The requirements for foreigners getting married in Nigeria is provided for by the Ministry of Interiors and implemented by the Federal Marriage Registry in all States of the Federation. The Marriage Act Cap M6, Laws of the Federation 2004, and the Matrimonial Causes Rules govern marriages in general and also marriages contracted by foreigners in Nigeria.
Foreigners are allowed to marry Nigerians residents in Nigeria and also contract marriage with another non-Nigerian. Such marriage when conducted is called a Special Marriage. Special marriages are marriages between a Nigerian and a non-Nigerian or between a non-Nigerian and a non-Nigerian resident in Nigeria. Once contracted it is binding between the parties contracted in it, and for such marriage to be contracted; an application must be made to the Marriage Registry in the State where parties are located.
Upon application and payment of the prescribed fees for a special marriage, a certified Marriage Certificate will be issued to the foreigner by the Registrar.
The requirement for foreigners to contract a Special Marriage are;
- Birth Certificate or Declaration of Age of the foreigner.
- Passport photograph of the applicant.
- Indigene letter/ Letter of Identification from State of Origin (applicable only to Nigerians).
- Data page of the applicant’s international passport.
- Sworn affidavit of Bachelorhood/Spinsterhood from Court.
- Sworn affidavit of Single with Child/ Children (where applicable).
- Affidavit of marriage (if once married).
- Evidence of a divorce (where applicable).
- Evidence of annulment of a previous marriage from Court.
- Death Certificate of a previous wife or husband of the applicant.
- Residence permits of the applicant if living outside Nigeria.
- Arrival stamped page of the applicant’s international passport.
The above-listed requirements are thereafter submitted manually to the office of the Registrar of the Marriage Registry or can be uploaded on the online eCitibiz Portal of the Ministry of Interior.
Upon the successful payment of the prescribed fees of N25,000 (Twenty Five Thousand Naira), the application is made public and a 21 days’ notice is given for any objection to be raised timeously, after the expiration of the 21 days notice period, the applicants will be required to return to the marriage registry for a scheduled interview. Section 11 of the Marriage Act provides that “the Registrar, at any time after the expiration of the twenty-one days and before the expiration of three months from the date of the notice, upon payment of the prescribed fees, shall thereupon issue his certificate…, provided that he is satisfied by affidavit that-
- That one of the parties has been resident within the district in which the marriage is intended to be celebrated at least fifteen days preceding the granting of the certificate;
- That each of the parties to the intended marriage (not being a widower or widow) is twenty-one years old, or that if he or she is under that age, that the consent hereinafter made requisite has been obtained in writing and is annexed to such affidavit;
- That there is no impediment of kindred or affinity, or any other lawful hindrance to the marriage;
- That neither of the parties to the intended marriage is married by customary law to another person other than the person with whom such marriage is proposed to be contracted”.
There are other requirements required by the intending applicants to produce during the official ceremony. Such a requirement is the production of at least one witness (with no gender specification) each from both parties on the wedding day. Also, they are required to provide a set of wedding rings and a Bible or Quran.
It is important to note that it is an offence under the Marriage Act to provide false information in conducting a Special Marriage as it could lead to a legal action against the defaulting party as provided by Section 40 of the Marriage Act which states that “whenever in an affidavit, declaration, certificate, license, document or statement by law to be made or issued for the purpose of marriage, declares, enters, certifies or states any material matter which is false, shall, if he does so without having taken reasonable means to ascertain the truth or falsity of such matte, be liable to imprisonment for one year or shall if he does so knowing that such matter is false, be liable to imprisonment for five years”.
In conclusion, it is important to state that in order for a statutory marriage to be legally binding between a foreigner and a Nigerian or between two foreigners or be recognized under the Nigerian Law, such marriage must be certified by the Ministry of Interior and a certified Marriage Certificate will be issued to the foreigner once the Registrar is satisfied that the above conditions provided in Section 11 of the Marriage Act are met.
By Family Law Team at Resolution Law Firm