From Joseph Inokotong, Abuja
In a bid to bring Federal Marriage Registry closer to the grassroots, the Federal Government has announced the establishment of 20 new Federal Marriage Registries across the country, and ongoing efforts to have Federal Marriage Registries in all the State capitals of the federation.
Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola disclosed this at a National Stakeholders’ Conference on the Administration and Conduct of Statutory Marriage in Nigeria in Abuja over the weekend.
The Minister who was represented by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr. Shuaib Belgore, stated that the Conference was necessitated by the need for the Ministry to inform stakeholders and enlighten the general public about some new guidelines and important aspects about the administration and conduct of Statutory Marriage in the country, as well as the amended Legal Notices in the Marriage Act.
Accoding to him, the amended Legal Notices has changed the dynamics of the administration and conduct of statutory marriages in Nigeria and has put to rest the lingering disagreement between the Ministry and the Local Government Registrars of Marriage by designating the Local Government Areas and Area Development Councils of the Federal Capital Territory as Marriage Districts.
“The beauty of this arrangement is that it brings the services of this Ministry, via the Marriage Registries closer to the grassroots, thus reducing the need to travel relatively long distances to get married at a Federal Marriage Registry,”
Aregbesola said “some of these guidelines include: – the Ministry of Interior has the sole regulatory responsibility for the issuance of licenses to Public Places of Worship for the conduct of statutory marriages in Nigeria; ii. Local Government Councils that have recently been designated as Marriage Districts may now nominate officers as Local Government Registrars of Marriage and must procure Marriage Certificate Booklets from the Ministry of Interior; the nomination of Local Government Registrars of Marriage and the Deputies by the Local Government Authorities should be endorsed and registered by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Interior who is the Principal Registrar of Marriages in Nigeria; the printing and issuance of Marriage Certificate Booklets to licensed Places of Worship and Marriage Registries is the sole responsibility of the Principal Registrar of Marriages; the Ministry of Interior has the sole authority to issue the only valid and legally recognised Certificate of Marriage known as “FORM E”.
“It is my utmost pleasure therefore, to inform you about one of the major achievements of the Ministry which is the successful review of the contents of the 2nd Schedule to the Marriage Act known as the Legal Notices. The review has brought the Legal Notices in conformity with the present administrative and political realities in Nigeria today while the amendment of other sections of the Marriage Act is ongoing,” he emphasised.
He added that the Ministry had its inaugural Stakeholders Conference on the conduct of Statutory Marriages in the third Quarter of 2019 in Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt respectively and one of the recommendations of the Stakeholders was the need for more conferences to educate the public on issues pertaining to statutory marriages in Nigeria.
“This Conference is one of many more to come, aimed at continuously educating and informing the public on the importance of statutory marriages and the statutorily recognised Certificate of Marriage (FORM E), to inform stakeholders about various innovations in the administration of statutory marriages and to provide a platform for a robust exchange of ideas that will promote the institution of marriage,” the Minister stressed.
In his own words, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Interior and Principal Registrar of Marriages in Nigeria, Dr. Shuaib Belgore, noted that he was duty bound to ensuring the implementation of the provisions of the Marriage Act with regard to the administration and conduct of Statutory Marriages.
“The Marriage Act, which was originally enacted in 1914 by the British colonial masters, is the legislation that provides the procedures for the conduct of statutory marriages in Nigeria. It has been amended several times with the latest version being 2004,” he added.
The new regime, Belgore stressed, entails strict adherence to the administrative and statutory procedures in the conduct of statutory marriages.
He noted further that to achieve this, the Ministry has created an Enforcement, Inspection and Investigation (EI&I) division whose function is to ensure that Places of Worship and Marriage Registries comply with the provisions of the Marriage Act, thus engendering a pleasant Marriage experience for couples.
The Permanent Secretary expressed gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola for their swift endorsement and approval of the amended Legal Notices as contained in the Marriage Act CAP M6, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
Earlier in her remarks, the Director, Citizenship and Business Department in the Ministry, Mrs. Moremi Soyinka-Onijala said the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola has been very concerned about the various challenges that had over time, militated against the effectiveness of the rules and regulations as well as the laws guiding the conduct of Statutory Marriage and had directed that solutions be fashioned out as quickly as possible, which culminated to this Conference.
Participants at the conference included the Representatives of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), National Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSIA), National Association of Local Government of Nigeria, Permanent Secretaries, Federal Ministries of Justice, Information and Culture, Foreign Affairs, Wowen Affairs and Social Development among other critical stakeholders..