The Federal Government (FG), has said that marriage certificates that were not issued in accordance with the statutory marriage guidelines are invalid and holds no legal value in case of any eventuality in the relationship.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Interior, Mrs. Georgina Ehuriah stated this during a one day stakeholders workshop on “the conduct of statutory marriage in Nigeria”, held in Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital for the South-south and South-East zones yesterday.
The event marks the end of the first round of the workshop of the country, have earlier been held in Abuja and Lagos states for the North and Western zones.
Speaking at the event attended by stakeholders including church leaders, Lawyers, those involved in conduct of registry marriages in the states Mrs. Ehuriah noted that most marriage certificates issued in the country are mere paper that will serves no legal importance in divorce cases.
“…the workshop has become important to sensitize and educate the public on the need to insist on the conduct of marriages according to the stipulated statutory marriage guideline of the country. The truth is that most of the things couples are holding as marriage certificates as issued by churches, and some other marriage centres are not valid, and hold no legal value in courts in case of divorce and it is the women that suffer it., because they will lose everything.”
She further explained that marriage and worship centres who conduct marriages without being dully licensed by the Ministry of interior are issuing illegal certificate that are worth nothing, but stated that the workshops are meant to educate the public on this, with the view of making them insist that their marriages are conducted in valid licensed marriage and worship centres and certificates issued in accordance with statutory marriage Act.
The Perm Sec noted that out of a total of 4, 725 marriage and worship centres that had updated their records with the ministry, only 314 have renewed their licenses to conduct statutory marriages, to issue legally valid certificates.
Describing as breach of the Marriage Act, the conduct of marriages by places of worship that have not been duly licensed by the Ministry as stated in Section 23 of the Marriage Act.
She said: “Presently, only about 4725 licensed places of worship is Nigeria have updated their records with the Ministry of Interior of which only 314 have renewed their licenses to conduct statutory marriages.
“The Implication is that any certificate not printed and delivered by the Principal Registrar of Marriages is illegal and cannot serve the desired purposes.
She, however, urged churches to meet the requirement as set by the Ministry in order to serve their members better.
“Accordingly, administrators of places of worship are urged to meet these requirements in order to better serve their members.
“The Ministry is presently building a data base of all statutory marriages conducted in Nigeria. It has also developed a data base of all places of worship licensed for celebration of marriages.”
Speaking future, Ehuriah observed that the proliferation of marriage certificates and other essential marriage documents from unauthorized worship centres, stressing that any marriage conducted under any guise that did not meet the guidelines in line with Marriage Act, is illegal.
She said that the conference was borne out of the need to provide a forum for critical stakeholders to brainstorm on extant issues in the administration of the conduct of statutory marriages.
“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 said.
The permanent secretary stated that the Ministry of Interior has noticed poor understanding of the Marriage Act leading to non-adherence to its provisions
Also, she noticed raging controversy between the local governments and the Ministry of Interior as to who is constitutionally mandated with this role, thus leading to litigations, warning that Federal Government will not tolerate the local government flouting the extant laws.
Ehuriah declared: “It is very important at this point to emphasize that the conduct of statutory marriages in accordance with the law is of great interest to government. This is because statutory marriages not conducted in accordance with the Act have far reaching unpleasant implications on the citizens and the society, as well as our collective image as a nation”.
Earlier in his welcome address, Director, Citizenship and Business Department, of the ministry, Mr. Stephen Okon, noted the myriad of cases of denial of citizens’ marriage rights, some of which have led to litigations.
He urged for synergy among stakeholders to build a harmonious collaboration that would help in resolving issues militating against the sanctity in the conduct and documentation of statutory marriages in the country.
In his goodwill message, Comptroller of Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Rivers State Command, Segun Adeboke, described the event as timely, stating that service was interested in the compliance with the relevant sections of the constitution of the country.