The Port Harcourt City Local Government Area of Rivers, Monday, sealed off the premises of the Federal Ministry of Interior marriage registry.
The sealing-off of the premises was to enforce a Federal High Court order issued by Justice D. E. Osiogor on December 8, 2021.
The council, in the company of representatives of the inter-governmental marriage committee, bailiff of the Federal High Court and security agencies, stormed the premises of the Federal Ministry of Interior’s marriage registry located at Railway Close, behind the defunct NITEL in Port Harcourt to enforce the court order.
The court order, sighted by Midweek Pioneer, marked FHC/L/CS/816/2018, has Eti Osa LGA of Lagos; Egor LGA of Edo; Owerre Municipal LGA and Port Harcourt City LGA of Rivers as plaintiffs.
The minister of interior, the attorney-general of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and Anchor Dataware Solutions Limited were defendants.
The secretary, Port Harcourt City Local Government, Chile-Kay Owuru Esq., said they were empowered by the law to seal the facility.
Owuru explained that the law empowered only local government councils to conduct marriages and issue certificates.
He said, “We are here alongside the inter-governmental marriage committee and the bailiff of the Federal High Court to seal up this facility because we have a court judgement ordering that the Federal Ministry of Interior and Anchor Dataware Solutions Limited have no right whatsoever to conduct marriages and issue marriage certificates under the marriage act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Marriage Act is the function of the 774 local governments as contained in the Constitution.
“So my advice to the general public is to get proper information. Those people that want to get married should approach the local government marriage registry. We have an office here where marriages are conducted by law.
“My advice to the general public is that they should discountenance that facility. They should stop going there, because by this judgement, any marriage conducted by the Federal Ministry of Interior is null and void and of no effect. It is illegal,” he added.
Owuru further said, “The proper place to conduct your marriages is the local government and the certificates would be issued to you.”
Explaining when the said court order was issued, the council scribe said, “The matter was initiated in 2018 precisely and the landmark judgement was delivered on December 8, 2021, by Justice D. E. Osiagor, who perpetually restrained the Federal Ministry of Interior from conducting marriages and issuing of marriage certificates under the marriage act.
“We know that one of the cardinal functions of the Local Government as contained in schedule 4 of the 1999 is the conducting of marriages, issue marriage certificates, even birth and death certificates.
“That is the exclusive function of the local government donated to the local government by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, but surprisingly some persons are carrying out this function.”
The lead counsel for local government councils in Nigeria and secretary general, Inter-governmental Marital Committee, Roger Adedimeji, said henceforth, any marriage conducted in the Federal Ministry of Interior in Rivers State is deemed illegal by law.
“The judgement ordered that it’s only the local government that can register all types of marriages including customary marriages and if there is anybody registering marriages apart from the local government, it is illegal and void.
“Such certificate would not be recognised, especially since the judgement was issued.”
A staff of the Federal Ministry of Interior, who identified himself as John Oloko, said the local government council touted court order was fictitious.
He stated that, “This issue of local government and the Ministry of Interior had been going on, there had been judgement on the same issue in 2014, 2016 or thereabout, which had been against them (local government.)
“Now you have a case, if the judgement did not favour you, what are you supposed to do, are you not supposed to appeal?
“They never made appeal first attempt, they never made appeal second attempt, they went to a court of same jurisdiction to take this judgement. Even the judgement they are talking about is not the entire ministry, so I am not happy at all with what is happening here today.”