A coalition of Civil Society groups under the auspices of Foundation for African Heritage and the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, has rejected the new Marriage fees as announced recently by the Ministry of Interiorwhich the coalition described as discriminatory and unjust. The group, we gathered, confirmed that their views and input were not sought by the Ministry before it rolled out the new rates that it announced will be effective from July 1, 2020. Their submission is that the Ministry’s action instead of rectifying an injustice borne for many years by Christians getting married endorses it by raising the fees that should not have been charged if Christian Marriage were recognised.
The key issue that Christian Marriage is the only form of marriage in Nigeria not statutorily admitted as a legal marriage has been ignored and overlooked. They wondered why the Ministry failed to heed the memorandum and views of Christians and other well meaning democrats asking that Christian Marriage be accorded the same kind of statutory recognition given to traditional marriage, Islamic marriage and civil marriage where such marriages are recognised in their own right without the need to be validated by the Marriage Act. Failure of Govt to respond to this request, they said, means that the Government intends to continue to regard Christian marriage as invalid in Nigeria.
The Civil Society is therefore appealing to the Government to meet with Christian stakeholders to address the issue and accord Christian Marriage recognition its own right just as is done in the case of traditional marriage, Islamic Marriage and Marriage under the Act. If this is not done the effects would be discrimination against Christians where only Christians are obligated to marry according to the Marriage Act as well as marry in Church as part of their religious duty and beliefs. According to them, such rejection of Christian marriage appears deliberate and designed to task and interfere with the rights of Christians to freedom to conduct their religious obligations without reference to the Govt. “it is essentially contrary to the principles of justice enshrined in our Constitution as well as in the United Nations charter of human rights which underscores the right of persons to their religious obligations and duties,” they stressed. In the new rate recently announced by the Ministry of Interior titled “Downward Review of fees for Services Related to Conduct of Statutory Marriages,” the rate of issuance of fresh marriage license to a place of Public Worship was scaled down from N30,000 of for 2 years to N6,000 per year, payable for 5 (five) years in the first instance.
Fees for Renewal of Marriage License by a place of Public Worship was moved from N30,000 yearly to N5000 per year, payable for 3 years at each instance. Similarly, Statutory Ordinary Marriage fee was reviewed downward from N21,000 to N15,000 only, while Statutory Special License fee was scaled down from N35,000 to N25,000 only. Our source at CAN revealed that the Christian umbrella body has already reached out to the leadership of the National Assembly to express their displeasure over the development. Another member of the Civil Society, echoed the position of the group that the marriage rates appear to be mainly targeted at Christians. “Marriage in Church is part of our religious life. To make us pay a fee and tax our Church building when all we do is to marry according to our religious belief. This is designed to hamstring our religious freedom and interfere with our fundamental human rights to freedom of religion and religious worship.” Our demand is simple. Government should recognize Christian Marriage in its own rights as other marriages have been recognized in their own rights and under their own jurisdiction.”