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Court marriage in Nigeria – That’s what most Nigerians call it. But there is actually nothing like ‘court marriage’. While this may be a misinterpretation of having a legal marriage, what we have is ‘Registry marriage‘ or rather, ‘Marriage under the Act’.

There have been great misconceptions about Marriages under the act which has posed serious problem for newlyweds, couples, Nigerian couples that base abroad, and even the divorced.

Today, I will take you through the indepth understanding of Registry marriage and all that it entails.

So if you’ve been searching here and there for a grasp of this knowledge. Keep on reading.

Until something is well defined, its purpose is always misinterpreted. So what exactly is a ‘Registry Marriage’ – or what you call a ‘court marriage’

Registry mariage is officially recognized by the Federal Government of Nigeria as proof of a marriage contract between a couple. According to the law, Registry marriage is protected under the Marriage Act, Chapter 218 of Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990. There are two Federal Registries in the country which we shall be looking at as we go on.

Mind you, The proper place for the celebration of marriage is a Registry or a Licensed Place of Worship as the court only has the power to make issues of settlement, desolate marriages, or other legal remedies in and out of marriage.

indepth-understanding-of-court-marriage-in-Nigeria

The court doesn’t have the right to ‘wed’ or ‘join together’ anyone. They are not in the position to celebrate or conduct marriages.

There are two kinds of marriages recognized in Nigeria

Generally, The Nigerian constitution only recognize two types of Marriage which are stated below.

1. The Statutory Marriage – this is not necessarily a white wedding.
2. Customary marriage (this includes the Islamic Marriage)

All You Need To Know About Court Marriage In Nigeria – Statutory Marriage

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You can either wed customarily or statutorily and if you do both, the Statutory Marriage backed by ‘The Marriage Act’ completely overrides the other.

In a country like Nigeria, parties conduct a traditional (a variation of a customary marriage) before conducting a statutory marriage. Arguably for just to fulfil family obligations and to pay obeisance to traditional rites or to make peace thrive.

A statutory marriage has the flavour of the law and recognises just one man married to one woman. Meaning, if Polygamy is your aim and your religion or culture does not frown at more than one wife, then there is no need of conducting ‘a registry marriage’ or a marriage under the Act.

‎Conducting a statutory Marriage in Nigeria

Conducting/celebrating a statutory marriage has the same uniform procedure whether in a registry or a licensed place of worship.

This means a statutory marriage can be celebrated in either of these two places;

1. A registry
2. A licensed place of worship. (e.g a church)

The Registry

The statutory marriage is conducted by a Registrar OR a Minister of a licensed place of worship. Emphasis on LICENSED. This means that if you were legally joined together by a Registrar, there is actually no need for a Minister (your pastor, reverend, bishop, apostle, spiritual leader etc) to do same again. Vice versa. But I also understand the need especially in a religious society like ours to want a church to ‘bless’ your marriage even after a registry celebration. But note, one is enough and okay.

A licensed place of worship

We usually mistake a church wedding for a ‘statutory marriage’ and that’s very far from reality. I always advise that one ensure that their worship centres are licensed and if it isn’t, head to the nearest registry or LG headquarters to be joined by a Registrar.

It is a one way matter. If your church is not licensed or if the license has been revoked by law, Having a ‘church’ wedding there does not confer any legal status on a marriage.

Also note that a church being registered under CAMA does not necessarily make it licensed.‎

Take a look at this scenario: Pastor AZ own a church, registered under Part C of CAMA and it is called LoveGod Church.

If He has about 300 branches, we should not conclude that all 300 branches are licenced places of worship for the purpose of Conducting Marriages.

Issues of licence are very essential as License is not a mere backpack. It is possible that Pastor AZ’s branch at Surulere is licensed while another at Ogba isn’t.

To avoid making this confusing, Here is a link to the Marriage act. You can also consult your lawyer for more explicitly.

“In any form of statutory marriage, two things must be in place : A licensed place and a licensed person to perform the celebration”

It is also important that you make findings in your local registry or place of worship about these processes and be mindful that it is in line with the provision of the Act.‎

‎Please do not forget that The only recognised time to be joined together legally is from the hours of 8am to 6pm. As you know, Sometimes very little things like this go a very long in making or marring a case.

All You Need To Know About Court Marriage In Nigeria – Customary marriage

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A customary marriage is a complete marriage procedure by itself especially if you have no intention of getting married statutorily. (Of course, you now know what it meant to be married statutorily)

A traditional marriage, especially in Nigeria, simply pays allegiance to traditions and practices without being bound by such laws once a statutory marriage is done.

It’s much more like giving unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar’.‎

“The Registries/licensed place of worship don’t need proof of a traditional marriage celebration before joining parties together under the Act”

In this connection, What are the Importance of being legally joined together

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A marriage not properly celebrated is seen by the law as null and void. It means it may as well not exist. In this way, There are myriads of circumstances in which the Importance of being legally joined together reflects.

1. If one party is indicted in a criminal or civil matter. A legally recognised marriage protects the right of a wife or husband not to give evidence or testify against the other spouse. But such covering doesn’t exist if such marriage was not properly celebrated as provided by the law.

2. Death of one party and issues of estate administration. If a person dies, his properties will be administered based on two things, his/her or will or if he had no will the governing law upon which he was legally subjected in marriage. Marrying under the Act makes your estate administered by the law of your states and not the customs or traditions of your place. This is always very dependable because on order of priority, your family is well catered to and it minimises conflicts & problems amongst your loved ones.

3. Purposes of foreign travel, immigration etc. E.g. If you want to marry a Nigerian and relocate her to your country, only a statutory marriage will cover that. The processes only recognise a Marriage conducted under the Act. This is just one out of the many examples in issues of immigration etc.

4. I’ve heard a man being advised not to do a ‘court marriage’ because his wife will take all of his properties away. Hilarious! This is one misconception that fuels suspicion if a lady insists on a statutory marriage.

Actually, that’s very far from the truth and reality. The court in Nigeria is not vested with such powers. Issues of compensation come up when there are children to support, joint properties to split, promises, financial debts by one party, agreed on compensation by both parties etc. No one strips you of your properties because you did a registry marriage.‎

5. If your marriage was not ‘legally’ recognised under the Act, nothing stops him/her from marrying another person while you’re still together. An act provides marital security especially from ‘wandering-prone’ spouses.‎

6. A legally recognised spouse can reap spousal benefits that may be provided for by private or public institutions. This extends even to the children.‎

7. Other legal benefits that may accrue by law e.g. care packages accruing from services rendered by a spouse, issues of insurance, medical covering and insurance from your spouse’s place of work, , disability benefits, social security, and so many more.

Let’s take a look at some frequently asked questions about the concept of court marriage in Nigeria.

indepth-understanding-of-court-marriage-in-Nigeria

Legal answers have also been provided to make clear the misconception about this subject matter.

Q: Do I Need A Registry Marriage After A Church Marriage?

A: Now, a church marriage certificate is not sufficient until it follows the order of form e as stipulated by the Marriage Act of Nigeria.

Hence, a church wedding becomes sufficient if the place of worship is a licensed place.

Q: I’ve seen some Catholic and Anglican churches who make it compulsory for a couple to do a registry marriage before doing a church marriage. Does the Court certificate confer a certain protection that other forms of marriage don’t, or is it just fashionable to do both?

A: It is ideal to have a Registry marriage especially For purposes of international travel and having to present valid proof of marriage at embassies.
Nevertheless, the courts in Nigeria will usually honour any marriage certificate from a recognised and licensed place of worship. So, if you’re going to travel out or have any International engagements that will require a valid proof of marriage, then you must have a certificate from a court Registry. And that is why you see some Catholic and Anglican churches who make it compulsory for a couple to do a registry marriage before doing a church marriage.

In summary

As long as you tied the knot in any of the Orthodox Churches particularly Anglican, Catholic, Methodist and so on you are issued a certificate of marriage which is same as that issued by the Court registry.

This means that you do not need to do marriage in the Registry – unless you wish to. The Orthodox churches are licensed places of worship. Your marriage certificate will be that of the Federal Republic of Nigeria pursuant to the Marriage Act, not that of the name of a church.

Currently, all Local Government Areas have Registries and Registrars to conduct and celebrate marriages. So wherever you are in Nigeria, you are covered. The process is the same anywhere.

Any question or observation can be raised or discussed here in the comment section. We will also try as much as we can to answer your queries.

About The Author

The very epitome of textual creativity, Emmanuel Ashe is a prolific writer with keen interest in lifestyle and information. Enjoys African Literature and a lover of soccer board game.

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