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Marriage Registry: Here’s What The Court Actually Said

Channels Television  
Updated December 16, 2021
A file photo of a signpost of the Federal High Court in the Ikoyi area of Lagos State.

 

 

The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has perpetually restrained the Federal Government through the Minister of Interior from further contracting marriages under the Marriage Act, 2004 within four Local Government Councils Areas in four states.

Justice Daniel Osaigor granted the order as requested by four plaintiffs who filed the suit.

The plaintiffs are Eti-Osa Local Government Council Area, Lagos State; Egor Local Government Council Area, Edo State; Owerri Municipal Local Government Council Area, Imo State and Port Harcourt City Local Government Council Area, Rivers State.

They listed three defendants in the suit namely:  the Minister of Interior; the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice; and a firm, Anchor Dataware Solutions Limited (a party joined by order of the court on April 9, 2019).

Our judiciary correspondent, Shola Soyele obtained a certified true copy of the 15-page judgment dated the 8th of December.

The documents show that the four plaintiffs who dragged the defendants to the court raised a single issue for the court to determine.

They submitted that by virtue of a 2004 judgment of the same Federal High Court delivered by Justice Oyindamola Olomojobi, particularly Section 7.1(5) and paragraph 1(i) of the 4th Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), and Section 30 (1) of the Marriage Act that “registration of marriages is the exclusive reserve of the Registrar of the Marriage District (Local Government Councils in Nigeria) and in the instant case, the plaintiff”.

They also contended that the Minister of Interior can only grant licenses (and cannot celebrate or contract marriages) which the registrar or a recognized minister of some religious denomination can act on to contract marriage between the specific persons named in the license.

The defendants, however, opposed these submissions and instead argued among other things that “no law either under the constitution or the Marriage Act gives exclusive authority to the Registrar to contract and celebrate marriages in Nigeria.”

Relying on Section 27 of the Marriage Act, they further argued that parties have the option of where to celebrate and contract their marriage and marriages contracted in any licensed place is valid according to the provisions of Section 6 of the Marriage Act.

They, therefore, urged the court to dismiss the plaintiffs’ suit for being an abuse of court process and forum shopping as the issues had already been earlier decided by the courts, per the judgment of Justice Olomojobi and Justice Chuka Obiozor.

After considering all these issues, Justice Osaigor granted an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Minister of Interior from further contracting marriages under the Marriage Act within the plaintiffs local governments but exempted marriages conducted in the marriage registries of Ikoyi, Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

Justice Osiagor, however, refused to direct the Minister of Interior to return all marriage certificates issued within the respective Plaintiffs’ Local Government Councils since June 8, 2004, as demanded by the plaintiffs.

The judge also refused to order the Minister of Interior to return all the fees/money paid by couples’ since June 8, 2004 to the Plaintiffs’ Marriage Registries for re-issuance.

Regarding the plaintiffs’ prayer for an order sealing all Federal Marriage Registries in their local governments, the judge granted the prayer in part.

He granted the prayer to the extent that there shall be no Federal Marriage Registry in the Marriage Districts (Local Government Councils) save Ikoyi and Abuja Federal Marriage Registry which predate the 1999 Constitution.

The order, the court held, is without prejudice to the Minister of Interior’s ‘exclusive powers’ to issue license to places of public worship to celebrate marriages all over the Federation.

The court’s orders on the plaintiffs’ seven prayers are as follows:

“Reliefs 1 granted as follows: AN ORDER of Perpetual Injunction restraining the 1st Defendant himself and/or either by his privies, agents or delegates from further contracting marriages under the Marriage Act, Cap. M6 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN), 2004 within the Plaintiffs’ Local Government Councils Area. Except marriages conducted in the Marriage Registries of Ikoyi Lagos and Federal Capital Territory Abuja.

“Reliefs 2 granted as follows: AN ORDER of Perpetual Injunction restraining the 1st Defendant himself and/or either by his privies, agents or delegates from further celebrating marriages under the Marriage Act, Cap. M6 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN). 2004 within the Plaintiffs Local Government Councils Area. Except marriages conducted in the Marriage Registries of Ikoyi Lagos and Federal Capital Territory Abuja.

“Reliefs 3 granted as follows: AN ORDER of Perpetual Injunction restraining the 1st Defendant himself and/or either by his privies, agents or delegates from further granting or issuing certificates of marriage under the Marriage Act, Cap. M6 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN), 2004 within the Plaintiffs’ Local Government Councils Area. Except marriages conducted in the Marriage Registries of Ikoyi Lagos and Federal Capital Territory Abuja.

“Relief 4 granted as follows: AN ORDER of Perpetual Injunction restraining the 1st Defendant himself and/or either by his privies, agents or delegates from further registering marriages contracted and/or celebrated under the Marriage Act, Cap. M6 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN), 2004 within the Plaintiffs’ Local Government Councils Area. Except marriages conducted in the Marriage Registries of Ikoyi Lagos and Federal Capital Territory Abuja.

“Reliefs 5 & 6 refused

“Relief 7 granted to the extent that there shall be no Federal Marriage Registry in the Marriage Districts (Local Government Councils) save Ikoyi and Abuja Federal Marriage Registry predating the 1999 Constitution without prejudice to 1st Defendants exclusive powers to issue license to places of public worship to celebrate marriages all over the Federation.”