Court Declares Local Govt Issuing Cert. Illegal

A Lagos High Court has barred local government areas from conducting and issuing marriage certificates across the country.

The declaration delivered by Justice I.O. Harrison on May 15, 2017, said that the issuance of modified or customised marriage certificates by local government areas contravened Section 24 of the Marriage Act and Item 6, Part 1, 2nd Schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended, which lists marriage on the Exclusive Legislative List.

In other words, the Local Government Unified Marriage Certificates was unknown to law and therefore unconstitutional, null and void.

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However, the judge declined to nullify all marriages conducted so far by local government areas. Instead, she directed that such certificates be surrendered and be replaced by fresh ones that would be issued in compliance with the law.

This follows a lawsuit filed by a Lags lawyer, Olumide Babalola on September 29, 2016, against Ikeja Local Government Area and Registered Trustees of Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), challenging the power of the local government areas to issue modified and/or customised marriage certificates different from the one provided in Form E under Section 24 of the Marriage Act LFN 1990.

Mr. Babalola sought four reliefs:

  • He challenged that  the 1st (LGA) and 2nd (ALGON) defendants do not have power to issue modified and/ or customised marriage certificates different from the one provided in Form E under Section 24 of the Marriage Act LFN 1990;
  • A declaration that the 2nd 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 and/ or altered marriage certificates apart from the form as provided under Form E (1st Schedule) and Section 24 of the Marriage Act, LFN 1990; and
  • A perpetual injunction restraining the 2nd defendant, their agents, officers, employees and representatives from further issuing ‘Local Government Unified Marriage Certificates.

Babalola further supported his application with a 29 paragraph affidavit, three exhibits and a written address. According to reports, in spite of service of summons, the defendants neither filed any process nor appeared in court to defend the suit.

The court was, therefore, moved on March 24, 2017, with the claimant appearing in person and arguing his case.

After his arguments, Justice Harrison agreed with Babalola and granted the four reliefs, effectively shutting out local government areas from further issuance of the unified marriage certificates and restricted them only to registration of marriages.

In her statement, she said:

“It should be noted that while registration of marriages is regulated by the local government being under the Concurrent List, formation of marriage is under the Exclusive Legislative List within the domain of the Federal Government regulated by the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs – Item 6 of 2nd Schedule of 1999 Constitution.

Harrison explained that “a marriage had been declared invalid by the Supreme Court on the ground that the marriage certificate was not in line with Form E as provided by the Marriage Act.” She added that following the Supreme Court decision in Anyaegbunam Vs Anyaegbunam, 1973 3 ECSLR 243, it was trite that the local and state governments could not make separate arrangements outside that provided for in the Marriage Act Form E.

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In reaction to the judgement, the Director of Press, Ministry of Interior, Mr. Willie Bassey, applauded the decision quote:

“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 urged local government areas to comply forthwith with the new directive.

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