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Nigeria as a country has a set of rules that regulate the marriage institution. These marriage laws are enshrined in the marriage act. The Nigerian Marriage laws/Act, cap 218, Laws of the Federation 1990 lays down certain preliminary requirements which are to be fulfilled before the solemnization of marriage under that statute. Persons wishing to get married pursuant to the Act must thereby comply with the legal requirements under the Act; non-compliance of which will invalidate the marriage. Before the celebration of the marriage, the Act provides that the parties shall sign and give to the Registrar of the district in which the marriage is intended to take place, a notice in the prescribed form. The Registrar shall then cause the notice to be entered in the Marriage Notice Book in his registry. A copy of this will be displayed in the registry for inspection by the public.
After a period of 21 days has expired, the Registrar shall issue his certificate of notice. But the Registrar must be satisfied that there is no cause why he should not allow the parties to be married.
Any person whose consent to a marriage is required or who may know of any just cause why the marriage should not take place, may enter a caveat against the issue of the Registrar’s certificate by writing at any time before the issue of the Registrar’s certificate the word ‘Forbidden’ opposite the entry of the notice in the marriage notice book and include his name, place of abode and the grounds upon which he claims to forbid the issue of the certificate. The Registrar shall not issue the certificate until such caveat has been pursued and disposed of – Section 14, Marriage Act.
Essential Validity Of Marriage
The parties to a marriage under the marriage laws/act must meet the necessary criteria
- Neither Party Must Be Married: Marriage is under the act is monogamous in nature, being a union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of others. Consequently, a party to a subsisting statutory or customary law marriage has no capacity to enter into another statutory marriage with another person.
- Consent Of The Parties: The voluntary consent of the parties is a prerequisite for the celebration of a statutory marriage. The absence of such consent, or the granting of it under duress or misapprehension, vitiates the agreement.
- Parental Consent: Where either party to a statutory marriage, not being a widow or a widower, is under 21 years of age, he or she must obtain a written a consent of the father. But if the father is dead or of unsound mind or absent from Nigeria, the mother may consent on his behalf. But if both parents are dead or are of unsound mind or out of Nigeria the guardian of the minor can give the consent.
- Age: The marriage laws/act did not lay down any mandatory age for marriage. Section 3 (1) (e) of the matrimonial causes Act makes a marriage void where either of the parties is not of ‘Marriageable Age’ but nowhere in the statue is the term ‘marriageable age’ defined. In the absence of a statutory definition recourse may be made to the common law of England; part of the received English Law in Nigeria. Under the common law, a valid marriage may be contracted if the parties have attained the age of puberty – fourteen years in the case of boys and twelve years for girls. Grounds for Dissolution of Marriage.
The circumstances under which the court may make a decree for the dissolution of marriage are spelt out under section 15 (1) of the matrimonial causes Act. It states that the court may make a decree of dissolution on the ground that marriage has broken down irretrievably. Section 15 (2) provides that the court may hold that a marriage has broken down irretrievably if, but only if, the petitioner satisfies the court of one or more of the following facts:
- That the respondent has willfully and persistent refused to consummate the marriage.
- That since the marriage, the respondent has committed adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent.
- That since the marriage the respondent has behaved in such way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent.
- That the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least one year immediately preceding the presentation of the petition.
- That the other party to the marriage has been absent from the petitioner for such time and in such circumstances as to provide reasonable grounds for presuming that he or she is dead.
- That the respondent has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of at least one year immediately preceding the presentation of this petition.
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