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A Clergy Cannot Wed People In A Different Church From His

A Clergy Cannot Wed People In A Different Church From His

A Clergy Cannot Wed People In A Different Church From His. Daily Law Tips (Tip 618) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LL.M, ACIArb(UK)

There are two types of marriages in Nigeria. There are Traditional Marriage (also known as native, local and customary marriages) and English Marriage (court, statutory, church and white marriages). Both marriages are valid, lawful and legal in Nigeria with different benefits, rights and duties. English marriage is one man to one woman but traditional marriage is one man to more than one wife. Each type of marriage has processes and procedures for conducting and performing it, for it to be valid.

English marriage in any part of Nigeria is regulated by a federal law that has been in existence since 31 December 1914. The federal law is known as the Marriage Act. Among the requirements for a valid English Marriage is where it was conducted and the powers of the officiating minister/clergy to conduct such marriage. Following the provisions of the federal law (the Marriage Act), where a church is a licensed place for celebration of marriage, it is only the recognised minister of the church that can wed people in the church.

Hence, for example, it will be illegal for a catholic priest to wed a couple in an Anglican Church. You cannot borrow your special pastor to go to another church and wed you there. However, there is nothing in law that prohibits such borrowed clergy from participating as a mere assistant or part of a team but not as the main or officiating clergy.

So, first of all, the church building must be a licensed place of worship and the officiating minister/clergy must be a recognised clergy of the religious group, church, denomination or body that owns the licensed place of worship. Also, it must be according to the rites or usages of marriage observed in such church, denomination or body. This is the reason marriage patterns, forms or practises differs in churches and religious groups. Like some religious groups will not allow new couples to kiss in church or the bridegroom to see the bride before the wedding or for the couple to recite “for better for worse” rather “for better for best” or allow the newly wedded to leave without raising financial contributions from their guests for the religious body.

Above all, a valid English marriage in a licensed (place of worship) church must start from the Registry of Marriages and end up in church, with the church issuing a government approved marriage certificate. Any other certificate produced by the church itself is just a surplus. The valid and most needed certificate of marriage is the one titled “certificate of Marriage” with the Coat of Arm of Nigeria on top of it and following phrases written on top of it; “Federal Republic of Nigeria”, “The Marriage Act”, “Section 24”, “Form E-First Schedule” among other things. Not all religious centers and churches are licensed place of worship and with powers to conduct marriage. The license is issued building per building and not just for all the branches and buildings of a religious body. It is your right to demand for proof of license from any church ahead of your marriage plans.


1. Sections 1, 2, 21 and 24 of the Marriage Act, 1914.

2. The Court of Appeal’s judgement in the case of MOTOH v MOTOH (2010)LPELR-8643(CA)










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