By Philip Yatai and Jamila Yusuf
Kaduna, Feb. 20, 2019 A Kaduna-based legal practitioner, Mr Francis Kozah on Wednesday urged prospective couples to embrace statutory marriages because of its huge benefits.
Kozah said in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Kaduna that statutory marriages offers legal protection to partners in case of separation or death.
NNN reports that statutory marriages are conducted in court, official marriage registries or licensed worship centres.
According to him, marriages contracted through customary practices or Churches have no legal backing.
Kozah stressed that except for Islam that is protected by Sharia Law, customary and other religious marriages have no legal protection and leaves the children or either of the parents at the mercy of cultural beliefs.
“Statutory marriage supersedes customary or religious marriage because unlike customary or religious marriage, statutory marriage has a legal backing.
“It protects the interest of the children, both parents in case of divorce as well as the interest of either of the spouses or both in case of death.
“For instance, in statutory marriage, a party seeking to dissolve the marriage must prove to the satisfaction of the court that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
“Moreover, in case of dissolution of marriage, the Marriage Act provides for custody of the children of the marriage and settlement of property,” he said.
He noted that women were mostly at the receiving end when marriages breakdown or death occur, as their property and children were often taken over by relatives.
Kozah added: “Under statutory marriage, none of the couple can marry another person while the marriage is subsisting. Second marriage can only take place only when the previous one has been dissolved.
“If a person married under the act marries another person through customary law without going to court to obtain divorce from the first spouse, such a person has committed the offense of bigamy and is liable to eight years imprisonment.”
He therefore advised intending couples to ensure that they do not only contract their marriage in church or as their custom demanded, but also follow it up with a statutory marriage to get the necessary legal backing for the union.
“It’s not too late even for those who are already married either in the church or by tradition. They can still go to the registry and get married in accordance with the marriage act,” he added.
Edited by Chioma Ugboma/Maharazu Ahmed