The federal government is stepping up efforts to ensure couples who are legally married hold valid marriage certificates.
The federal ministry of Interior has also revealed that only 314 places of worship in Nigeria have renewed their licences to conduct statutory marriages out of about 4,725 that have updated their records with the ministry.
Mrs Georgina Ehuriah, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, who made this revelation at the Stakeholders’ Conference on Conduct of Statutory Marriage in Lagos, said that the conference was meant to harmonise all marriages conducted in Nigeria in line with the Marriage Act.
According to her, The implication is that marriages conducted in an unlicensed place of worship is not in line with the Marriage Act and cannot serve legal purposes when the need arises.
“The ministry is currently building a data base of all statutory marriages conducted in Nigeria. It has also developed a data base of all places of worship licenced for celebration of marriages”.
“Let me at this point stress the need for strict compliance with the requirements as specified in the Act, as applications that do not satisfy the Law will not be approved. Administrators of places of worship are urged to meet these requirements in order to better serve their members”.
“It is very important at this point to emphasise that the conduct of statutory marriages in accordance with the law is of great interest to the government. It is the responsibility of government at all levels to ensure the sanctity of marriage by supporting any initiative aimed at promoting compliance with the Act”.
“It behooves on us as critical stakeholders in the conduct of statutory marriage to clearly understand the requirements of the law and comply accordingly,” she said.
Ehuriah said that marriage, being an important and sacred institution, plays a major role in social stability and sustainability of humanity.
“Most people are products and beneficiaries of the institution of marriage. Indeed, a very large industry worth billions of naira is built around the celebration of marriage and the sector generates a lot of employment and entrepreneurship”.
”It also generates revenue for government at all tiers.
“However, our eyes should not stray from God’s original purpose for the institution as a divine way of sustaining creation through procreation amongst other objectives,” she said.
The permanent secretary said that Nigerian law recognises three types of marriages Traditional/Customary marriage; Church/Islamic marriage and statutory marriage.
“The Marriage Act Cap M6 of the Law of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 as amended, is the Principal Act upon which statutory marriages are conducted, legalised and adjudicated in Nigeria”.
“Sections 24, 30(3) and 31 specify the duties of the Principal Registrar of Marriages as the printer of the several Books of Marriage and Certificate of Marriage for distribution to all registries and recognised licenced places of worship throughout Nigeria”.
“As well as the custodian of the counterfeit i.e the 3rd copy of the marriage certificate. The implication of this is that any certificate not printed and delivered by the Principal Registrar of Marriages is illegal and cannot serve the desired purposes,” she added.
Also, Mr Stephen Okon, Director, Citizenship and Business, Ministry of Interior said that the conference was to educate the public and create awareness on the key requirements of the Marriage Act.
“Nigerians, like most Africans, contract Traditional/Customary Marriage first before contracting Church or Statutory marriage or both; yet, many do not bother to contract Statutory Marriage in spite of its growing popularity”.
“The Department of Citizenship and Business in the Ministry of Interior often come across situations where citizens are denied some services or are unable to fully enforce their rights. According to him, this is due to the way their certificates of marriage were documented,” he said.