A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, has declared that it was unconstitutional for the federal government to conduct marriages, declaring as illegal and invalid, for example, all solemnisation of unions at the Ikoyi marriage registry, Lagos.
The court, presided over by Justice D. E. Osiagor, held that only the local government marriage registries were empowered to do such by the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
He submitted that the conduct of marriages and issuance of certificates were statutorily the job of the local governments as provided by the law.
The judge added that the acts of the federal government through the Ministry of Interior,operating marriage registries was beyond their powers and held that all marriages conducted by federal marriage registries or through their agents were illegal and invalid.
He consequently ordered the closure of all federal marriage registries opened by the ministry, including that of Ikoyi marriage registry with immediate effect.
There has been a legal brawl between some local government areas in Nigeria against the federal government simply for the determination of who has the power to operate marriage registries, conduct marriages and issue marriage certificates.
For this reason, the LGAs had insisted that their powers to register marriages, which were statutorily provided were being usurped by the federal government through the Ministry of Interior.
This prompted the Eti-Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State to go to court, where itsought an order to take over the popular Ikoyi Marriage Registry being operated by the Ministry of Interior, on the grounds that the federal government, through the ministry, had no business operating a marriage registry.
The suit marked FHC/ LS/CS/816/18, which had the Ministry of Interior and Attorney General of the Federation as defendants, accused the ministry of usurping the local government power to conduct marriages and issue marriage certificates.
It also prayed the court to declare that the federal government has no business in the conduction of marriages and issuing marriage certificates and therefore order the closure of all marriage registries opened and operated by the Federal Ministry of Interior or through their agents, including that of the Ikoyi registry.
At the end, the court granted their prayers, saying only the local governments have the power to conduct marriages in Nigeria.
THISDAY investigation revealed that the latest judgment was not the first to emanate from the court.
On May 17, 2018, Justice Chuka Austine Obiozor of the same, while delivering judgment on Suit No: FHC/L/CS/1760/16, had issued a restraining order against Ikoyi registry from conducting marriages, saying it was unconstitutional for the federal government to perform the duties of the state and local governments.
He said the marriage registries in the local government of Lagos State were the authentic and legally-binding government divisions established to carry out such functions.
Addressing a press conference afterwards, Lagos State Commissioner for Local Government and Community Affairs, Muslim Folami, said the judgment would be communicated to all stakeholders, including the embassies.
Folami said the decision of the court was supreme and legally binding on all and that all marriages conducted and registered in any of the 20 local governments were valid and in accordance with the marriage act.
Particularly, he said the judgment would put a stop to the perception of superiority of Ikoyi Marriage Registry over the local government registries.
“We are going to use every available platform in the five divisions across the state to sensitise our people and inform them about this latest development – from Epe to Ikorodu, Badagry, Ikeja and Lagos Island,” he said.
But instead of complying with the decision of the court, the Federal Ministry of Interior went ahead to establish more marriage registries across the country.