The Federal Government has said it is working towards amending the Marriage Act.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Interior, Georgina Ehuriah, said in Lagos on Thursday that the amendment became necessary in order for the ministry to “adequately meet the needs of citizens in the 21st century.”
Ehuriah said this while delivering the keynote address at a stakeholders’ conference with the theme, “Achieving harmonious compliance in the conduct of statutory marriage in Nigeria,” held at Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos.
The Ministry of Interior and local government areas had been locked in legal battle over who has the statutory power to conduct and issue marriage certificates.
Ehuriah said on Thursday that by the provisions of Sections 24, 30(3) and 30 of the Marriage Act, only the Principal Registrar of Marriages was authorised to print and distribute marriage certificate to places of worship throughout Nigeria.
“The implication is that any certificate not printed by and delivered by the Principal Registrar of Marriages is illegal and cannot serve the desired purposes,” she said.
She, however, said the Ministry of Interior was making arrangements to give couples whose marriage certificates were not issued in line with the Marriage Act opportunity to bring them to conformity.
Ehuriah added that the Ministry of Interior was making moves to “appropriately advise the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the legally-acceptable (marriage) certificate for the guidance of foreign embassies in Nigeria and Nigerian missions abroad.”
While disclosing that only 314 out of the 4,725 places of worship licensed by the Ministry of Interior to conduct marriages had renewed their licences, Ehuriah called on places of worship who had not renewed their licences to do so to avoid invalidating marriages conducted by them.
“The implication of this is that marriages conducted in unlicensed places of worship are not in line with the Marriage Act and cannot serve legal purposes when the need arises; and as such, unlicensed places of worship are operating contrary to Section 6(1) of the Marriage Act,” Ehuriah stressed.
The Permanent Secretary also said the Ministry of Interior had secured the necessary approval to establish Ikoyi Marriage Registry Annex “while arrangements are in advanced stages to establish Marriage Registries at Ikeja and Ibadan.”
“These, we hope, will, to a good extent, address some of the challenges being faced at the registry,” Ehuriah said.