Apr 25, 2020

Online Marriages, Not Recognized In Nigeria: #obscurelegalfacts | Arome Abu




As the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic bites harder, and with the resultant prohibition of public gathering, intending married couples are beginning to consider the option of online platforms to perform their wedding ceremonies. Infact, some have attempted, albeit, futilely to conducted their “wedding ceremony” online. 

With this publication, the writer intends to briefly expose the dangers that inhere in this novel idea, which according to many is cost effective.




VENUE OF MARRIAGE


There are 3 (three) recognized venues for wedding ceremonies in Nigeria Viz:

1) Marriage registry 

2) A licensed place of worship

3) Any place approved by the Minister of Interior for the conduct of wedding ceremony. See Section 13 and 29 of the Matrimonial Causes Act.


Section 21 of the Marriage Act provides that where marriage is to take place either in the Marriage registry or a licenced place of worship, it must be "with open doors", hence, suggesting that online marriages are bereft of any legal backing, as online platforms such as the zoom App etc, do not offer or accommodate such facility. 


Again, section 23 of the Marriage Act, prohibits religious minister from celebrating marriage, except in a “building” which has been duly licensed by the Minister of Interior". 


The express mention of "building" in the said section, is an implied exclusion of online weddings. 


Section 26 of the Marriage Act provides for signature of the parties to the marriage, to be on the marriage certificate. Sadly, Section 17 of the Cyber Crime (Prohibition and Prevention) Act 2015, already excludes "Marriage Certificates" from the circumference of documents which may be signed electronically".


INVALIDITY OF ONLINE MARRIAGE UNDER CUSTOMARY LAW MARRIAGE


This form of marriage can not be achieved under customary law as most customary marriages, require presentation of list items such as kola nuts, palm wine or other alcoholic beverages. This conditions cannot be fulfilled virtually. 


Lastly, online marriage is not yet a recognized form of marriage under any customary law or in indigenous community in Nigeria.


From the foregoing, it is discernible that even with the powers of the Minister of Interior to approve other venues for wedding ceremonies, such powers does not extend to approval of virtual venues, as the strictures relating to "Building" and "with open doors" cannot be fulfilled virtually.


Arome Abu is the Principal Partner of TCLP.

CAVEAT: Note that this information is provided for general  enlightenment purposes and is not intended to be any form of legal advice.

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