How to get married legally in Nigeria

* The Legal Requirements Of Marriage Under Nigeria’s Marriage Act

* Guide to tying the knot at Marriage Registry

In Nigeria, there are basically three types of marriage recognised by the law. These are statutory marriage, customary marriage and Islamic marriage. Our focus in this article is on statutory marriage which is regulated by the Nigerian Marriage Act, cap 218, Laws of the Federation 1990.

The Nigerian Marriage Act, cap 218, Laws of the Federation 1990 lays down certain preliminary requirements which are to be fulfilled before the solemnization of marriage under that statute. Persons wishing to get married pursuant to the Act must thereby comply with the legal requirements under the Act; non-compliance of which will invalidate the marriage. Before the celebration of the marriage, the Act provides that the parties shall sign and give to the Registrar of the district in which the marriage is intended to take place, a notice in the prescribed form. The Registrar shall then cause the notice to be entered in the Marriage Notice Book in his registry. A copy of this will be displayed in the registry for inspection by the public.

After a period of 21 days has expired, the Registrar shall issue his certificate of notice. But the Registrar must be satisfied that there is no cause why he should not allow the parties to be married.

Any person whose consent to a marriage is required or who may know of any just cause why the marriage should not take place, may enter a caveat against the issue of the Registrar’s certificate by writing at any time before the issue of the Registrar’s certificate the word ‘Forbidden’ opposite the entry of the notice in the marriage notice book and include his name, place of abode and the grounds upon which he claims to forbid the issue of the certificate. The Registrar shall not issue the certificate until such caveat has been pursued and disposed of – Section 14, Marriage Act.

Parties will be deemed to have the capacity to marry if they satisfy the Registrar of the following requirements:

The Marriage Act does not specify any minimum age limit. It merely states that unless a party is a widow or widower, there is need to obtain the written consent of either the parents or guardians where such person is under the age of twenty one years. The Act further provides in section 49 that whoever shall marry or assist any person to marry a minor under the age of twenty one years, not being a widow or widower, shall be liable to imprisonment for two years.

Under statutory marriage or marriage under the Act, parental consent of both the male and female parties is a legal requirement but only in cases where either or both of the parties are under the age of twenty one years. The Marriage Act is silent in relation to the consent of parties themselves but the Matrimonial Causes Act (MCA), 1970 provides for the ‘real consent’ of the parties, that is, consent obtained without ‘duress or fraud’.

Subsisting Marriage
Parties will lack the capacity to embark on a statutory marriage if either of them is already married under the Act to another person and the marriage has not been dissolved by any court of law. Also, section 33 (1) of the Marriage Act provides that no marriage in Nigeria shall be valid where either of the parties thereto at the time of the celebration of such marriage is married by native law or custom to any other person other than the person with whom such marriage is had. It is therefore clear that unless the Registrar is satisfied that there is no subsisting statutory or customary law marriage on the part of any of the parties wishing to marry under the Act, he shall not issue them with a certificate to marry under the Act.

Kindred and Affinity
Persons intending to get married must ensure that there is no impediment of kindred or affinity between them. The list of prohibited degrees of consanguinity and affinity applies to statutory marriages and it is provided in Schedule 1 of the MCA. A Registrar will not issue a certificate to marry unless he is satisfied by reason of a sworn affidavit by the parties that there is no such impediment. A marriage between two persons who are within the prohibited degree of consanguinity or affinity is void. Under section 4 of the MCA, where persons are within the prohibited degrees of affinity and desire to marry, they may apply in writing to a Judge for permission to do so and if the Judge is satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances, the Judge may by an order permit the parties to marry one another.

The prohibited degrees of consanguinity and affinity are as follows:

Consanguinity Affinity
Marriage of a man is prohibited if the woman is, or has been his:
1. Ancestress 1. Wife’s mother
2. Descendant 2. Wife’s grandmother
3. Sister 3. Wife’s daughter
4. Father’s sister 4. Wife’s son’s daughter
5. Mother’s sister 5. Wife’s daughter’s daughter
6. Brother’s sister 6. Father’s wife
7. Sister’s daughter 7. Grandfather’s wife
8. Son’s wife
9. Son’s son’s wife
10. Daughter’s son’s wife

Marriage of a woman is prohibited if the man is, or has been her:
1. Ancestress 1. Husband’s father
2. Descendant 2. Husband’s grandfather
3. Father’s brother 3. Husband’s son’s son
4. Mother’s brother 4. Husband’s daughter’s son
5. Brother’s son 5. Mother’s husband
6. Sister’s son 6. Grandmother’s husband
7. Son’s daughter’s husband
8. Daughter’s daughter’s husband

Once the parties satisfy the Registrar that there is no impediment to their marriage, the Registrar will issue them with the certificate to marry. On receipt of the certificate, the parties can celebrate their marriage in a church duly licensed for the celebration of statutory marriages or in a marriage registry. It should not be presumed that every church is a licensed place for the celebration of marriages in accordance with the Act. Under section 33 (2) of the Marriage Act, a marriage shall be null and void if both parties knowingly and wilfully acquiesce in the celebration of a marriage in:

1. i. A place other than the office of a registrar of marriages or a licensed place of worship, or
2. ii. Under a false name, or
3. iii. Without registrar’s certificate of notice.
The granting of a Registrar’s certificate may be waived by the obtaining of a special licence. Section 22 of the Marriage Act forbids a minister of religion to celebrate any marriage until the parties have delivered to him the Registrar’s certificate or a special license from the governor under section 13. Section 43 imposes a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment for performing a marriage in defiance of the Act.

The sanctity of marriage is crucial to the moral fabric of every society. The Nigerian Marriage Act has clearly attempted to provide very solid benchmarks and requirements that would ensure that the very essence and sanctity of marriage is not violated or trampled upon. In doing this, the Marriage Act is invariably protecting the moral sanctity of the Nigerian society.

Guide to tying the knot at Marriage Registry

Civil marriage in Nigeria is very important because it is recognized by the law and also serves as an evidence of a marriage contract between a couple.

Civil marriage in Nigeria is very important because it is recognized by the law and also serves as an evidence of a marriage contract between a couple.

Before having a civil wedding, there are some vital things you need to know that will prepare you for the process and guide your decisions on it.

This legal marriage is protected under the Marriage Act, Chapter 218 of Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990.

There are many marriage registries in Nigeria :

All States have various Registries at the State and Local Government level.

Whichever kind of marriage registry you choose, the process involved in having a civil wedding follows the same guidelines which have been summarized below:

Filing of marriage notice:
• Once you have decided to have a civil wedding, the intending bride or groom will obtain a form from their registry of choice to indicate their intention to marry. The form is a Notice Form or otherwise called Form A in which they will fill their personal details including Name, Age, Address, Occupation, Marital status, Consent (minor under 21 years), Signature etc.
• You will also need to submit two coloured passport photographs.
• The form is then posted on the Notice Board at the registry for 21 days. The notice is also entered in a book called theMarriage Notice Book, which may be inspected during office hours without fee.

After the expiration of the notice and payment of the Prescribed Fee (this differs at each registry), the Registrar would issue aForm C after the following criteria has been met and satisfied:

• That one of the parties has been resident within the district in which the marriage is intended to be celebrated.
• That each of the parties to the intended marriage (not being a widower or widow) is twenty-one years old, and if under that age, the consent hereinafter made requisite has been obtained in writing and is annexed to such affidavit (meaning you have to get written permission/consent from the bride-to-be’s parent or legal guardian).
• That there is not any impediment of kindred or affinity, or any other lawful hindrance to the marriage
• That neither of the parties to the intended marriage is married by customary law to any person other than the person with whom such marriage is proposed to be contracted.

Once the requirements mentioned above have been confirmed, the couple would swear an affidavit before the registrar or recognized minister of religion. During the sworn affidavit, the registrar would reiterate the above Prohibitive degrees and also explain the penalties involved.

Failure to disclose a breach in any of the above makes the defaulter liable to two years imprisonment.
Thereafter, the Registrar signs a declaration/affidavit to show that the couple understands the implications under the law and have met and satisfied all that has been required of them.

Upon proof that there is no lawful impediment to the proposed marriage, and that the necessary consent, if any, to such marriage has been obtained, the Minister will dispense with the giving of notice, issue the certificate, and grant his/her license, known as Form D, authorizing the celebration of a marriage between the parties named in such license.

The couple then selects a date for the wedding, usually within three months from the date the notice was placed with the registry.
On the wedding day, the couple alongside their family members and friends would go to the registry to finalize the marriage proceedings. There would be other couples that will also show up for their own celebration, and as such each couple is given a specific time that must be adhered to.

The ceremony is usually not longer than 30 minutes. During the proceedings, the Registrar would print the marriage certificates in duplicate and with counterfoils as in the FORM E. The officiating minister will fill up in duplicate a marriage certificate with the particulars required by Form E, and enter in the counterfoil the number of the certificate, the date of the marriage, names of the parties, and the names of the witnesses.

The certificate will then be signed in duplicate by the officiating minister, by the parties, and by two or more witnesses to the marriage. The minister having also signed his name to the counterfoil will deliver one certificate to the parties, and within seven days, thereafter file the same in his office.

Every Registrar will then register the marriage in a book called the Marriage Register Book, every certificate of marriage filed in his office according to the FORM F… and viola! You’re married!

The civil wedding is by far the cheapest among the other types of marriage ceremonies in Nigeria, though it has got a longer process and all criteria must be met.

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