The Federal Ministry of Interior has warned Nigerians that marriages which are conducted in places that are not licensed have no legal backing in the country.
The Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mrs. Georgina Ehuriah, who spoke at the Stakeholders’ Conference on Conduct of Statutory Marriage in Lagos, stressed that the implication of marriages that are not in line with the Marriage Act cannot serve legal purposes when the need arises.
The permanent secretary said that Nigerian law recognizes three types of marriages Traditional/Customary marriage; Church/Islamic marriage and statutory marriage.
“The Marriage Act Cap M6 of the Law of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 as amended, is the Principal Act upon which statutory marriages are conducted, legalized and adjudicated in Nigeria”.
“Sections 24, 30 (3) and 31 specify the duties of the Principal Registrar of Marriages as the printer of the several Books of Marriage and Certificate of Marriage for distribution to all registries and recognized licenced places of worship throughout Nigeria.
“As well as the custodian of the counterfeit, i.e the 3rd copy of the marriage certificate. The implication of this is that any certificate not printed and delivered by the Principal Registrar of Marriages is illegal and cannot serve the desired purposes,” she added.
“The ministry is currently building a data base of all statutory marriages conducted in Nigeria. It has also developed a data base of all places of worship licenced for celebration of marriages”.
“Let me at this point stress the need for strict compliance with the requirements as specified in the Act, as applications that do not satisfy the Law will not be approved. Administrators of places of worship are urged to meet these requirements in order to better serve their members”.
“It is very important at this point to emphasise that the conduct of statutory marriages in accordance with the law is of great interest to the government. It is the responsibility of government at all levels to ensure the sanctity of marriage by supporting any initiative aimed at promoting compliance with the Act”.
“It behooves on us as critical stakeholders in the conduct of statutory marriage to clearly understand the requirements of the law and comply accordingly,” she said.
Ehuriah said that marriage, being an important and sacred institution, plays a major role in social stability and sustainability of humanity.
“Most people are products and beneficiaries of the institution of marriage. Indeed, a very large industry worth billions of naira is built around the celebration of marriage and the sector generates a lot of employment and entrepreneurship”.
”It also generates revenue for government at all tiers.
“However, our eyes should not stray from God’s original purpose for the institution as a divine way of sustaining creation through procreation amongst other objectives,” she said.
The Director, Citizenship and Business in the Ministry, Stephen Okon, said that the conference was to educate the public and create awareness on the key requirements of the Marriage Act.
“Nigerians, like most Africans, contract Traditional/Customary Marriage first before contracting Church or Statutory marriage or both; yet, many do not bother to contract Statutory Marriage in spite of its growing popularity”.
“The Department of Citizenship and Business in the Ministry of Interior often come across situations where citizens are denied some services or are unable to fully enforce their rights. According to him, this is due to the way their certificates of marriage were documented.”