Section 18 of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, CAP A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 provides for protection of family life. This is achieved principally by the sanctity of marriage. Nigerian law envisages 3 types of marriages namely; Traditional/Customary marriage; Church/Islamic marriage and Statutory marriage.

Statutory marriage has become popular in recent times because the party seeking to dissolve the marriage must prove to the satisfaction of the Court that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. Moreover, in case of dissolution of marriage, the Matrimonial Causes Act provides for custody of the children of the marriage and settlement of property.

Statutory marriage in Nigeria is a consequence of Nigeria's colonization. The Marriage Act and the Matrimonial Causes Act is modeled after the English law. However, despite the popularity of Statutory marriage, Nigerians as most Africans, contract Traditional/Customary Marriage first before contracting Church or Statutory marriage or both. The Nigerian law even recognizes some Churches as Statutory places of worship. This means couples married in such Churches are issued both Church Marriage Certificate and Statutory Marriage Certificate.

The process of conducting Statutory marriages at most Marriage Registry envisages that a couple may have contracted Traditional/Customary or Church/Islamic Marriage before applying to contract Statutory Marriage. For instance at the Marriage Registry, Abuja Municipal Area Council, Federal Capital Territory, the requirements for contracting a Statutory Marriage are as follows;

  1. 2 passport photograph from the parties;
  2. Filing of marriage notice for 21 working days;
  3. At the end of the 21 working days, the parties will bring a copy their Birth Certificate or Declaration of Age;
  4. On the date fix for wedding, the couple will bring a wedding ring. The wedding ring is optional.
  5. Each party will bring one witness for signing of the Marriage Register;

If the parties are already married; they will bring;

  1. Church Marriage Certificate if marriage was contracted in a Church.
  2. Court Affidavit if marriage was contracted according to traditional law and custom

If one or both parties is previously divorced;

  1. Bring the order for dissolution of marriage from a competent court.

If one or both parties is a widow or widower;

  1. Bring a copy of the Death Certificate.

Upon celebration of marriage, the parties must submit 3 photographs of their marriage photographs to the Marriage Registry.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.