Dr. Omoniyi and Engr. Sokunbi are my very good friends from our University days. On the 19th day of January, 2016, Dr. Omoniyi put a call through to Engineer Sokunbi to inform him that his wedding ceremony would be coming up on the 27th of May, 2016 and that it is only the wedding service that will be done because he values his time and does not see the need for all those going to registry or engagement ceremony. So elated, Engr. Sokunbi shouted, “Thank God! My Efiko Dr. Jackometer is getting married at last!! Hmmm…after the book, book and book”.
On the 14th day of February, 2016, Engr. Sokunbi sent a message to Dr. Omoniyi on BBM to inform him that he just proposed to his darling girlfriend as well and he is thinking of picking the 17th day of June, 2016 for their wedding. “It would be just the engagement ooo. My parents don’t know about it sef. You know I’m trying to save money for my Construction Company that would be incorporated early next year”, he clarified.
I was fortunate to meet the two of them on the 30th day of March, 2016 at the University Alumni Body Meeting. I saw them sharing memories at the motion ground and, as if it was planned, they both brought our their invitation cards and handed them over to me. “Ololo…my friends are getting married…Godwin”, I teased. Engr. Sokunbi came in, “Don’t pull our legs joor. I even need to ask you, is it a sin to do just engagement?”
Points to Note:
1. There are basically three types of marriage in this context; (i) Statutory Marriage (ii) Customary Marriage and (iii) Islamic Marriage.
2. Statutory marriage is conceived more in the sense of the Christendom as the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others. In essence, it is monogamous in nature. This is the type contracted when couples go to the registry.
3. Customary marriage is one that is “negotiated, celebrated or concluded according to any of the systems of indigenous African Customary Law which exist in Nigeria”. In most cases, the popular “engagement ceremony” before the wedding is the customary marriage.
4. Islamic Marriage is one that is contracted according to the Islamic Law as prescribed by the Holy Qu’ran and other Islamic Law Sources.
5. For a Statutory Marriage to be Valid, the following requirements must be in place:
(i) Capacity (The parties must be of Age and must be in their right frame of mind)
(ii) Consent of the parties (absence of consent and consent obtain by fraud, deceit, misrepresentation or duress will render the marriage invalid). Madam “I will use pregnancy to trap him down”, take note.
NB: Where either of the parties is less than 21years, he/she must obtain the written consent of the father.
(iii) Both parties must be single; a party to a subsisting statutory or customary law marriage has no capacity to enter into another statutory marriage with another person.
6. The requirement of a valid Customary marriage are as follows:
(i) Age (depending on each custom)
(ii) Capacity (For example, have you ever seen someone say “I’m in love with my brother or cousin”? Such marriage is invalid under customary law).
(iii) Consent of both the parties and parents.
7. A man married under the Customary Law has the legal right to marry as many wives as possible unlike that of Statutory marriage.
8. Mere Church marriage does not constitute a valid marriage.
9. However, there are churches which are regarded as “Licenced Places of Worship”. Such churches have been authorized by the relevant government authority to contract statutory marriages.
10. A statutory marriage can only be brought to an end by a Court of competent jurisdiction and before the marriage can be dissolved, it must have broken down irretrievably.
11. The type of marriage contracted by the couples will determine the rights of the surviving spouse upon the demise of one of the parties, the mode of acquisition of the family property by the offspring, the mode of dissolution of the property etc.
You know the answer to Engr. Sokunbi’s question? It is not a sin to contract just customary marriage(engagement) but the parental consent is a sine qua non for a valid Customary marriage. However, he should be sure he wants his rights and duties to be determined according to the customary law As for Dr. Omoniyi, he should take note that mere church service does not constitute a valid marriage. However, if the church he intends to have his wedding is a “Licenced Place of Worship”, then he would be contracting a statutory marriage. THE LEGAL DIARY Joseph Jagunmolu Ogunmodede
Joseph Jagunmolu Ogunmodede is a budding lawyer and the Founder of THE LEGAL DIARY.
He was born in Ogun State, Nigeria, and holds a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) Degree from the prestigious University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Oyo State where he was awarded a First Class (Honours). He is currently a Bar Aspirant at the Nigerian Law School (Lagos Campus).