www.intergovernmentalmarriagereg.org 
Hurry! Get your marriage registered and confirmed in the Unified Marriage Data Bank today for authenticity.
 
Marriage

What you need to know about Marriage and Divorce in Nigeria

   
   
     

WHAT IS MARRIAGE

   
Marriage is a universal institution which has been in existence from time immemorial. It can be traced as far back as the very creation of man and is considered to have spiritual, moral and social significance in society. It is therefore revered as sacred and thus heavily guarded by various religions, traditions, social norms and laws alike. In Nigerian, the sanctity of marriage cuts across all regions of the country regardless of culture and religion. The type of marriage practice was determined by the prevalent traditions or religions which governed the society where the parties live in or where they originated from.

LEGAL MARRIAGE IN NIGERIA

A purported marriage with a person who is validly married is not a legal marriage. Neither is courtship nor loose partnership of opposite sex legal marriage. Also Living together and making of babies cannot be said to be a legal marriage. Therefore, no matter how valid a marriage is in the eyes of the partners, clergy, relatives, friends, church, mosque and the society etc, it must equally be valid before the law for it to be legal. It thus means that going to a church/mosque and being declared “man and woman” or “husband and wife” without the observance of legal marriage requirements, is no marriage in the eyes of the law. So for a marriage to be legal, it must be in accordance with the provisions of the Marriage Act except for traditional marriages, notwithstanding the religious affiliation of the couples.

The legitimacy or legality of a marriage may not be a thing of a much concern to the parties involved until certain issues such as: inheritance, rights, wills, privileges, international employment, burial, child custody, insurance, travel visa, divorce, guardianship, annuity etc arises.

A valid marriage is a union between a man and a woman for life. This union is sacrosanct and it gives birth to lots of privileges, benefits, duties, rights and responsibilities for its couple and their children. The husband and wife are protected from certain criminal charges and responsibilities, while their children enjoy exclusive rights to inheritance which native law and custom cannot guarantee them.

The customary law system of marriage in Nigeria is not restricted to just one man and one woman (monogamy). Rather, it allows one man and many wives (polygamy) as he desires. Such marriage does not enjoy the full rights accorded to “marriage under the Act”. Hear this: marriage is what the Marriage Act says marriage is in the eyes of the law.

In Nigeria today, many couples perform both Traditional Marriage (according to tradition and customs), Islamic Marriage (for the Muslims according to Islamic rites) or Church Wedding (for the Christians) and Court Wedding mostly referred to as “White Wedding” to satisfy all interests and pressure. That is acceptable in the law.

Same couple (the same husband and wife) can marry each other under the traditional/customary law and later marry each other under the law. But a man or a woman married under the traditional/customary law cannot subsequently marry under the law a different person other than his or her customary wife or husband. It is an offence punishable with five years imprisonment (section 46 of Marriage Act) if such is committed. It is also an offence for a couple to marry first according to the law and then later marry themselves according to the traditional/customary law. Such act is punishable with five years imprisonment as outlined in section 47 of the Marriage Act. Therefore, the ideal of doing White Wedding in the morning and Traditional Marriage in the afternoon or anytime later is illegal and a punishable offence.

There are laid down procedures and requirements that must be fulfilled before a marriage can be said to be legal and lawful according to the Nigerian marriage Laws. The Marriage Act governs all valid marriage to be made in Nigeria.

STEPS TO A LEGAL MARRIAGE

There are laid down procedures and requirements that must be fulfilled before a marriage can be said to be legal and lawful according to the Nigerian marriage Laws. The Marriage Act governs all valid marriage to be made in Nigeria.

STEP 1:

GIVE NOTICE OF MARRIAGE TO THE REGISTRAR OF MARRIAGE

There are Registrars of marriages in Local Government Areas/Area Councils who register marriages conducted within the Local Government Areas/Area Councils. The Registrars often have offices in Local Government Area/ Area Council headquarters. The first step to a valid marriage is the giving of notice of marriage to the Registrar of marriages by intending couple. The notice is given by filling and signing a form after payment of a prescribed fee in the office of the Registrar. The Registrar of marriages would cause the notice to be entered in the “Marriage Notice Book” and same published on the outer door of his office and the notice board of the Local Government Area/Area Council.

After the expiration of 21 days from the day of publication of notice, the Registrar shall issue a “Registrar’s certificate” to the couple, where there were no objections from the public against their proposed marriage. It should be noted that certificate can only be issued where the intending couple are not blood relations and one of them has been resident within the Local Government Area of the intended marriage for at least 15 days and none of them is a minor or married to another person.

The certificate empowers the intending couple to go ahead and celebrate their marriage (exchange of vows) within three months which must be done in the public, often in a licensed place of worship (church) and before a registered clergy which people refer to as “Church Wedding”. While some couples prefer to celebrate their own (exchange vows) in the office of the Registrar of marriages, before the Registrar of marriages and a few witnesses which people refer to as “Court wedding”. In all, there must be witnesses in the two methods, the two methods are same, from same origin and with the same legal benefits and responsibilities (it is a matter of convenience).

STEP 2:

Three (3) months after the issuance of a Registrar’s certificate by the Registrar of marriages, the intending couple are expected to visit a licensed place of worship (licensed church building) or stay in the Registrar’s office to celebrate their marriage. Every celebration of marriage in a church must be done between the hours of 8.00 am and 6.00 pm in the presence of at least two witnesses apart from the officiating minister. If it is to be celebrated in the office of a Registrar of marriage it must be between the hours of 10.00 am and 4.00 pm with open doors in the presence of at least two witnesses. If after the expiration of 3 months from the date of issuance of such Registrar’s certificate, the marriage is not celebrated all notices and certificate will become void. And, all processes must start afresh for a valid marriage to emanate again.

Celebration of marriage must be either in a licensed place of worship (church building) under the supervision of registered clergy of the religious body (church) or in the office of the Registrar of Marriages. Please, be warned that it is not all churches, ministries, prayer centres and outfits that are licensed places for celebration of marriages. Note further, that where a church is a licensed place for celebration of marriage, it is only the recognised minister or clergy of the church that can wed people in such place. For example, it will be illegal for a catholic priest to wed a couple in an Anglican church.

Let it be known to all that all valid marriages starts from step 1 and the certificate obtained in step 1 gives couple power to embark on step 2. No one can jump step 1 and start his/her marriage by mere celebration of marriage in place of worship. Churches and clergies/ministers are advised to desist from wedding couples who have not obtained a Registrar’s Certificate empowering them to celebrate their marriage for it is an offence punishable with five years imprisonment (section 42 Marriage Act). A marriage celebrated in an unlicensed place or by an unrecognised minister of a religious body is null and void, if couple knowingly and wilfully acquiesced to such celebration.

STEP 3:

SIGNING OF MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE

Marriage rites do not end with exchange of vows rather with signing of marriage certificate by the couple before their two (2) witnesses and the officiating minister (clergy). Just like any other contract, what had been orally exchanged must be evidenced in writing via a marriage certificate.

Marriage rites do not end with exchange of vows rather with signing of marriage certificate by the couple before their two (2) witnesses and the officiating minister (clergy). Just like any other contract, what had been orally exchanged must be evidenced in writing via a marriage certificate.

The Registrar of marriages sends “books of marriage certificates” in duplicate and with counterfoils to all licensed places of worship. Immediately, after the celebration of marriage, the officiating priest would provide the book, fill its form and have same signed by the couple, their witnesses and himself. The officiating minister must offer deliver to the couple their marriage certificate while he retains a duplicate. The duplicate must be sent to the Registrar of Marriages within seven (7) days after the celebration of marriage. The registrar of marriage upon receiving such certificate files it. Couples are advised to make sure the officiating priest transmits their marriage certificate duplicate to the Registrar of marriages for proper filling.

It must be stated that in special circumstances, the minister of Internal Affairs may issue a License to Marry to couples which will authorise their celebration of marriage at any place/venue they so desire and without a registrar’s certificate but before a recognised clergy or the Registrar of marriages. It should be noted that a marriage is invalid if, in the knowledge and wilfulness of the couple:

  • It was celebrated under a false name or names or
  • It was celebrated without a Registrar’s certificate or
  • It was celebrated in a place other than a licensed place of worship or the office of the Registrar of marriages or
  • It was officiated by a person other than a recognised minister of some religious denomination.
  Free Legal Advice

Free Legal Advice on


For free legal service anywhere in Nigeria on Family, Marriage, Divorce, Right to property, Child custody, etc, book appointment with the Legal Team today through: imclegaladvice@gmail.com, legalservice@intergovernmentalmarriagereg.org
Or make a phone call to:
+234(0)8098433074, +234(0)7043322091, +234(0)8160529479, +234(0)8129534402

Legal FAQs

For questions and answers

 
Inter-Governmental Marital Committee © 2016. All rights reserved.