A Lagos High Court has barred local government areas from conducting marriages across the country.
The court, in a judgment, declared that the Local Government Unified Marriage Certificate was unknown to law and therefore unconstitutional, null and void.
A Certified True Copy of the judgment by Justice I. O. Harrison of Court 37, General Civil Division of the Lagos Judicial Division, dated May 15, 2017, in suit no LD/1343GCM/2016, was obtained by our correspondent on Sunday in Abuja.
The plaintiff, Olamide Babalola, representing himself and other recipients of modified marriage certificates from the local governments, had dragged the Ikeja Local Government and Registered Trustees of Association of Local Governments of Nigeria before the court over the modified marriage certificate issued by the first and second defendants.
The plaintiff had sought a declaration that the first defendant did not have the powers to issue modified or customised marriage certificates different from the one provided in Form E under Section 24 of the Marriage Act Laws of Federation of Nigeria,1990.
Babalola also prayed for a declaration that the second defendant’s Local Government Unified Marriage Certificate was unknown to law and unconstitutional.
He equally wanted a perpetual injunction restraining the defendants, their agents, officers, employees and representatives from further issuing modified or altered marriage certificates apart from the form as provided under Form E (1st schedule) and Section 24 of the Marriage Act, LFN, 1990.
Harrison, in her judgment, declared that the first defendant did not have the powers to issue modified or customised marriage certificates different from the one provided in Form E under section 24 of the Marriage Act.
She said, “The court thus orders as follows: declaration that the second defendant’s ‘Local Government Unified Marriage Certificate’ is unknown to our law, unconstitutional, null and void.
“A perpetual injunction, restraining the defendants their agents, officers, employees and representatives from further issuing modified or altered marriage certificates apart from the form as provided under Form E (1st schedule) and Section 24 of the Marriage Act, LFN, 1990.
“A perpetual injunction, restraining the second defendant, their agents, officers, employees and representatives from further issuing Modified Local Government Unified Marriage Certificates.”
Citing Imunze vs Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2014 LPELR 22354 (SC) and Onochie vs Odogwu, 2006 Nigeria Weekly Law Report, (Part 975) 65, Harrison stated that while registration of marriage is regulated by local government being under the concurrent list, formation of marriage is under the exclusive list within the domain of the Federal Government regulated by the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs-item 6 of 2nd schedule of 1999 constitution.
The judge pointed out that a marriage had been declared invalid by the Supreme Court on the grounds that it was not in line with Form E as provided by the Marriage Act.
“It is thus trite that the local and state government cannot make separate arrangements outside that provided for in the Marriage Act, that is Form E,” Harrison ruled.
The court however added that the marriages conducted by local governments and issued with the certificates, which are not in conformity with Form E, “will by virtue of Section 34 of the Marriage Act be regarded as good and valid in law to all intents and purposes.”
It “believes that there should be a re-issuance of the proper certificate to all persons in possession of the ‘invalid’ certificates.”
The judgment read in part, “The court will further consequentially order that all such modified marriage certificates issued by the first and second defendants be surrendered to the appropriate local government where the marriage was conducted and appropriate certificate, in line with Form E, should be reissued to the claimants herein and all other concerned persons.”
The judge said the second defendant and its branches issued their own form known as the Local Government Unified Marriage Certificate, which was also issued to the claimant by the first defendant.
Following the judgment, the Federal Government has written to the various embassies in the country not to recognise marriages conducted by local governments.
A director in the Ministry of Interior, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the embassies were asked not to issue visas to applicants with local government marriage certificates in line with the court order.
“Most of the marriages conducted by local government registries are sham and were merely used to obtain visas by desperate Nigerians. We have written to the embassies not to give out visas based on such marriage certificates,” he said.
The Director of Press, Ministry of Interior, Willy Bassey, described the court judgment as a welcome development, which he said had put paid to “the illegal acts by the local governments.”