How to Change Your Name in Nigeria

How to Change Your Name in Nigeria

The law allows you to change your name

Published on: January 30, 2021 (Updated on: April 28, 2024)

How to Change Your Name in Nigeria

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 name in Nigeria.

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.

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 name as a result of a 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 most common in situations of absent fathers or mothers.

5. For religious purpose

People sometimes change their legal names in Nigeria after converting to a new religion

A change of name is sometimes considered in Nigeria after conversion to a new religion. Many Christians upon baptism adopt new names.

The Procedure for changing one’s legal name is relatively easy and straightforward.

1. Obtain a change of name affidavit

The first step in changing your  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. It is possible to obtain an affidavit online should you choose to.

2. Publish a notice of your change of name in a national newspaper

After swearing to an affidavit, the next thing you are to do is to make a publication in 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 of 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 to update their records with your new legal name.

Although Nigerian law generally allows people to change their legal names, below are instances where you are not permitted to change your legal name.

  1. Where the purpose of the name change is to avoid debts owed or criminal liability.
  2. Where the change of name is done for the purpose of committing a crime. In such an instance, the name change will be invalid.
  3. Any person 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.
  4. Finally, the law does not permit a change of name where the name change is intended to harass, intimidate or be considered offensive/ racist.

Adeyinka Ayoade