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28 Sep 2017

Drama as 57 Marriage Registrars Storm Court to Challenge Federal Government in Lagos

As many as fifty-seven marriage registrars have stormed a court in Lagos State challenging the Federal Government.
According to a Punch Metro report, marriage registrars from the 57 local government areas and local council development areas of Lagos State on Wednesday stormed the Federal High Court in Lagos for the hearing of a suit challenging the power of the Federal Ministry of Interior to solemnise and register marriages.

The 57 marriage registrars appeared before Justice Chuka Obiozor, who is hearing the case, dressed in uniform polo shirts emblazoned with the inscription, ‘Lagos State Marriage Registrar’.

In their suit, marked FHC/L/CS/1760/16, the local government authorities are seeking a declaration that it is the Local Government Areas that have the exclusive right to conduct and register marriages.

The original plaintiffs in the suit are Egor Local Government Area of Edo State; Eti-Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State; Owerri Municipal Local Government Area of Imo State and Port Harcourt Local Government Area of Rivers State.

The LGAs, through their lawyer, Mr. Michael Roger, are contending that by virtue of Section 1(5) Paragraph 1(i) of the 1999 Constitution, the Federal Ministry of Interior, an agency of the Federal Government, has no business registering marriages as it currently does.

At the Wednesday’s proceedings, the Ministry of Interior was represented by Mrs. R.M. Shittu, while the Attorney General of the Federation was not represented.

Justice Obiozor, however, adjourned till November 28 to hear the preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the case as well as the substantive suit.

The plaintiff’s counsel, Roger had exhibited before Justice Obiozor an earlier judgment by Justice Oyindamola Olomojobi of the Federal High Court, wherein the court declared that only local government areas have the power to register marriages by virtue of Section 30(1) of the Marriage Act and Section 7(5) of the 1999 Constitution.

However, in the said judgment delivered on June 8, 2002, Justice Olomojobi clarified that other lawful authorities could “celebrate or contract marriages.”

Justice Olomojobi had held, “Lawful bodies or authorities, which can celebrate or contract marriages for intending persons, who are desirous of getting married as husbands and wives, are: 1. Registrars in places designated as an office 2. Recognised ministers of religion in a licensed place of worship 3. Marriages contracted under the licence granted by the Director General, Ministry of Internal Affairs; Director-General of a state government in charge of marriages; any officer in the afore-stated ministries and of course, the Minister of Internal Affairs.”

Relying on Justice Olomojobi’s judgment, the LGAs are urging Justice Obiozor to declare that the Federal Minster of Interior has no power to register marriages.

Joined as respondents in the suit are the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, and the AGF, Malami.

In response to the suit, the AGF has, however, filed a preliminary objection, wherein he urged Justice Obiozor to dismiss the plaintiffs’ suit for being an abuse of court processes.

The AGF argued that the issue raised by the plaintiffs had already been settled by the judgment delivered on June 8, 2002 by Justice Olomojobi.

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