Legal Inequality of Muslim and Christian Marriages in Nigeria: Constitutionally Established Judicial Discrimination

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This book examines religious liberty and characteristics of Christian (canonical), Islamic and Traditional marriages together with those of the Nigerian statutory marriage. The author establishes religious liberty and equality as being beneficial to both individuals and the state.


"...the reader will find a baggage of legal richness in this book as the author has authoritatively illustrated a comprehensive research on constitutional liberty and equality in religious matters with particular reference to marriage." -Professor Marcellus Okenwa Udugbor, Pontifical Urban University

This is a well-done, inspiring and interdisciplinary scholarly work. It is well constructed and written. The author has clearly laid his research problem, the theory that guides his analysis, research methodology, and limitations of the work. Adopting the phenomenological method, as a philosophical principle and a theoretical framework, Dr. Ezeanokwasa argues that the present Nigerian constitution, the highest law guiding the lives of the Nigerian religiously pluralistic society, discriminates against Christian citizens on the legal procedure for marriage. The discrimination is based on item 61 "Exclusive Legislative List of the 1999th Constitution," which makes marriages according to Islamic and customary law outside the legislative competence of the National Assembly.

Accordingly, any marriage celebrated according to the Christian canonical form, without taking into consideration the preconditions set out by the Marriage Act, is invalidated by the law and has no civil effects. On the basis of the Marriage Act, a Christian marriage will not be considered valid until the church is registered, and the parties to the marriage should have the registrar's certificate of notice or a special license before marriage. Unlike the followers of other religions, parties to Christian man-iages should also pay fees to get the certificate or the license in order to permit it. Moreover, any religious minister who officiates the marriage without permission will be liable to five years imprisonment while the marriage will be seen invalid.

Thus, the author's central question is whether the constitution equally acknowledges religious liberty to all religious entities on the Nigerian soil. Searching for an answer, the author finds that Christians, who believe---like Muslims and other religious groups-----that their marriage cases should be carried out in line with their faith, have to go through a double judicial process. This discrimination promotes religious intolerance among Nigerian people and goes against the policy of Nigeria's national integrity. The author concludes by calling on the Nigerian government to recognize marriages celebrated solely according to the Christian canonical form and to grant it the same rights awarded to Islamic and customary law marriages.

In sum, this is an excellent, well researched and documented work. I recommend it to legal scholars, particularly those who are concerned with social diversity and the law.---Hilmi M. Zawati, DCL, Ph.D., President of the International Legal Advocacy Forum

Table of Contents

Table of Cases
Table of Statutes
Abbreviations and Initials
Foreword by Professor Marcellus O. Udugbor
Statement of the Problem
Task Assumed
Limitations of the Work
Structure of the Work
Chapter One – General Notions
Chapter Two – Fundamental Bases for Religious Liberty and Equality in General
Chapter Three – Legitimate Marriage Systems Under the 1999 Constitution: Statutory Marriage
Chapter Four – Legitimate Marriage Systems Under the 1999 Constitution
Chapter Five – Christian Marriage
Chapter Six – Critical Evaluation and Conclusion
Legal Sources
Church Sources
Codes and Basic Legal Sources
Papal and Other Church Documents
General Sources
Dictionaries and Encyclopedias
Other Legal Sources and Books
Articles, Reviews, and Monograph
Names Index
Subject Index

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