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DNA Controversy: Should Paternity Fraud Be Treated As Major Fraud?

The case of paternity fraud in Nigerian has remained a top discussion on several social media platforms as the issue leaves devastating consequences on men who are often advised to suppress their pain and emotions, leading to unresolved emotional trauma, unlike when society tends to focus on supporting women through heartbreak and emotional distress.

What Is Paternity Fraud?

Paternity fraud occurs when a woman falsely claims that a man is the biological father of her child, leading the man to believe he had fathered a child when he had not. This deception stems from various motivations, including financial gain or social status, fear, shame and stigma.

Paternity Fraud does not only shatter trust in relationships or marriage but also has a profound effect on the lives of innocent children, especially adults, unlike minors.

According to statistics, three out of ten men in Nigeria are victims of paternity fraud, and the country is ranked second worldwide behind Jamaica in paternity fraud.

A Case Of Paternity Fraud

In 2019, Nigerian media personality, Nedu Chinedu Ani, popularly known as Nedu, awoke to the brutal realization that the child he had nurtured for years was not his biological offspring after undergoing a DNA test.

In the wake of the controversy online, Nedu’s ex-wife, Uzoamaka Ohiri, said she did not intentionally give another man’s baby to him, stressing that she, too, did not know that the child was not for Nedu.

Uzoamaka also stated that she did not cheat on Nedu during their marriage but that she was in a relationship before meeting the comedian.

Following the surge in some online stories on paternity fraud, some Nigerians have recommended that DNA tests should be done alongside other necessary tests when babies are immediately delivered.

On-Air-Personality, Oladotun Kayode, also known as Do2dtun, in a post via X, also supported the notion that new babies should undergo a DNA test immediately, just like other necessary tests conducted on them.

He wrote on X: “I believe DNA should be a prerequisite immediately a child is born. The same way they carry out tests on a child when they are born. It should be seamless. It is seen as sacred cos people see it as a borderline mishap for trust, but It’s best to know in the beginning & now.”

In an exclusive interview with Naija New, Nigerian lawyer, Barrister Ehis Okoebor, confirmed that there is no criminal conviction for paternity fraud in Nigeria, even though several high-profile individuals have been enmeshed in the controversy.

Ehis noted paternity fraud could only succeed in court when connected with criminal deceit or breach of trust.

Analyzing the controversy, he said, “There is no record of a criminal conviction for paternity fraud in Nigeria. However, there have been cases of high-profile men who disclosed they are not the biological father of the child/children they have raised even to adulthood. There are circumstances where a woman, whether married or not, may have multiple sexual partners, and it is regarded as adultery and cheating. It is condemnable in society, but it is not enough to say they have committed a criminal offence in the matrimonial course act and even in the married courses acts. Such an act can be condoled, provided the husband agrees.

“No law punishes a woman’s mistake of conception with another man while with her husband. What she did is considered morally wrong but not legally wrong. Many people reporting paternity fraud can say it is a mistake instead of fraud because the act was fornication, which is not a crime under the law. Even in the case of Nedu, the court never convicted anyone, and he also didn’t test the law to claim damage.

“Paternity fraud will not succeed as a crime, and a man may not succeed if he wants to plead the case there; however, issues that can be connected to it can pass as a crime, including criminal deceit and criminal breach of trust occurring out of paternity proceedings. The husband can seek redress either in the criminal or civil court, where they can claim some damages for all that he had suffered emotionally or financially.”

Regarding whether paternity fraud should be treated as a major crime, Ehis said, “There should be a law that will speak to paternity fraud or penalty for it. However, it will be difficult to prove because sometimes it may not emanate from the woman, for instance, when babies are swapped in the hospital. In summary, rather than going through the route of paternity fraud, criminal deceit should be used or criminal breach of trust; that way, the case may succeed in the law.”

While the Nigerian legal frameworks do not specifically address paternity fraud, it is challenging for victims to seek justice or resolution. Below are necessary approaches to help curb paternity fraud.

1. Public awareness through educational campaigns, media, and other public discussion because people need to understand the emotional and social consequences of the destructive practice.

2. Legal reforms: As mentioned in the interview, the Nigerian legislature should consider enacting laws to address paternity fraud and provide guidelines for victims to seek redress.

3. Access to DNA test: The average cost of a DNA test in Nigeria can range from N210,000 to N1,400,000. Therefore, promoting access to affordable and accurate DNA testing facilities can help individuals easily confirm paternity.

4. Support for children. An adequate psychological support system should be in place to assist children who are affected by paternity fraud.

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