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Most worship centres conducting marriages in the country lack the license to do so under the statutory Marriage Act, according to Barr. Georgina E. Ehuriah, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Interior. This means that most marriages conducted in religious houses in Nigeria could be deemed illegal.

Ehuriah who spoke at a one-day stakeholders’ conference on conduct of statutory marriages in accordance with the Marriage Act cap, M6, LFN 2004 as amended, said that ”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,”.

“At present, 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, she said.

According to her, the decision to organize the stakeholders’ conference was necessitated by the ministry’s experience in the discharge of its duties “which pointed to the fact that there are extant issues which require the joint attention of key stakeholders”.

She added that while the ministry was already building a database of all statutory marriages conducted in Nigeria, it had also developed a database of all places of worship licensed for celebration of marriages, urging 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”.

Earlier, Mr. Stephen Okon, director, Citizenship and Business in the ministry, had said the conference was scheduled to hold in three major cities across the geo-political zones, adding that it would provide an avenue 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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