The Nigerian government has introduced a new Federal Marriage Certificate for all types of marriages in the country.
The permanent secretary of the Ministry of Interior, Georgina Ehuriah, disclosed this on Wednesday at a stakeholders conference on the conduct of statutory marriage in Abuja.
She said existing couples who do not have their certificate issued by the Ministry of Interior are advised to visit their website to re-certify their marriage certificates.
According to Mrs Ehuriah, not all places of worship are permitted to conduct marriages. She advised Nigerians to ensure that their marriages are conducted in places licensed by the Ministry of Interior.
“This is for the marriage to be credible and registered in the National database of legally certified marriages,” she said.
“If the certificate is not printed and delivered by the principal registrar of marriages, then it is illegal and can not serve the desired purpose”, she said.
“Arrangements are ongoing for couples whose certificates were not issued in line with the Marriage Act of opportunity to bring them to conformity.”
Speaking on the benefits of the certificate, Mrs Ehuriah said it will be recognized by all foreign embassies during visa application.
She advised the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to accept the certificate for the guidance of foreign embassies in Nigeria and Nigerian missions aboard.
Ms Ehuriah said conducting marriages by places of worship not duly licensed by the ministry will be considered a breach of the Marriage Act.
“Presently, only about 4,689 licensed places of worship in Nigeria have updated their records with the Ministry of Interior; 314 have renewed their licenses to conduct statutory marriages,” she said.
She said the ministry is building a database for all statutory marriages conducted in Nigeria.
“It has also developed a database for all places of worship licensed for celebration of marriages ”
This will enable the ministry to be in a good position to respond to enquiries from various interested parties from within and outside Nigeria, Mrs Ehuriah said.
She said documentation process for the licensing of places of worship has been automated to facilitate submission of application for licenses by interested places of worship.
“Administrators of places of worship are encouraged to meet the requirements to satisfy their members.”
She said government at all levels has the responsibility of ensuring the sanctity of marriage by supporting any initiative aimed at promoting compliance with the Act.
The director, citizenship and business at the ministry, Stephen Okon, said it is important to educate the public on the key requirements of the Marriage Act.
“Sometimes citizens are denied their rights because of the manner their certificates of marriage was documented”, he said
He said Nigerians do not conduct statutory marriage even after traditional and church marriage “despite the growing popularity of Registry marriage”.