The Fine Print

This is part 2 of the Married Maiden article which chronicled just some of the soul bending obstacles I faced when I changed my name after marriage. We’ve established that there are so many hidden and intangible costs associated with this forced ritual, but this article attempts to do a back of the envelope estimate to come up with some of the financial implications. Signing up to marriage and changing your name involves some serious ‘fine print’, and I want to start to make it digestible so you can make an informed decision. Please note that these costs are as of 2020.

At a high level, changing your name is a 3 step process: 

  1. Swear an affidavit in court regarding your intention to change your name
  2. Publish a ‘notice of change of name’ in a national newspaper. This informs the public of your name change and the reason for it
  3. Directly inform the relevant individuals who officially need to know about the name change and update the following documents:
    1. Voters card
    2. National ID
    3. Passport
    4. BVN
    5. Bank 
    6. Employer
    7. Insurance company
    8. Yellow fever card etc

But with everything in Nigeria, it is never straightforward. Click here for a well written article with more information on the crazy process if you really want to go down this god forsaken path (to each their own poison).

Now the costs. 

Visible direct costs: Here are the costs you will incur that are directly related to the name change process. These come to about NGN 121,050.

  1. Passport photographs (for you and your spouse) – NGN 4,000 (by the way, half this could easily be your spouse’s only cost in this process)
  2. Marriage licence/certificate – NGN20,000
  3. Sworn affidavit – NGN2,000
  4. Publishing a change of name notice in newspaper – NGN5,000
  5. Buying said newspaper for your records – NGN500
  6. Photocopying and laminating – NGN 900 (ok NGN1,000 because the person didn’t have NGN100 change)
  7. New passport (10 year 32 page passport) – NGN 65,000
  8. Update National ID – NGN5,550

Visible but indirect costs. These are peripheral costs of the name change process. They come to about NGN123,400

Transport costs – This process will involve visiting at least 6 government offices, at least twice (registry, court house, voters card office, NIN office, passport office, ports authority), and multiple banks – possibly up to 5 because let’s face it, those marketers in your family are very persistent. (Let’s ignore the business center and photostudio). Remember you have to make at least 2 trips to all these places, and each trip involves a ‘to’ and ‘fro’ leg. That comes 44 trips. In Lagos, traffic is a given, so each trip can average about NGN2,500. That comes to NGN110,000.

Telephone costs – You will spend hours on the phone trying to see what you can do remotely (and mostly failing). This will also include calls to the contact persons at each location to follow up with your last visit and know when to schedule your next. You will still spend on expensive international calls to try to update your foreign bank details or rectify transaction inconsistencies, and spend long periods on hold listening to overly enthusiastic music in spite of your sour mood. Depending on your patience and the depth of your pockets, these telephone costs could range widely. Let’s put it at about NGN5,000.

Parking – You tip the people that help you park your car at the government offices (6 locations, twice) or you pay a parking fee of about NGN200. That comes to NGN2,400.

Tips – Because this is Nigeria and you are compelled to tip every step of the way. Let’s assume you tip NGN 1,000, but once per government office. This comes to NGN6,000.

Invisible costscosts you incurred but probably didn’t notice at the time because you paid with your time

Active waiting time – This name change process will involve visiting at least 11 locations – 6 government offices and 5 banks at least twice. At each government office visit, you will spend nothing less than 3 hours (on an okay day). This comes to 36 hours. For the bank visits, budget 1.5 hours for each visit, that’s 15 hours total (1.5x5x2). Everything comes to 51 hours. As if you have nothing else to do with your time because you are now married. (Na wa). 

Then the constant trip-ups and arguments/explanations – Once you think you have finally sorted it out, something pops up and proves to be a stumbling block bcos you are no longer…you. For the rest of your life, you will have to prove that you are indeed you. Such events can be as simple as just having to provide your documentation and that’s that, others will involve complications you never imagined existed, so that by the time you have to present the paperwork, you’ve been frustrated out of your life and possibly stranded multiple times. Let’s say that on average this takes up about 10 hours per year (including the time and effort it takes to get ‘unstranded’ and resolve the complications and aftershocks that arose). So if you get married and change your name at age 30, and die at age 100, then we can assume that you spend 700 hours of your entire life dealing with complications from changing your name. 

Opportunity cost – What is the cost of these 751 (51 plus 700) hours? (i.e. what you could really have done for yourself with that time e.g. relaxed, spent time with family, learned a new skill or hobby)…lets not go there so we don’t get blinded by rage. We can simply measure it in missed wages. We’ll do this with a range. Using a minimum average monthly salary in Nigeria of NGN50,000 and a maximum of NGN 500,000. Average working hours per month are 176 (22 working days x 8 hours per day). So your hourly wage range is NGN284 to NGN2,840. This effectively means that all things being equal, the name change process can cost you as low as NGN198,800 or as high as NGN1,988,000 in missed wages (more or less depending on your circumstance). 

Total costs

Now let’s add all the costs. Visible direct costs (121,050) + visible indirect costs (123,400) + invisible costs (1,988,000) = NGN2,232,450. Let me put that in words for you. You will forgo over NGN2.2 million just so that someone can take away your name and identity, inconvenience you, and brand you with their own name. Makes sense. (It absolutely does not!)

In summary

Women every day are brow-beaten into paying this price for the rest of our lives, as an externally imposed, ‘acceptable cost’ for respectability i.e. marriage. For the rest of our lives, these documents, (including this bloody newspaper) will somehow be more important than any other documents we own, (including our birth certificate!); a constant reminder that our value is tied not to our humanity, but to our marital status, and even then, it’s not enough, it’s still second to our husbands. Meanwhile, it does not even include the enduring costs of an unfulfilled marriage, and the time and energy sucking motions involved in keeping it ALL together. Women really need to take a closer look, and read the fine print before signing up for any of it.

Anyways, I’m keeping my married name. Ironically, it’s way too much trouble to change it back. Besides, I did the work, paid the price, got the marriage trauma, and the T-shirt to boot.

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