Marriage in Nigeria is a serious business regulated by two main laws; the Marriage act and the Matrimonial causes act. The laws provide almost exhaustively, protections for parties to a marriage. However, like any other law, people will continue to be creative in finding ways around it and such creativity can land one in jail. In some cases, one need not even be a party to the marriage to become liable.
The marriage act provides for the following offences that can lead a party or a third party to jail in the cause of celebration of a marriage. Anthony Atata , a Nigerian lawyer whose practice covers divorce and family Law writes in a plain language for readers of Courtroom Mail who are not lawyers.Eight of the most common offences are as follows:[restrict paid=”true”]
- When you are single and you marry a married person: Whoever being unmarried, goes through the ceremony of marriage with a person whom he or she knows to be married to another person, shall be liable to imprisonment for five years.
- During the course of marriage the parties to that marriage and in some situations non parties are required to furnish some information, the law provides for a liability if such a person or persons falsely or negligently provide wrong information. Whoever in any affidavit, declaration, certificate, license, document, or statement by law to be made or issued for the purposes of a marriage, declares, enters, certifies or states any material matter which is false, shall, if he does so without having taken reasonable means to ascertain the truth or falsity of such matter, be liable to imprisonment for years for one year, or shall, if he does so knowing that such matter is false, be liable to imprisonment for five years.
- Sometimes in bid to stop a marriage, someone may falsely claim that his or her consent is required to celebrate that marriage under the law, if it is discovered to be false, the person will have to face criminal liabilities. Whoever endeavours to prevent a marriage by pretence that his consent thereto is required by law,or that any person whose consent is so required does not consent, or that there is any legal impediment to performing of such marriage, shall if he does so knowing that such pretence is false or without having reason to believe that it is true, be liable to imprisonment for two years.
- When that pastor that doesn’t operate a licensed place of worship presides over a marriage or hides the fact that a particular marriage should not happen as a result of some invalidity, remind him of this. Whoever performs or witnesses as a marriage officer the ceremony of marriage, knowing that he is not duly qualified so to do, or that any of matters required by law for validity of such marriage has not happened or been performed, so that the marriage is void or unlawful on any ground, shall be liable to imprisonment for five years. Looking for a Lawyer ? Search here
5. That time he or she “strategically” gets married to achieve a purpose using a false name or impersonates another person to deceive his/her spouse. Bring this to his attention. Whoever impersonates any other person in marriage, or marries under a false name or description with intent to deceive the other party to the marriage, shall be liable to imprisonment for five years. If you want a divorce from a Nigerian Court,you must prove any of these
6. You have a wife abroad and you are back to marry her here or you marry someone who lacks the capacity to understand that he or she is celebrating a marriage, be ready to go to jail. Whoever goes through a ceremony of marriage or any ceremony which he or she represents to be a ceremony of marriage, knowing that the marriage is void on any ground, and that the other person believes it to be valid, shall be liable to imprisonment for five years. Other situations that can fall into this category of offence are ( a)When one knows that the other is within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity with him/her (b)When one knows that the other party to the marriage is mentally capable of of understanding the nature of the marriage contract. etc 7. When you have already performed a marriage under customary law and you want to marry another person under the act/registry, jail awaits you: Whoever contracts a marriage being at the time married under customary law to any person other than the person with whom such marriage is contracted, shall be liable to imprisonment for five years.
8. When you have already performed a marriage under the law (registry or in licensed place of marriage) and you want to marry another person under customary law, jail awaits you: Whoever, having contracted marriage under the act and during the continuance of such marriage contracts a marriage in accordance with customary law,shall be liable to imprisonment for five years.