What Are The Laws Governing Civil Marriage in Nigeria?
Marriage in Nigeria may be more than a little complex, but the law is clear
According to Section 18 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, CAP A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 it provides for the protection of family life. Nigerian law envisages 3 types of marriages namely; Traditional/Customary marriage; Church/Islamic marriage and Statutory marriage. Let’s examine the laws of civil marriage in Nigeria.
Broadly speaking there are 2 types of marriage in Nigeria, there is Marriage under the Act and Traditional/Customary marriage.
Civil Marriage In Nigeria: Types of Marriage And Their Laws
Traditional/Customary marriage is a wedding ceremony that has been conducted in accordance with the customs of the bride and groom’s families. In Nigeria this involves the paying of bride price, giving of gifts, etc. The bride price is a mandatory part of the customary marriage. A bride price is any gift or payment in money, natural produce, to a parent or guardian of a female person, on account of the marriage of that person, either intended or concluded. The payment of the bride price validates the marriage.
- The law insists on the payment of the bride price as validation of the marriage.
- Nigerian law supports polygamy in a traditional/customary marriage.
- The law supports marriages of people below 21 years provided a guardian gives consent. This is one reason why child marriages happen in Nigeria. The law supports it.
- The man and woman wanting to unite in a customary marriage must both have the legal capacity to marry someone.
- Consent of the parties and parental consent must be expressed beforehand.
- Interesting fact: An adult man can marry without the consent of his parents, but it’s impossible to do so for a woman since then the next requirement can’t be met.
- A wedding ceremony and celebration must be held, during which the bride will be handed over to the groom’s family. This is the part where people witness the marriage happening and later can testify in court if the need ever arises.
Marriage Under The Marriage Act/ Civil Marriage In Nigeria
This is also called the court marriage. Sometimes, it takes place in the church or the mosque. Other times, it takes place at the Marriage Registry. This marriage is a direct offshoot of colonialism and is very popular in Nigeria.
- The couple will begin by giving notice of the impending marriage to the Registrar of Marriage in the Local Government where the marriage will be conducted.
- The intending couple give a marriage notice, filling and signing a form after payment of a prescribed fee in the office of the Registrar.
- The Registrar of marriages then publishes the notice on the outer door of his office and the notice board of the Local Government Area.
- This notice must be published for at least 21 days and during that period anyone who has an objection to the marriage is free to make an objection by registering this objection with the Registrar.
- After the expiration of 21 days from the day of publication of the notice, the Registrar will issue a “Registrar’s certificate” or license to the intending couple. This is proof that notice of the marriage has been given with no objections, and the intending couple are free to solemnize the marriage.
Solemnization of Civil Marriages In Nigeria
- The marriage must then take place at a registered place of worship (church/mosque) or the office of the Registrar. If the marriage takes place in a licensed place of worship, it must be supervised by registered clergy of the religious body (church/mosque).
- If the marriage doesn’t take place within that 3-month period, all notices and certificates will become void and, the entire process must start afresh.
- Polygamy is illegal and highly prohibited.
- Persons marrying must be above the legal age of 21.
- The law doesn’t insist on payment of bride price, but it insists on witnesses at the point of signing the marriage certificate.
- The final step is the signing of the marriage certificate. The couple does this and with 2 witnesses and the officiant (the person conducting the marriage ceremony). The duplicate must go to the Registrar of Marriages within seven (7) days after the celebration of marriage. The registrar of marriage upon receiving such certificate files it. Once the couple follows all the steps, it is a valid marriage under the Act.
Source: Nigeria Law