Appeal Court Reinstates the Power to Register Marriages by the Federal Government

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The Court of Appeal, sitting in Lagos reinstated the power of the Federal Government over marriages, saying that the Federal Government has the constitutional right to contract, celebrate and register marriages between prospective couples.

The court also declared null and void, the judgement of Justice Daniel Osiagor of the Federal High Court, which constrained the FG from registering marriages contracted or celebrated under the Marriage Act, Cap. M6 laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN), 2004 within some local Government Council Areas in the country.

The court, in its lead judgement delivered by Justice Abubakar Sadiq Umar and adopted by Justice Jimi Olukayode Bada (presiding) and Justice Fredrick Eziakpono Oho held that the local governments are not the only organ or arm of government with the exclusive rights of contracting and celebrating marriages between prospective couples.

Justice Osiagor, on December 8, 2021, delivered a suit which barred the FG from conducting marriages in some local government councils in Nigeria. The suit was jointly filed by Eti-Osa Local Government, Lagos State, Egbor Local Government, Edo State, Owerri Municipal Local Government, Imo State, and Port-Harcourt City Local Government against the former Minister of Interior, former Attorney General of the Federation, and Anchor Dataware Solution Limited.

The lower court also restrained the former Minister and his agents or delegates from further registering marriages contracted or celebrated under the Marriage Act, Cap. M6 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN), 2004 within the plaintiffs’ Local Government Council Areas.

Dissatisfied, the appellant (former Minister of Interior) in his notice of appeal marked CA/LAG/CV/566/2022 urged the court to consider two issues which are; “whether the lower court was right when it held that the plea of doctrine of res judicata is inapplicable to the 1st to 4th respondents’ action.

“Whether the trial Judge was right when it granted the reliefs sought by the 1st to 4th respondent and found that the judgment in suit No: FHC/870/2002 granted exclusive rights to the 1st – 4th respondents and other Local Governments in Nigeria to conduct, celebrate and register marriages within their local government.”

But in the judgement delivered by Justice Umar, the appeal court held that the lower court was wrong in granting reliefs 1st -4th of the reliefs sought by the 1st to 4th respondents and granting reliefs seven as endorsed on the amended originating summons in part.

Justice Umar held that both the appellant and the respondents have the rights to celebrate, contract, and register marriages. However, Justice Umar stated that the lower court was right in refusing reliefs 5 and 6 as endorsed on the respondents’ amended originating summons.

“Having regard to the earlier pronouncement in this judgment on the merits of the amended originating Summons filed by the cross appellants at the lower court, I hold the firm view that the lower court was correct when it refused reliefs 5 and 6 sought by the Cross Appellants.

“The lower court was however wrong when it granted Relief 7 of the amended originating summons in part when the same ought to have been outrightly refused. I have found supra in this judgment that the decision in Suit No: FHC/L/870/2002 which the cross appellants have predicated their action on, does not in any manner whatsoever grant exclusive rights to the cross appellants to conduct or celebrate marriages within the local government council.

“On the contrary, the court in suit No: FHC/L/870/2002 highlighted the various fora for the conduct and celebration of marriages. The court identified the lawful bodies or authorities vested with the powers to celebrate and contract marriages for intending persons and recognised the marriage districts/local government council, and marriages conducted under the licence granted by the Director-General, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Director-General of a State Government in charge of marriages and the Minister of Internal Affairs.

“The simple implication of the decision in suit No: FHC/L/870/2002 is that not one organ of government has the exclusive preserve of contracting and celebrating marriages between a prospective couple. I am therefore of the considered view that the restriction imposed by the lower court directing the 1st cross respondent to only conduct, celebrate and contract marriages in the marriage registries situated at Ikoyi, Lagos and Federal Capital Territory Abuja is wrong and erroneous.

“The lower court was however correct in dismissing reliefs five and six as endorsed in the amended originating summons. A cursory review of the said reliefs dissipates any doubt that the reliefs are consequential in nature and predicated on the success of the substantive/principal reliefs as contained in reliefs one to four.

“Having found supra that the reliefs one to four ought not to have been granted by the lower court, it follows therefore that reliefs five and six being ancillary must fail as a matter of course.

“It is the law that where a principal relief fails, all reliefs ancillary or depend thereto will fail. Accordingly, the Judgment of the lower Court delivered on December 8, 2021 in suit No: FHC/L/CS/816/2018 succeeds and fails in part. Parties should bear their respective cost,” Justice Umar held.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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