goes ahead to state that any woman obtaining a miscarriage is guilty of a felony and is subject to up to 7 years imprisonment while section 230 states that anyone supplying anything intended for a woman’s miscarriage is also guilty of a felony and is subject to up to 3 years imprisonment.
The penal code, with abortion laws, clearly stated in sections 232, 233, and 234 mirrors the Criminal code but has just a little difference. The only reason abortion can be pardoned or punishment exempted is if the abortion was done solely for the purpose of saving the life of the mother. Otherwise, the punishments include imprisonment, fine, or both. These offenses are punishable regardless of if the abortion conducted was successful or not.
Case Analysis; R.V.Idiong and Umo
The two defendants were convicted of murder in a seemingly harmless abortion case. The first accused, R.V Idiong had asked for the services of the second accused who is a native doctor. He had asked him to provide drugs that would help bring about an abortion. Unfortunately, the lady who took the drugs, which was a native medicine died in the process of aborting the child.
While conducting further investigations, the West African Court of Appeals found that the 2nd accused had acted innocently believing that the medicine he administered to her was supposed to relieve her of pains that the woman suffered because of a retained placenta and gave her an abortifacient to help remove the placenta. He was found not guilty of murder and manslaughter.
The 1st accused was however found criminally responsible for causing the abortion by purchasing the drugs with the intention to cause a miscarriage, he was found innocent for murder but was found guilty for manslaughter.
Despite the stringent laws on abortion in Nigeria, the act is still committed so casually and is mostly conducted by unskilled individuals which ultimately, in most cases, leads to the high numbers of maternal death and ill-health in the country.
So, to answer the question quite simply; is abortion a crime in Nigeria? Yes, it is and anyone found guilty is subject to up to 14 years imprisonment. The only legal way of having an abortion in Nigeria is if having the child is going to put the mother’s life in danger.