At least 49 spouses reportedly died between January 2021 and March 2022, data compiled by Daily Trust Saturday have revealed.
The data showed that 35 women were killed by their husbands while wives killed their husbands on 14 different occasions.
From the cases compiled by Daily Trust Saturday, 39 deaths were related to domestic violence while six killed their spouses over allegations of infidelity.
Other causes of homicide according to experts are mental disorders, ritual killing and forced marriages.
The latest incident that was greeted by uproar was the death of an Abuja-based gospel artiste, Osinachi Nwachukwu.
Her death reportedly followed marital ordeals as there were allegations of domestic violence being orchestrated by her husband.
The Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen had, on live television, painted disturbing situations within the family when she visited the children Osinachi left behind.
Mr Ovye Yakubu allegedly killed his wife, Esther Aya, in the Sabonpegi-Shabu community of Lafia, Nasarawa State.
When he was arrested by operatives of the Nasarawa State Police Command, a witness alleged that Yakubu killed his wife when an argument ensued over hiring a carpenter to fix one of the windows in their residence.
He said, “The deceased (Esther) had engaged the service of a carpenter to fix net in their windows to prevent mosquitoes from entering the house, but her husband stopped the carpenter.”
She reportedly resisted and her husband started beating her in the process.
She was said to have died from the injuries sustained when he descended on her.
Also, in January 2022, a 57-year-old man, Muhammed Alpha, was arrested for allegedly stabbing his wife of over 20 years with a knife over the ownership of a door made from zinc, while Motunrayo Alaba also allegedly applied a hot-pressing iron on the chest of her husband, having recently returned on vacation overseas. The man also died from the injury.
Ramota Soliu also allegedly poured hot water on her husband in a case of domestic violence. Wisdom Joseph allegedly strangled his wife, Evelyn Alifiya, to death while Emmanuel Chigozie killed his pregnant wife over a minor disagreement.
Children are the greatest casualties
At the centre of these killings are the children who are left without both parents because while one rots in police custody, the other will be buried.
Osinachi left four children behind while the husband is still in custody pending when the court will make a final decision.
When Muhammed Alpha killed his wife, eight children became motherless. Three children were without a father when Mr Alaba was killed by his wife in Lagos.
More than 20 children were left behind by their parents who were victims of spousal killings in 15 months in Nigeria.
“Some children trained in abusive marriages grew up with psychological scars and trauma that shape their marriage view,” Said Abdullahi Usman, a psychologist.
“It affects their perception about life and life will never be the same for some of them,” he said.
Olamide Ogundele is a graduate based in Abuja. He said he did not plan to get married due to what he experienced with his parents.
“I will rather remain single because I do not think marriage is for me. Marriage is not for everybody, and I have seen it from my parents. Not that they were violent but there were things I saw in their relationship that have led to fear within me,” he said.
When probed further, Ogundele said his views might change later, but at the moment, all his relationships with females are platonic.
Another Abuja resident who preferred to be anonymous said that growing up was difficult for her as she joined her sisters to beat their father when he abused her mother.
“I had to pray when I was about to get married because I did not want to get into an abusive relationship, and God answered my prayers,” she said, adding that despite her fears, her husband of over 20 years has never abused her.
How abusive spouses betray partners
Cynthia Ogwu said she left her husband over 10 years after obtaining a court injunction for the dissolution of the marriage.
She took up a job and has been fending for her children since then and does not nurse any hope of returning to the marriage.
She said that not everybody could understand her plight and what led to the dissolution of the marriage, adding that she had to relocate to another area in Abuja to start a new life with her children due to social stigma.
Although Cynthia did not reveal why she left the marriage, she is grateful that she is alive to tell her story, regardless of what happened.
A victim of an abusive marriage, Grace Ityosaa, said people in such situations who refuse to walk away risk being killed.
She said such people must be willing to leave the marriage the moment the first slap or punch landed on them.
“At times it is not punches or slaps. It could be by words. At this point, you would start feeling that the person is treating you badly.
“A woman should not wait till it gets to a point when she is reporting to people because the next blow could take her life. I am talking today not because I am better than those who had died, I am just lucky, and probably, God has allowed me to be able to talk to other women,” she said.
The Benue State-based broadcaster said she was in an abusive marriage for over two years and had to walk away because, “There is nothing worth your life. If you move out, people will talk; unfortunately, it is the same people that will talk when you walk out that will blame you when you die in it,” she said.
She said an abusive marriage could cause great damage to people’s mental health.
“It affects your mental health, making you feel less about yourself. He starts (husband) by abusing you gradually, then apologising for every abuse and getting you gifts. He gives you that feeling that he is going to change. He makes you feel he is weak and needs your acceptance to change. He puts you in a position where you feel that leaving him will make you a bad person because you have to help him change. Gradually, it goes to the point of ‘what will people say?’ Then you start thinking ‘if I leave this person, I would have failed.’ When you get to that point you are afraid of leaving your marriage. Every woman wants their marriage to work. You find yourself consistently trying to make it work despite the abuse. It is dangerous because you would never know what is coming next, but you know it is not good. In my case, my husband was abusing me even when I was pregnant. He hit me always.
“He would refuse to buy food as punishment for a lactating mother. Where abuse is involved, there is nothing worth fighting for,” she said.
The circumstances that led to the death of spouses worry some Nigerians, including Kelechi Davids.
Davids said people in abusive relationships died gradually because they must have suffered a psychological breakdown.
“When you read about some of these things you wonder why they get married in the first place. Maybe the media or home videos have made killing easy, but taking a life is difficult. Now, taking the life of someone you had once professed your love to is another level of wickedness,” he said.
He said there was no excuse to justify killing one’s spouse, adding that such people should not be married in the first place.
He said some got married despite not being ripe for the union because they desired social status and recognition, or due to pressure from families.
“So they get married and end up being tormented or tormenting their partners,” he said.
Davids further urged the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) not to jettison the idea of conducting drug tests on intending couples.
He said, “If someone is not on drugs and mentally stable, abusing your spouse should be a difficult thing to do. I can assure you that drugs also contribute to it.”
On what happens when one of the partners starts using drugs after the wedding ceremony, he said, “Religious organisations should take up the responsibilities. Society should also do more in disabusing this patriarchal belief that the man is free to do whatsoever he pleases. Some of these women that ended up killing their husbands must have been frustrated into doing so.”
Another resident simply identified as Juliana said, “I see no reason why two people who are not compatible in any way should live together in the name of marriage. God will never authorise any marriage where the man or woman is a bully and demonic sadist to the other spouse.”
‘Poor law enforcement encouraging abuse’
A housewife, Wunmi Lawal wondered why Nigeria is good at enacting laws but could not implement them, especially those that have to do with neglect and abuse of children and women.
“Nigeria harbours sick behaviours,” she said.
She called for the enactment and implementation of laws that would save women and children.
Sylvia Edoh called for legislation that would make domestic violence a serious crime that will attract serious sanctions.
Daily Trust Saturday reports that although there are no laws in Nigeria specifically enacted against domestic violence to be applicable throughout the Federation, the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act (VAPP), passed in 2015 protects a wide range of violence against women, including domestic violence.
It prescribes a sentence of not more than five years in jail or an option of N100,000 fine for persons convicted of the offence of violence.
The Act defines ‘violence’ as “any act or attempted act, which causes or may cause any person physical, sexual, psychological, verbal, emotional and or economic harm, whether this occurs in peacetime or conflict situations.”
Also, Section 113 of the Criminal Code provides that “A person is guilty of this offence if they unlawfully offer or attempt, with force or violence, to strike, beat, wound, or do bodily harm to, another.”
Nigeria is also a signatory to several international conventions on the violence against women such as the United Nations Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), 1979 and ratified in 1985; the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (domesticated); the African Protocol on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol); International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the Convention on the Rights of the Child (domesticated as the Child Rights Act); and the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, among others.