Whether registration of customary marriages is required and, if so, when it began [NGA35337.E]

Reports by the Centre for Reproductive Law and Policy (CRLP), a non-profit legal and policy advocacy organization dedicated to promoting women's reproductive rights based in New York, and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), both indicate that registration is not a requirement for marriages other than except civil marriages (June 1998; n.d.).

A report produced by the Centre for Reproductive Law and Policy (CRLP) on "Women's Reproductive Rights in Nigeria-A Shadow Report," states that

There are three types of marriages--customary, Islamic and civil--in Nigeria. The rights of women vary according to the type of marriage and the region of the country. Marriages adhering to customary or civil law are valid throughout the country. In the northern states, marriages under Islamic law are legally recognized. Pursuant to customary and Islamic law, marriages may be polygamous and registration is not required.
Under customary law, marriages are arranged between families, and the prospective suitor is often required to pay a bride price to the bride's family.
Under Islamic law in northern Nigeria, the father of a woman retains the "right" (ijbar) to arrange the marriage of his daughter, regardless of her age and without her consent. Islamic law marriage involves a dowry paid directly to the women to be married. Islamic law in Nigeria permits a man to have up to four wives.
In contrast, civil law marriages must be monogamous and registered. In a civil or customary marriage, the spouses have a reciprocal duty to maintain each other as well as any children of the union. Valid civil marriages in Nigeria must be voluntarily entered into by both parties (June 1998)

A UNFPA report corroborates the above information and adds that

In Nigeria apart from formal, legal marriage, 'consensual union' is also recognised by the society but not by law. There is a vast difference between the North and the South. ... Polygamy is highly practised in the Northern region of Nigeria. It exists among all regions and all socio-economic groups, although prevalence varies (n.d).

No reports on when the registration of civil marriages began could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please see the list of additional sources consulted in researching his Information Request.


Centre for Reproductive Law and Policy (CRLP). June 1998. "Women's Reproductive Rights in Nigeria-A Shadow Report [Part 4 of 7]." (NEXIS)

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). n.d. Jaya Sagade. "Raising Female Age at Marriage: Socio-Legal Constraints and Strategies." http://www.unfpa.org.in/REPORTS/MilleniumConfer/femaleage.htm [Accessed: 31 Oct. 2000]

Additional Sources Consulted

Africa Research Bulletin.

Amnesty International Report 1999 2000. United States Department of State. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office.

Country Reports for 1999 2000

Keesing's Record of World Events.

IRB Databases

Resource Centre. Country File. Nigeria.

West Africa

Internet sites including:

All Africa

Newswatch [Lagos]

Post Express Wired