A Lagos based Constitutional Lawyer Mr Spurgeon Ataene, on Monday, said that the celebration of marriages virtually or electronically, may become a practice acceptable by law, following the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said that although the procedure was not envisaged by the provisions of the Matrimonial Causes and Rules, its practice should unavoidably become adopted.

Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, various outlets had devised means of carrying on their activities online, in a bid to maintain social distancing.

Moreso, following government directives on social distancing and the ban on public gatherings, some marriages already pre-scheduled to hold on various dates, now appears stalled.

Recently, the National Judicial Council (NJC) introduced the concept of virtual court proceedings, and issued guidelines to be adopted by all courts in Nigeria, as part of its effort to help mitigate spread of the virus.

In the same vein, some lawyers had also canvassed for the celebration of virtual/online marriages by intending couples, as a means of abiding by govenrment's regulation on public gatherings.

On the legality of marriages conducted or celebrated by virtual means, Ataene said that the procedure which no doubt is novel, may become acceptable by law.

He said:

"Without further ado, let me say that marriages conducted virtually or electronically was not conjectured by the matrimonial Causes Act and Rules, it can be adopted considering prevailing circumstances.

"However, the most important things to look out for before entering into a contract of marriage and which should also be the concern of those involved, must remain the principal focus,"

According to him, although the list is not exhaustive but whether a marriage is to be conducted virtually or physically, the most important factors must be in place.

"Both persons must be of sound mind, they must be of age; their consent must be given, and in Nigeria, the union must be between a man and a woman.

"Once these conditions are met, an official in any designated position empowered to conduct marriages can proceed with the same whether electronically or virtually.

"The important thing is that the marriage is between two consenting adults, who have also consented to virtual or electronic marriage," he said

Ataene said that while the place or venue for the ceremony may not be an issue, it is also instructive for parties to document such marriage proceedings, so as to avoid possible denials.

"Witnesses should also be virtually present at the ceremony, who could possibly testify in the event of any dispute.

"Finally, once the conditions necessary for marriages to take place are met, the said marriage is valid whether the parties are physically or electronically present," he said


Source: https://lawparliament.com.ng/2020/05/11/covid-19-lagos-lawyer-makes-case-for-online-virtual-marriages/