The Federal Government has lamented that most worship centres conducting marriages in Nigeria lacked the license to do so under the statutory marriage Act.
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Interior, Barr. Georgina E. Ehuriah expressed this dismay while speaking on Wednesday at a one-day stakeholders’ conference on conduct of statutory marriage in accordance with the Marriage Act cap, M6, LFN 2004 as amended.
“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 licenses 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 said.
The Permanent Secretary said the decision to organise the stakeholders’ conference was borne out of the ministry’s experience in the discharge of its duties “which pointed to the fact that there are extant issues in the administration of the conduct of statutory marriages which require the joint attention of key stakeholders.“
Barr. Ehuriah disclosed that the ministry was already building a data base of all statutory marriages conducted in Nigeria, adding that it had also developed a data base of all places of worship licensed for celebration of marriages.
She encouraged stakeholders to take advantage of the Conference to discuss the major challenges they face in complying with the provisions of the Act.
The Permanent Secretary said she had already put in place machinery to kick start the process for the amendment of the Marriage Act to adequately meet the needs of citizens in the 21st century.
“Also, arrangements are on-going to give couples whose certificates were not issued in line with the Act the opportunity to bring them to conformity,” she added.
Speaking earlier, the director of Citizenship and Business in the Ministry of Interior, Mr. Stephen Okon had said the conference was planned to hold in three major cities across the geo-political zones.
He said the conference, among others, was meant to educate the public and create awareness on the key requirements of the Marriage Act while also drawing the attention of Stakeholders and the general public to the consequences of non-compliance with the Marriage Act.
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