The lawyer told the court that after the bailiff of the court sealed the Federal Marriage Registry, Imo State, as ordered by the court, officials of the Ministry of Interior went to unseal the facility and continued their operations.
The plaintiffs are Eti-Osa Local Government Council of Lagos State; Egor Local Government Council of Edo State; Owerri Municipal Local Government Council Imo State; and Port Harcourt City Local Government Council Rivers State.
Listed as defendants were; the Minister of Interior, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and a contractor, Anchor Dataware Solutions Limited.
In their ex parte application taken before Justice Daniel Osiagor on July 8, 2022, the plaintiffs prayed the court “for an order of committal to prison of the 1st defendant (Aregbesola), having disobeyed the order of this honourable court made on December, 8, 2021, compelling him to stop contracting federal marriage registry in the marriage district (local government councils) except the Ikoyi and Abuja Federal Marriage Registry.”
After listening to the plaintiffs’ counsel, Justice Osiagor granted leave to the four local government councils to commence committal proceedings against Aregbesola.
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos had in 2021 perpetually restrained the Nigerian government through the Minister of Interior from further contracting marriages under the Marriage Act, 2004 within four LGAs in the four states.
The four plaintiffs had dragged the defendants to the court, raising a single issue for the court to determine.
They submitted that by virtue of a 2004 judgment of the same Federal High Court delivered by Justice Oyindamola Olomojobi, particularly Section 7.1(5) and paragraph 1(i) of the 4th Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), and Section 30 (1) of the Marriage Act that “registration of marriages is the exclusive reserve of the Registrar of the Marriage District (Local Government Councils in Nigeria) and in the instant case, the plaintiff”.
They also contended that the Minister of Interior can only grant licenses (and cannot celebrate or contract marriages) which the registrar or a recognized minister of some religious denomination can act on to contract marriage between the specific persons named in the licence.