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CAN Kicks As FG Declares Worship Centres Must Acquire Marriage Licence Before Conducting Weddings

The Christian Association of Nigeria has taken a swipe at the Federal Government over its insistence that places of worship must obtain licences from the Ministry of Interior before conducting weddings under the Marriage Act.

CAN’s Legal Adviser, Samuel Kwamkur, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Tuesday, said the Federal Government had an ulterior motive for insisting that churches must obtain licences from the Interior ministry.
CAN stated this just as the Ministry of Interior told The PUNCH that statutory weddings conducted in places of worship that were not licensed by it were not legal.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Interior, Georgina Ehuriah, had at a stakeholders’ conference on Wednesday last week, said that only 314 worship centres in the country were licensed to contract statutory weddings.

Ehuriah had stated, “Presently, only about 4,689 licensed places of worship in Nigeria have updated their records with the Ministry of Interior of which only 314 have renewed their licences to conduct statutory marriages.

“The implication of this is that marriages conducted in unlicensed places of worship are not in line with the Marriage Act and cannot serve legal purposes when the need arises and such unlicensed places of worship are operating contrary to Section 6(1) of the Marriage Act.”

She had said arrangements were going on to give couples whose certificates were not issued in line with the Act the opportunity to bring them to conformity.

The data obtained on Sunday by one of PUNCH correspondent from the website of the Ministry of Interior indicated that worship centres in Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Ekiti, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara states did not have the legal authority to conduct wedding under the Marriage Act.

It was also observed that no mosque was among the worship centres licensed by the ministry to conduct weddings.

The interior ministry spokesman, Mohammed Manga, explained to one of our correspondents, why no mosque was on the list of worship centres that had licences to conduct weddings.

According to Manga, the monogamous marriage, which is statutory, is regulated by the Marriage Act, 2004, while polygamous marriage preferred by Muslims falls under the Customary and Islamic Laws.

He stated, “Statutory marriage is an item under the exclusive list of the Federal Government, therefore no state House of Assembly can legislate on marriage except those contracted under the Customary Law or Islamic Law.

“A statutory marriage is defined as the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. Thus, the procedure, the role and functions of key players in the conduct of statutory marriages are purely constitutional and guided by relevant laws i.e. Marriage Act Cap M6 of the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, as amended,” the spokesman explained.

Worship centre branches can’t use headquarters’ licence – FG

He also said a licence obtained by the headquarters of a church was not applicable to its branches nationwide, explaining that the approval given to a place of worship does not cover its branches.

He added that all branches must obtain their licences on merit but on the recommendations of their headquarters.

He said, “Although the celebration of monogamous marriage in Nigeria is regulated by the Marriage Act, such marriage is usually referred to as statutory marriage.

The ministry spokesman further referred one of our correspondents to a note on the website, www.ecitibiz.interior.gov.ng which stated, “If your place of worship is not listed, then the place of worship is not approved and licensed to conduct legal marriages in Nigeria under the Marriage Act CAP M6 LFN (2004) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

The website also admonished intending couples to ensure that their place of worship was approved and licensed by the Ministry of Interior to conduct marriage.

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