Have you ever wanted to change your legal name in Nigeria? Perhaps you heard a name that resonates deeply with you or probably you attained a new position in life and you are of the opinion that it is proper to accompany such with a name change or maybe for some other reasons that have nothing to do with these mentioned. Regardless of what your reasons are, Nigerian law permits people to change their name as they deem fit, although there are restrictions. In this post, I will explain how to change your legal name in Nigeria.
What is your legal name?
Your legal name is the name by which you are officially known. This is usually the name on your birth certificate or the name by which you are registered on official government records. So if you are are changing your nickname by which you are known by friends for instance, this post probably isn’t necessary for you.
Let’s look at popular reasons why people change their legal names in Nigeria:
1. People may change their legal names because of marriage
In Nigeria, marriage is a popular reason why people change their legal names. It is customary that when a woman gets married she adopts her husband’s surname as hers. However, nowadays it is becoming common for a woman to retain her maiden name (surname) whilst adopting her husband’s name thereby forming a compound surname. For example, if her maiden is “Mark” and her husband’s surname is “Richard”, she can choose to bear “Mark-Richard”.
2. They simply dislike their previous name
Some people simply do not like their given birth names. Perhaps the birth name is too indigenous for their liking or they just want to dissociate themselves from their families. For instance, it is a popular practice in Nigeria for people to change their legal names when such names are known to be notorious as it is believed that bearing such names might bring ill luck.
3. You can change your legal name as a result of divorce
Where a woman adopted her husband’s name upon marriage, she can choose to reclaim her maiden name after obtaining a divorce from the court.
4. Children changing from father’s name to mother’s name
A child might choose to switch from bearing his father’s surname to bearing his mother’s surname or vice-versa. This is mostly common in situations of absent fathers or mothers.
5. For religious purpose
A change of name is sometimes considered in Nigeria after conversion to a new religion. Many Christians upon baptism adopt new names.
6. As a form of statement
Some people change their legal names as a form of a statement.
Below is a step by step guide on how to change your legal name in Nigeria
The Procedure for changing one’s legal name is relatively easy and straight-forward.
1. Swear to an affidavit changing the legal name
The first step in changing your legal name is deposing to an affidavit changing your name to the desired name. An affidavit is simply a written statement made under oath that is sworn to before an authorized officer of the court usually the Commissioner of Oath. The affidavit should state what your previous name was and the new name you intend to bear. It should also include reasons for the change of name. You should attach your passport photograph to the sworn affidavit.
2. Publish a notice of legal change on a national newspaper
After swearing to an affidavit, the next the thing you are to do is to make a publication on a national newspaper notifying the general public of the change of name. This is usually done by making payment for the advert space that would be used for the notice and submitting the requested documents showing the change of the name. Contact your national newspaper to know the specific cost for a change of legal name.
When these have been done, it is important that you notify all relevant persons of the change of name. For example, your employer, your bankers, tax officials and all relevant government agencies. This is to enable them update their records with your new legal name.
When a change of legal name will not be permitted
Although Nigerian law generally allows people to change their legal names, below are instances where you are not permitted to change your legal name.
- Where the purpose of the name change is to avoid debts owed or criminal liability.
- Where the change of name is done for the purpose of committing a crime. In such instance, the name change will be invalid.
- Any person under who is under 18 years of age cannot legally change their names without the consent of their parents or guardian as the case may be.
- Finally, the law does not permit a change of name where the name change is intended to harass, intimidate or considered offensive/ racist.
Adeyinka Ayoade is a legal consultant with expertise in legal advisory and company secretarial services.
Over the years Adeyinka has advised on various issues such as board governance and incorporation/regulatory compliance matters. He is a tech enthusiast and he has a certification in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). He has also written articles on the Nigerian Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) and advised on the requirement for being a Data Protection Officer.