Appeal Court Nullifies Restraining Order on Marriage Registrations by Local Governments

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Appeal Court Nullifies Restraining Order on Marriage Registrations by Local Governments
Court of Appeal Affirms Government’s Right to Conduct Marriage Registrations

In a recent legal development, the Court of Appeal in Lagos has overturned the judgment of the Federal High Court that restrained the federal government from conducting marriage registrations within certain local government councils across the country.

The lawsuit, marked FHC/LS/CS/816/18, was filed by Eti Osa Local Government Area (LGA) of Lagos State, challenging the Ministry of the Interior’s authority to operate marriage registries, conduct weddings, and issue marriage certificates.

Joining Eti Osa LGA as plaintiffs were Egbor LGA of Edo State, Owerri Municipal LGA of Imo State, and Port Harcourt City LGA of Rivers State.

On December 8, 2021, Judge Daniel Osiagor of the Federal High Court agreed with the plaintiffs, recognizing the statutory empowerment of local governments to perform weddings and issue certificates. As a result, the high court judge restrained the Minister of Interior, along with his privies, agents, or delegates, from conducting further marriage registrations under the Marriage Act, Cap. M6 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN), 2004, within the aforementioned local government areas.

However, dissatisfied with the ruling, the Ministry of Interior promptly appealed the decision, leading to the recent judgment by the Court of Appeal on August 2.

The three-member panel of the Court of Appeal unanimously held that both federal and local government councils possess the legal authority to celebrate, contract, and register marriages between prospective couples. They emphasized that no tier of government should have an exclusive monopoly on conducting marriages.

In their ruling, the panel stated, “I am, therefore, of the considered view that the restriction imposed by the lower court directing the 1st Cross Respondent to only conduct, celebrate, and contract marriages in the marriage registries situated at Ikoyi, Lagos, and Federal Capital Territory Abuja is wrong and erroneous.”

This ruling by the Court of Appeal effectively nullifies the restraining order previously issued by the Federal High Court and reaffirms the authority of both federal and local government councils to facilitate marriage registrations throughout the country.

The legal battle has drawn attention to the intricate power dynamics surrounding marriage registrations and signifies a significant judicial pronouncement on the matter. As this ruling sets a precedent, it is expected to have far-reaching implications for future cases involving the allocation of responsibilities between different tiers of government in Nigeria.

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