What are the types of marriage in Nigeria? Marriage is the blissful union between one man and woman, or women, depending on the type of marriage. In Christian marriage, statutory marriage, it is one man one wife, while traditional marriage allows marriage to more than one woman.
In this article, we will be taking a deep look at the different types of marriages in Nigeria and some of the necessary ingredients for a valid marriage under customary law or statutory law. I therefore encourage you to read this article carefully if you want to understand the types of marriages allowed in Nigeria.
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Types of marriage in Nigeria
- Marriage under customary law/ traditional marriage
- Statutory marriage
- Islamic marriage
- Christian marriage
Now, I will take my time to discuss the types of marriage mentioned above.
1. Marriage under customary law: this is marriage conducted in accordance with the customary laws of the parties involved in the marriage. Customary marriage, although are slightly different, due to the differences in culture, have common grounds which would be stated below, as the practice governing customary marriage in Nigeria.
a. Consent: Under Nigerian customary law, marriage is not just a union between two people. It is a union between families too, hence the consent of the parties involved, that is groom and bride, is not enough. The parents and families of the parties should also consent to the marriage. Failure of which would lead to the cancellation of the intended marriage.
b. Introduction: This is called “ikwo aka” under Igbo customary law. Here, the families of the groom and bride are formally introduced to each other, after which investigation will be made about the groom or the bride, looking for reasons why they cannot be married. After the investigation, if they are certified as free to conduct a marriage, they can proceed to the next stage.
c. Payment of bride price: Bride price is paid by the groom to the bride parents in exchange for the bride. The sum could be as little as ten naira or as much as five hundred thousand, depending on the custom of that particular tribe. Bride price is a very significant aspect of customary marriage, the absence of which makes the marriage void.
In event of divorce, the bride price is returned to the groom, by the bride’s family.
d. Wedding: The wedding takes place after the payment of dowry. Under Igbo customary law, the bride is given a cup of Palmwine and bush meat to feed the husband on bended knees. The groom in turn, eats the meat, drinks the wine and pulls her up to embrace her.
However, for the Yorubas, the bride kneels, while the groom prostrates to their respective parents, together to receive their blessings.
e. Dowry: this is a gift given by the bride’s parents to the couple, wishing them well in their journey to becoming husband and wife. The gifts could be in form of plates, pots, refrigerator, car or even house.
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2. Statutory marriage: this is marriage conducted in accordance with the marriage act. This is irrespective of the parties religion or ethnic group. For a marriage to qualify as a statutory marriage, the following requirements should be existent:
a. Notice of marriage: the parties should have gone to the marriage registrar in the particular local government, informing them of their intention. This process involves the parties signing forms and payment of a required sum.
b. Publication of notice: the notice would be pasted in designated places in the local government. This is done in order for people who might know the couple and have any objection against the marriage to have notice of the intended marriage between the parties. Take for example, a man who has been married before, under the act, and wants to perform another marriage would be guilty of bigamy. If the wife has notice of the second wedding, it would be valid rounds for objection and dismissal of the wedding.
It is important to note that these notices would remain for twenty one days.
c. Issuance of registrar’s certificate: this certificate is issued at the expiration of twenty one days, after the pasting of the certificate. This certificate is issued as proof that the wedding was not objected to by anyone, or anyone on lawful grounds.
d. Marriage: the marriage should take place within three months after the registrar’s certificate has been issued to the parties. Failure to conduct the wedding within this time limit, renders the certificate void and if the parties are still interested in the marriage, a redo of the process.
The wedding is conducted in the office of the registrar, and must be witnessed by two people. The parties (groom, bride and witnesses), are required to sign the necessary documents. This certificate must be duplicated and the duplicated copy sent to the registrar of marriage within seven days.
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3. Islamic marriage: this is marriage conducted by muslims in a mosque. It is usually presided over, by the imam. Under Islam, a man can marry more than one wife, as long as he is capable of taking care of them. For the marriage to be valid, there should be:
a. Consent: both parties should consent to the form of marriage. There shouldn’t be any form of coercion or evidence of a forced marriage on either parties.
The parties must have capacity to marry. This implies that they should be of marriageable age.
b. Proposal and acceptance of the proposal
c. Payment of dowry: otherwise known as bride gift is a compensation given to the woman for the right her husband enjoys over her body. The Qur’an makes this a very essential requirement that a marriage conducted without the payment of this dowry is null and void.
Under the Islamic law, the husband is duty bound to maintain his wives as long as she submits to his authority. Maintenance includes providing food, clothing, and housing for the wife/wives. This is in accordance with Q.4:34. The authority of the husband also extends to the children. Take for example, where the woman is duty bound under Islamic law, to breast feed the child for two years, where the man deems otherwise, the woman is subject to his orders, as both the woman and children belong to him.
The man, under Islamic law can also decide to order for a divorce without stating reasons for his decision. It doesn’t have to be a mutual, decision. However, in some cases, the woman begs the man to divorce her or pays him some amount to divorce her. It is important to note here that even after divorce, the man remains the sole custodian of the children. In cases of death, the custody falls to his next of kin, usually a male.
The following are grounds for voiding a marriage under Islamic customary law:
a. Marriage between a man and his foster mother and daughters
b. Marriage between a man and a woman still in her waiting period, “idda”; a period where the woman is supposed to stay single, after the death of her husband.
c. Marriage between a man and a non-Muslim. Provided for in Qua’ran 2:221
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4. Christian marriage: this is a marriage conducted between one man and one wife. This kind of marriage is usually conducted in churches, by the officiating minister, usually a pastor, bishop or reverend father.
For this marriage to be valid, the church must be a registered church and qualified to issue marriage certificate. Where a valid marriage certificate is not issued, the marriage is deemed to be voidable.
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Having listed the four different kinds of marriage practiced and valid in Nigeria, it is important to note that Islamic law and Christian marriage are not valid until the churches or mosque are qualified enough to issue marriage certificates. Hence, marriage under the act, that is, statutory marriage , Islamic marriage and Christian marriage are a bit interwoven, only under Islamic law, the man is empowered to marry more than one wife.
Customary law marriage is also very broad and applies differently via the numerous customary laws we have in Nigeria.
Edeh Samuel Chukwuemeka ChMC, is a Law Student and a Certified Mediator/Conciliator in Nigeria. He is also a Developer with knowledge in HTML, CSS, JS, PHP and React Native. Samuel is bent on changing the legal profession by building Web and Mobile Apps that will make legal research a lot easier.