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Understanding ‘Marriage by Ordinance’ in Nigeria: A Primer

Last Updated on October 17, 2023


Marriage by ordinance in Nigeria refers to marriages that are performed in accordance with specific laws and regulations established by the government.

It is crucial to understand this type of marriage due to its legal implications and cultural significance.

This blog post aims to define “Marriage by Ordinance” in Nigeria, highlight the importance of comprehending this institution, and give an overview of the post’s contents.

In Nigeria, couples legally recognize their union through ordinance, formalizing their commitment under specific regulations.

It differs from customary marriages, Islamic marriages, and marriages performed under general law.

Understanding the intricacies and requirements of this type of marriage is crucial for individuals planning to enter into a legally recognized union.

Comprehending “Marriage by Ordinance” in Nigeria is important because it governs the rights, obligations, and protections afforded to individuals within the institution.

It also helps to navigate issues such as divorce, inheritance, and child custody.

Moreover, understanding this type of marriage allows individuals to make informed decisions regarding their relationship and legal rights.

This blog post will explore the legal framework that governs “Marriage by Ordinance” in Nigeria, including the specific laws and regulations that apply.

It will also delve into the cultural and societal significance of this type of marriage, exploring the practices and customs associated with it.

Additionally, the post will provide practical information on how to solemnize a marriage by ordinance and the necessary requirements.

Basically, understanding “Marriage by Ordinance” in Nigeria is essential for legal compliance and cultural integration.

This blog post aims to provide readers with a comprehensive overview of the institution, its significance, and the practical aspects associated with it.

Historical Background

Brief history of marriage in Nigeria

  1. Marriage in Nigeria has deep roots in traditional customs and cultural practices.

  2. It is a sacred institution that binds individuals, families, and communities together.

  3. In the past, marriages were arranged by parents, and the consent of the couple was not always considered.

  4. Polygamy was widely practiced, allowing men to have multiple wives.

  5. Marriages were primarily seen as a means of establishing alliances and consolidating wealth and power.

Emergence of “Marriage by Ordinance” concept

  1. The concept of “Marriage by Ordinance” was introduced during colonial rule in Nigeria.

  2. It was influenced by the British legal system and aimed to regulate marriages conducted under Christian rites.

  3. Marriage by Ordinance required couples to comply with specific legal provisions and obtain a marriage certificate.

  4. It provided legal recognition and protection to couples, ensuring inheritance rights and spousal support.

  5. Over time, the concept expanded to include non-Christian marriages as well.

Influence of colonialism and Western legal systems

  1. Colonialism brought significant changes to the Nigerian legal system, including marriage laws.

  2. British colonizers imposed their own legal framework, which included the concept of “Marriage by Ordinance.”

  3. Western legal systems introduced monogamy as the acceptable form of marriage, replacing the traditional practice of polygamy.

  4. Christianity also played a crucial role in shaping marriage laws, as many Nigerians embraced the religion during the colonial era.

  5. Gradually, Western legal principles and religious beliefs became deeply ingrained in Nigerian marriage practices.

Understanding the historical background of marriage in Nigeria, including the emergence of the concept of “Marriage by Ordinance,” is essential to grasp the complexities of the current legal framework.

The influence of colonialism and Western legal systems has significantly shaped marriage laws, transforming traditional practices and introducing new regulations to ensure legal recognition and protection for couples.

Read: Balancing Tradition and Modern Views on Marriage in Nigeria

Legal Framework

Legal provisions governing “Marriage by Ordinance” in Nigeria

  1. Marriage by Ordinance refers to a type of marriage recognized by Nigerian law under specific legal provisions.

  2. This type of marriage is governed by the Marriage Act, which provides guidelines and regulations.

  3. Couples who choose this form of marriage must comply with the requirements stated in the Marriage Act.

  4. It involves a formal and ceremonial process, ensuring that the marriage is legally recognized.

Comparison with other types of marriages recognized by Nigerian law

  1. Apart from Marriage by Ordinance, Nigerian law recognizes other types of marriages, such as Customary, Islamic, and Statutory marriages.

  2. Customary marriages are conducted in accordance with the customs and traditions of particular ethnic groups.

  3. Islamic marriages follow the principles and guidelines of Islamic law.

  4. Statutory marriages, on the other hand, are marriages conducted under the provisions of the Marriage Act.

  5. Marriage by Ordinance differs from these other types by its specific regulations and requirements.

Role of the Marriage Act in regulating these marriages

  1. The Marriage Act plays a crucial role in regulating all marriages conducted under its provisions.

  2. It sets out the legal requirements for obtaining a marriage license, including residency status, consent, and age restrictions.

  3. Under the Marriage Act, couples must give notice of their intent to marry at least 21 days before the marriage date.

  4. The Act also outlines the legal rights and responsibilities of married couples, such as property rights and financial obligations.

  5. Additionally, it provides provisions for dissolution of marriage, including divorce and annulment processes.

The Marriage Act guides the legal framework for “Marriage by Ordinance” in Nigeria, ensuring its legal recognition.

While this type of marriage differs from others recognized by Nigerian law, such as Customary, Islamic, and Statutory marriages, it is equally important to uphold the rights and responsibilities of couples who choose this form of marriage.

By adhering to the legal provisions and regulations set forth in the Marriage Act, couples can enter into a legally valid and binding union.

Read: Online vs. In-Person: Which Counseling Approach Suits You?

Requirements and Procedures

Eligibility criteria for contracting a “Marriage by Ordinance” in Nigeria

  1. Both parties must be at least 21 years old and not already married.

  2. They must have a valid and recognized form of identification, such as a passport or driver’s license.

  3. They must be mentally and physically capable of entering into the marriage contract.

Pre-marriage procedures and documentation

  1. Couples must first give notice of their intention to marry at the marriage registry or the office of the registrar.

  2. They must provide documents such as birth certificates, proof of identity, and proof of address.

  3. They may also be required to undergo blood tests or medical examinations.

Marriage ceremony and registration process

  1. The couple must choose a date and time for the marriage ceremony and inform the registrar.

  2. The ceremony can be held at the marriage registry or at any approved venue.

  3. The marriage must be solemnized by a registrar or recognized religious minister.

  4. After the ceremony, the couple and their witnesses sign the marriage register.

  5. The marriage certificate is issued to the couple as proof of their legal union.

Post-marriage requirements and legal implications

  1. The couple must obtain a certified copy of their marriage certificate from the registry.

  2. They may need to notify relevant authorities and update their personal records with their new marital status.

  3. Marriage by ordinance grants legal rights and obligations to both spouses, including inheritance and property rights.

  4. If the marriage breaks down, divorces must be conducted through the appropriate legal processes.

In general, contracting a “Marriage by Ordinance” in Nigeria requires meeting certain eligibility criteria and following specific procedures.

Couples must be of legal age, provide necessary documentation, and undergo pre-marriage processes.

A registrar or recognized religious minister conducts the marriage ceremony, and the couple registers their marriage to obtain a certificate.

After the marriage, they may need to fulfill post-marriage requirements and understand the legal implications of their union.

Read: The Role of Witnesses in Nigerian Marriage Registration

Understanding 'Marriage by Ordinance' in Nigeria: A Primer

Rights and Obligations

Spousal rights and responsibilities in a “Marriage by Ordinance”

  1. In a Marriage by Ordinance, spouses have the right to mutual love, respect, and support.

  2. Both partners are responsible for nurturing their relationship and maintaining open communication.

  3. The husband and wife have equal rights to make decisions about their family’s well-being.

  4. They should share the responsibilities of childcare, household chores, and financial management.

  5. Spouses have the obligation to be loyal and faithful to each other, cherishing their commitment.

Property rights and ownership distribution

  1. In a Marriage by Ordinance, both spouses have equal rights to acquire, own, and dispose of property.

  2. Properties acquired before the marriage are considered separate, unless agreed otherwise.

  3. If the property is purchased jointly during the marriage, it is regarded as joint property.

  4. During divorce, joint property is typically divided equitably, based on various factors.

  5. The court may consider each spouse’s contribution to the acquisition and maintenance of the property.

Inheritance and succession rights

  1. Spouses in a Marriage by Ordinance have rights of inheritance from each other.

  2. If one spouse passes away without a will, the surviving spouse is entitled to a portion of the estate.

  3. If the deceased spouse has children, they also have inheritance rights along with the surviving spouse.

  4. When there is a will, the surviving spouse may inherit according to the deceased’s wishes.

  5. The law ensures that both spouse’s succession rights are protected and recognized.

In essence, a “Marriage by Ordinance” in Nigeria grants certain rights and obligations to spouses.

These include spousal rights such as love, respect, and support, as well as responsibilities in nurturing the relationship.

Property rights include equal ownership and distribution, with joint property considered during divorce.

The law protects inheritance and succession rights, allowing spouses to inherit from each other and gain recognized rights.

Understanding these rights and obligations is crucial for a harmonious and just Marriage by Ordinance.

Read: Genesis to Revelations: Marriage Verses in the Bible

Dissolution of Marriage

Grounds for divorce in “Marriage by Ordinance”

  1. Adultery: A spouse can seek divorce if the other is involved in an extramarital affair.

  2. Cruelty: Divorce is possible if one spouse subjects the other to physical or mental abuse.

  3. Desertion: Spouses can obtain a divorce if one voluntarily abandons the other for a minimum of two years.

  4. Unreasonable behavior: Continuous and significant misconduct by one spouse can be grounds for divorce.

  5. Separation: If the spouses have lived apart for at least two years and agree to divorce, it can be granted.

Legal processes and procedures for obtaining a divorce

  1. Initiation: One spouse files a petition for divorce with the appropriate court.

  2. Service of Process: The petition is served to the other spouse, providing notice of the divorce proceedings.

  3. Response: The served spouse may respond to the petition, either accepting or contesting the divorce.

  4. Negotiation or Mediation: The spouses may engage in negotiations or seek mediation to settle issues.

  5. Divorce Trial: If the parties do not reach a settlement, the court will hold a trial to determine the divorce terms.

  6. Judgment: After considering all evidence, the court issues a judgment, granting or denying the divorce.

Consequences of divorce for both parties

Divorce can have significant consequences for both parties involved, including:

  • Division of Assets: The court will determine the fair division of shared marital property.

  • Child Custody: Courts determine custody based on children’s best interests when they’re involved.

  • Child Support: The court may order the non-custodial parent to provide financial support for the children.

  • Spousal Support: A court may grant alimony to provide financial assistance to the dependent spouse in certain situations.

  • Emotional Impact: Divorce can lead to emotional distress for both parties and their families.

  • Change in Lifestyle: After divorce, both spouses may experience changes in their living conditions and routines.

  • Legal Expenses: The process of obtaining a divorce can result in significant legal fees and expenses.

In Nigeria, “Marriage by Ordinance” grants divorce based on various grounds.

It involves legal processes and procedures that can lead to significant consequences for both parties.

It is crucial to understand these aspects and seek legal guidance during such challenging times.

Challenges and Controversies

Criticisms and debates surrounding “Marriage by Ordinance” in Nigeria

Marriage by Ordinance in Nigeria has been subject to various criticisms and debates.

One major criticism is that it goes against traditional cultural practices and norms.

In a country with a diverse range of ethnic groups, many believe that marriage should be based on customary laws and traditions.

Furthermore, some argue that “Marriage by Ordinance” is more influenced by Western ideals and values, and that it disregards the importance of family and community in Nigerian society.

They believe that this type of marriage promotes individualism at the expense of communal responsibilities.

Cultural and religious perspectives on this type of marriage

The cultural and religious perspectives on “Marriage by Ordinance” vary in Nigeria.

While some communities see it as an infringement on their customs, others consider it a way to adapt to modern society.

In predominantly Muslim regions, where Islamic law governs marriage, there is often resistance to this type of marriage.

Similarly, Christian religious groups in Nigeria have expressed concerns about “Marriage by Ordinance” challenging their belief in the sacrament of marriage.

They argue that it undermines the sacredness of marriage and opens the door for deviations from religious teachings.

Efforts to reform or amend the existing legal framework

In light of the controversies surrounding “Marriage by Ordinance,” there have been efforts to reform or amend the existing legal framework.

Advocates for change believe that the law should reflect the diverse cultural and religious practices in Nigeria.

One proposed reform is to allow for the recognition and acceptance of customary marriages as legally valid.

Ensuring the legal system respects and integrates traditional practices.

Additionally, there have been calls for stricter regulations and guidelines to prevent abuse and exploitation within marriages conducted under “Marriage by Ordinance.”

Efforts are also underway to promote dialogue and understanding between different cultural and religious groups regarding marriage practices.

This includes engaging religious leaders, community representatives, and legal experts to find common ground and foster inclusivity.

In a nutshell, “Marriage by Ordinance” in Nigeria has encountered various challenges and controversies.

Criticisms range from its clash with traditional customs to concerns about its compatibility with religious beliefs.

However, there are ongoing efforts to reform the existing legal framework and promote dialogue among different stakeholders.

The aim is to address these challenges and create a more inclusive and culturally sensitive approach to marriage in Nigeria.


Recap of the key points discussed in the blog post

In Nigeria, “Marriage by Ordinance” refers to marriages conducted under the Marriage Act of 1914.

Specific legal provisions require a marriage certificate and mandate compliance with particular formalities for these marriages.

“Marriage by Ordinance” offers various benefits, such as legal recognition, inheritance rights, and divorce procedures.

It’s essential to note that this type of marriage is distinct from customary and Islamic marriages, which have their own unique requirements and legal implications.

Importance of understanding “Marriage by Ordinance” in Nigeria

For those planning to marry or already married under this ordinance, comprehending the legal framework is crucial.

It affects your rights and responsibilities, divorce proceedings, and inheritance.

Understanding the nuances of “Marriage by Ordinance” can safeguard your interests and promote a harmonious marital journey.

Closing thoughts

All in all, “Marriage by Ordinance” in Nigeria is a legally binding institution that offers protection and privileges.

To navigate this path successfully, consult with legal experts who can provide guidance tailored to your unique circumstances.

Your commitment to understanding the legal aspects of your marriage can contribute to a lasting, secure, and fulfilling partnership.

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