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When a Christian may be convicted for marrying more than one wife



We live in a country where both the rich and the poor marry more than one wife and no one raises an eyelid

It is important to understand that the Christian marriage is based on monogamy.

Adam had one wife, Eve, to the exclusion of any other woman. God also made for Adam, a wife, rather than wives.

Thus polygamy is man made and influenced by a zealous desire to multiply and dominate the Earth in the agrarian era, when we depended on subsistence farming.

A marriage celebrated under the Act is therefore monogamous. It follows therefore that a person who undergoes a marriage under the Act, and whilst it subsists, contracts another marriage commits the offence of Bigamy.

It is therefore essential to support a conviction, to establish that the first marriage was valid and subsistent at the time of the second marriage.

In RV Inyang (1931) 10 NLS 33 where a person was charged with Bigamy and the prosecution tendered two marriage certificates , of the first, and second marriages, it was held that the evidence was insufficient to support a conviction because it does not establish that the first wife was alive at the time of the second marriage.

Death is an automatic dissolution to the contract of a Marriage.

It follows therefore that for the first marriage to be valid and subsisting, the spouse must be alive at the time of the second marriage.

In the case of marriage under the marriage Act and the second under Native law and custom.

It is not clear whether the offence of Bigamy can arise where the first marriage is under the Act and the second under Native Law and customs. It is clear that section 47 of the marriage Act frowns at such a practice. It is an offence punishable with five years imprisonment for a person who is married under the Native law and customs to marry another person under the Act.

However it appears that there is support that these offences under the marriage Act constitute Bigamy.

In R V princewill (1963) .

The accused person whilst a Christian married under the marriage act in 1950. He later became a Muslim and married under Islamic law which recognizes polygamy, and the second marriage look place whilst the first marriage was subsisting. He was convicted by the high court.

What happens where a man married under Native law converts to Christianity with a large number of wives who had children for him marries the youngest wife under the marriage Act as they are wont to do. What happens to the other wives? Is he guilty under the marriage Act (s. 47 and 48) for contracting a marriage under customary law and the Act?

In our society we are aware of men who travel outside the country and for one reason or the other usually connected with the issuance of Green card contract a first marriage outside the country, and a latter one with a native often under native law and Under the Act, what happens?

Our society should stop the encouragement of these double marriages. They are not justified as they have grave consequences for the spouses. What is important in a relationship is trust, and polygamy does not sustain trust. Marrying a woman with the intention to divorce her at a latter date is devious and callous. It is not expected of a gentleman to treat a woman with such disrespect.

The law and ethics of dissolution of marriages.

There are many reasons people get married. People get married because they want companionship, children and perhaps someone to take care of them. But the church will not celebrate a marriage where either couple lacks procreative ability or impotent.

Marriages in Nigeria are regulated by the matrimonial Causes Act, the customary law relating to marriage, and the marriage Act.

What is a marriage?

A Marriage is a Contract between two consenting Adults of full age to the exclusion of any other in Christian marriages under the matrimonial causes/or marriage Act.

Advantages of marriage.

1. It enables couples to have Legal sex

2. It enables couples to have legitimate children.

3. A wife can pledge her husband’s credit.

4. The right of maintenance of a wife.

5. However it does not confer on the other party the right to the each others property.

Note that under the Nigerian constitution there is no illegitimate child in so far as, he/she is recognized by the father as his child during his life time.

How do you establish that a marriage is in existence?

1. By oral evidence

2. By a certificate of marriage duly issued by an authorized person/ body

3. A Common law wife is one who cohabits with a man not her husband. Both are presumed under the law as married.

Types of marriage.

1. We have monogamous marriages under the Act or Christian marriages.

2. We also have polygamous marriages under customary or Islamic law.

Classification of marriages

Marriages can be classified as:

void, valid or voidable/ irregular.Void marriages

Marriages are said to be void if:-

1. If the marriage was contracted without the consent of either parties.

2. It is subject to affinity. A sister cannot marry a brother

3. A marriage contracted with someone already legally married.

Note that a voidable/or irregular marriage is not unlawful but merely irregular and voidable at the instance of other party.

Note that a marriage can Ab initio, from the beginning, is as if it never took place and it creates no legal rights and obligations to either party.


When people don’t love each other anymore they want out. Divorce is a legal separation of otherwise married couple. It is dissolved by the issuance of a decree Nisi, which is temporary under the Act to allow for possible reconciliation and later where there is no reconciliation, a decree absolute is Issued.

Conditions for granting a Divorce.

Under the matrimonial causes Act, it appears that there is only one ground for getting a divorce – that the petitioner has to prove that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

However on closer look it is clear that the petitioner has to establish some grounds for the divorce known as offences under the Act.

Such offences include;

Adultery, cruelty, , impotence etc.

However a single case of cruelty, or adultery, is not sufficient to grant dissolution of marriage from the rash of decided cases.

It appears that the petitioner has to prove that in addition to the offence e.g. of Adultery, that he/she finds it intolerable to continue to live with the respondent

Thus to establish the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, the petitioner has to show that he/she finds it intolerable to continue to live together with the respondent for any of the offenses that are grounds for the dissolution of marriage. Under Muslim law, it is sufficient for the person seeking dissolution to repeat before witnesses, “I divorce you” three times, for adultery which is established by eyewitnesses.

Under customary law, it is usually by the instance of either party who affirms “A nu ma luwa” and returns the Bride price or Dowry as the case maybe.

Where a woman is not divorced before contracting another marriage, under Igbo customary law, the second marriage is not valid and every child born to that marriage belongs to the first husband.

In whatever circumstance Adultery is not advisable where there are children born to the couple who are subjected to the trauma of a broken home.

Only in rare Circumstance does the church approve of dissolution of marriage.



The Legitimacy of Children Born out of wedlock



The Legitimacy of Children Born out of wedlock


The birth of a Child should be a thing of Joy under the right circumstances but people make wrong choices or are misguided. Sometimes, children are born out of wedlock by acts of Rape and even incest. The phenomenon of teen pregnancy and child mothers remains a horror of the present times. These children are stigmatized and labeled, illegitimate or bastards and denied rights.
Is that fair and not repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience?

Who is a Bastard?

Starting on a good note, No one is a bastard under the Nigerian constitution. This has not always been the case though.
Under the old rules of common law, then, applicable in Nigeria, a child born outside wedlock is deemed a bastard and has no right whatsoever against his Biological parents. He is infact regarded and stigmatized as fillius Nullius, a stranger to the law, his relatives, and lacking basic legal rights and illegitimate in accordance with the law, in, contradistinction with a person born legitimately, under wedlock or 280 days after a decree absolute.

The Law:

The law is an Ass, some say. Here, I intend to praise it.
In the early period of our legal development, this cannot be less true in our tri- legal pluralism with its daunting conflicts of law situations. In recent times, our legal system has, seemly, reformed itself, in varied processes of re-socilialzation and public policy reforms.
Under our old laws, deeply influenced by the English marriage Act, a child born out of wedlock is simply put, illegitimate or a bastard.

This social stigmatization still exists today in varied forms and very difficult to eradicate especially where there’s something to share.

The 1999, constitution as amended under section 42{2} which is a reenactment of section 39 [2] of the 1979 constitution, provides- “That no Citizen of Nigeria shall be subject to any disability or discrimination by reason of Birth.”

The effect of this provision is that a child born out of wedlock can be legitimated by the putative father by subsequent marriage, or acts of acknowledgement during his life time. Such acts includes, paying for his maternity Bills, conducting his naming ceremony or acknowledging him in the content of a letter.

This is known as the process of legitimation which avails him succession rights in the share of the estates of the deceased. See the decisions in Cole V Akinyele [1960] SCNLR 192, Taylor V taylor [1960] LLR286

The Pith and substance of legitimacy relies on valid marriages but legitimation relies on acts of acknowledgements by the putative father.

Let it be noted here, on marriages, that couples who undergo traditional marriages and have church weddings thereafter without both parties going through the processes of validation under the Act are entitled only to a church Blessing unless such a Church is licensed to process and validate Marriages; otherwise a couple, cannot claim that their marriage is monogamous or subject to succession rights of a Licensed Christian Marriage, under the Act.

A marriage is a contract which creates rights, duties and succession rights under a written law where it is conducted under the Act. It creates the issues of illegitimacy and legitimation in the backdrop of succession rights.

There’s a presumption of polygamy, for marriages conducted under Native laws and customs. If the Man has children outside the marriage, those children are not illegitimate under the present 1999 constitution nor are you entitled to claim that your marriage is to the exclusion of any other unless you took steps to validate it under the Act.

Surprisingly, the average Nigerian, marries thrice and in three venues, and at various times, to the same woman-[1] under native law and custom [2] Under the Act [3] Church solemnization.

The Society: Nigerian law has made giant strides often through legislative and judicial activism but more need to be done. Our Domestic laws need to be strengthened by ratified international treaties against discriminations against children especially the Girl child.

These global initiatives to eliminate stigmatization and discrimination against children have their challenges. Section 17[5] of the American Convention on Human rights which provides against discrimination for children, is a good example.

There are helpful international treaties on human and property rights which Nigeria is signatory to but the problems of ratification and domestication remains its daunting challenges. See Abacha v Gani Fawehinmi [2006] 6 NWLR pt 666 at 238
Re-socialisation and public policy reforms are on the right path with women and legitimated children, allowed to inherit their father’s properties in recent developments.

In Igbo land teenage and female pregnancies are no longer rare. Even daughters are staying back to have male kids for their fathers. These children grow with new challenges and are subjected to many social discriminations and stigmatization. Many acquire alarming special skills in armed robbery and quite a fewer number become responsible.

The Biological fathers arising from these seemly undesired pregnancies should take responsibility for their acts and go with the baby who should be given the sense of belonging from birth. Modern DNA testing would be helpful.

The time has gone when we say, “If the father doesn’t comply with traditional obligations on Marriage, he can’t have the child.” Let the child go to his father before you raise a monster with your hands that will trouble and torment your family for ages.

This does not prevent the girl’s family from helping out or even accommodating the growing child who bears his or her father’s name.

Less emphasis should be placed on Bride Price and Marriage lists. They should be outlawed as chatelization and enslavery of women.


In my view and in the view of a court, there are no illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents. See In Re Estate of Woodward [1964]40 Cal Rptr, 781,784 per Yankwich J.
That says it all.

The End.

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The task before the New Attorney General Imo State



The task before the New Attorney General Imo State

The Breath of Democracy is the rule of law, due Process and Justice and the Attorney General, the chief law Officer of a State whom the Supreme court described as “a god “ in obvious exaggeration, in AMAEFULE V STATE[ 1988] 2 NWLR[PT75]156 is held accountable for the legal developments.

The Attorney General of Imo State is not a mere Lawyer but the Chief Legal Officer that represents the state. He is also seen as the commissioner for Justice. His duty includes the responsibility to ensure that the laws of the state are uniformly enforced from his office situate at the ministry of Justice.

By virtue of section 195 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, the office of the Attorney General is provided for by the Apex legislation in the following words, “There shall be an Attorney- General for each State who shall be the chief law officer of the State and a commissioner for Justice of the Government of that state pursuant to the above provision.”
The Attorney General of a state is charged with the responsibility of providing legal services and support for law enforcement Agencies.

He is responsible for advising the Government on legal Matters and representing it in litigation and disputes.

The 1979 and 1989 presidential constitution created the Offices of the Attorney General to function as a chief law officer of the federation or state as a political appointment of a non civil servant in the ministry of justice.

Tobi JCA in Esokoro Vs Govt of Cross River State (1991] 4 NWLR [pt 185] 336 stated inter Alia, “The Attorney General of the state is not only the Head of the ministry of justice but also the chief legal adviser of the Government. He is basically responsible for Government actions and inactions.”

The Attorney General is seen as the supreme Law Officer who is not subject to controls and as law Unto Himself in view of his Powers of Nolle Prosequi , leading the Supreme Court to declare in State Vs Ilori ( 1985 )2 SC 155 on the exercise of the Powers of Nolle Prosequi, that the Attorney General’s Power, “is no doubt a great ministerial responsibility coupled with grave responsibility”

While In AG OGUN STATE V EGANTI [1986 ] 3 NWLR [pt28] 256 the CA held that the powers of the Attorney General Under the constitution cannot be challenged successfully or rather unchallengeable as the exercises of his powers cannot be reviewed by courts.
These decisions clearly demonstrate the awesome roles and grave responsibility attached to the office of a State Attorney General.

There are many problems facing Imo State in which the strategic and systemic response of the chief Law officer of the state who represents and advises the State government is vital for the development of the rule of law, due process and the machinery of administration of Justice.

One of the vital issues which the new Attorney General should advise the Government is on the necessity for the conduct of free and fair elections in the 27 Local Government Areas of the state to drive growth and development at the grassroots.

Indeed Section 7 of the 1999 constitution provides for Local Government Area administration by “duly elected Councilmen”

It therefore follows that the extended use of the Caretaker Transition Chairmen for Local Government Areas may lead to the stultification of local Government administration.

At this early stage, of the government, grasping with the realities on ground, the use of the LGA transition Teams across the 27 local Government may not be out of order pending the provisions of logistics, training, staffing, equipping of the Imo State Independent Electoral Commission to prepare adequately the conduct of free and fair local government Elections across the state.

Another point in focus, is that while preceding administrations’, purportedly enter into joint partnership projects with LGAs across the state, which denied the counties of needed resources to drive grass root growth, Local Government Councils, often lacked control and fiscal autonomy with respect to the disbursements and control of their allocations which has undermined growth.

The new Attorney General should help to bring about real autonomy for the LGAs across the state.

Further the appointment of revenue agents with private accounts to collect at undisclosed commission, LGA charges, taxes and sources of revenue like, Business Premises, Permits, environmental charges, has placed local governments across the state with no revenues to discharge their statutory functions and their Staff redundant.

For instance Refuse disposal is a key function of Local Government Areas. However the State ENTRACO charges from the centre are undermining Local Government revenues and administrations in that regard by depriving them of the sources of their revenues.
State Revenue agents are dragging Business Proprietors before Kangaroo Courts to pay unreasonable charges which end in private Pockets.

This advisedly, must come to an end under the present dispensation. The courts must not be used to further illegality.

The State has no business with collecting local government taxes using private revenue agents unknown to our laws.

I have filed several Objections in favour of my clients in many of these systemic drains but the often expressed reason for strafing the Local Government Areas of not just their allocations and functions is because of the debt Profile of the State which runs to about N200b while keeping in view the growing liability of state cumulative Judgment debts.
This however is not an acceptable excuse for illegality.

In another development, there are at least over 678 matters pending against the state in the various courts with cumulative damages of N42b against Imo state.
The state is under a torturous debt burden that is undermining growth. This requires a legal and political solution.

What are the better responses to these costly escalating litigations?
The new Attorney General should seek alternative dispute resolutions to resolve these pending issues where possible.

There are varied orchestrated issues arising from employment, Labour, wrongful appropriations of private lands and non remittances of compensations to persons whose properties were wrongfully acquired and demolished without due process as provided under the Land Use Act.

The tasks before the New Attorney General, C.O.C. Akaolisa is a herculean one but given his drive, intelligence, loyalty, doggedness, and lawyerly disposition, obvious from his early years of practice in Orlu, and Lagos, we are hopeful that the state would be well advised on these issues, and on the need to conduct a LGA Elections within the first tenure, provide a leverage for LGA revenue drives by the LGA Authority rather than state. And find ways to seek arbitrations, of the costly, mass litigations which has bedeviled the state finances and placed the State ministry of Justice under siege.

It is Important that the Government of His Excellency Chief Senator Hope Uzodinma, abides by Court Orders and the rule of law. These are the very breath of democracy which we practice.

The new Attorney General C.O.C. Akolisa should ensure that the exercise of his vast powers is in public interests which help to drive growth, economic and legal development within the state.

The Powers of the Attorney General in Criminal and Civil Matters are enormous but which must be exercised in public interest.

The powers are not without limitations under Statutes and case law. Under
S. 174[3] of the 1999 constitution states that “In the exercise of his Power in criminal matters, the Attorney General shall have regard to Public interest, the interest of justice and the need to prevent the abuse of the legal process.”

One of such abuses of court processes are the uses of illegal revenue Courts by the state to deprive LGAs of their revenues.

While the AG cannot take dictations from anybody he is expected to be comported in the spirit of the law for state interest.

In ATTORNEY GENERAL OF KADUNA STATE V HASSAN Irekefe JSC stated plainly, “The Exercise of the Powers vested in the AG under the section cannot be mechanical or automation approach, particularly in a situation where issues of high state policy are involved, which could require it to be balanced one way or another before action is taken.”
There is a great expectation in the Air because of the new Attorney General and his known devotion to the letters of the law.

We are hopeful that the onslaughts against the rule of law, reckless disregard for court orders without adherence to due process will be for Imolites, things of the past.
We are hopeful that arbitrations with litigants would be an option in legal disputes. We expect that the Government would embrace the rule of law, human rights, respect private property right and uphold fiscal responsibility and political openness in which the state is respected for its justice administration rather than mocked for its failures to uphold fairness to the poor and citizenry, often the first causalities in legal and political collusions.

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Steps to take before buying a property



The task before the New Attorney General Imo State

Every day we hear of People been defrauded in Land transactions. The reason for this is not farfetched. The Buyer has not consulted a lawyer for the appropriate Search. The buyer often tries to avoid the payment of legal fees. Such persons are prepared to pay Estate agents 10% Commissions but least prepared to secure their purchases by appropriate searches and documentations.

Often times the absences of lawyers is part of an elaborate ploy to dupe the unsuspecting buyer.

They will say to the Buyer, “we don’t need a lawyer to mess things up. In fact I have a lawyer who can prepare the Deed for you for ten thousand Naira or you find him something!” They minister to his greed that way. It takes years sometimes, before he finds out about the scam or the registered encumbrances attached to property. Much like Penny wise Pounds foolish.

The only remedy may be an elongated litigation.

Using the police cannot be of much help in establishing title.

Once the accused Person raises dispute as to title or impinges on the integrity of title of the Buyer, the police have to hands-off in the absence of a confessional Statement.

Much of the cases in our various Police Stations have issues of title to land which are obscured by clever criminalization vide petitions alleging such offences like threats to life and Conduct likely to cause the breach of public Peace.
This cannot resolve the issues of title.

So what are the steps to be taken before you make that land or property investment?
The first step is to conduct a search at the lands registry through your lawyer, if the land is the subject of a registered Deed, conveyance, Assignment, sub lease, or Certificate of occupancy.

Such a search may reveal the existence of a registered charge, lien, or encumbrances.
In which case, the Buyer should not buy or at least, ensure that the charges and or encumbrances are considered or discharged when considering the adequate value for the property. However where such encumbrances impinge on the legal and beneficial title to the property, the client should be advised to withdraw forthwith.
Often times, the properties sought to be sold may have been used as collateral for a loan which the buyer only becomes aware of after purchase. In such situation, there’s little he can do because he is presumed to be aware of such encumbrances subject to the rules of disclosure.

The purpose of a search is to establish the root of title or in a simple term, a trace of how the seller acquired the legal and beneficial ownership of the Property which he seeks to sell. In most cases, the property may have been inherited as an ancestral property, with evidence of long possession.
Where the Seller, acquired ownership through a purchase, there would be evidence of purchase receipts, conveyance, Survey, Governor’s Consent or certificate of occupancy under a Statutory grant.
We shall consider in this section, documentary evidence of title. In later discourse we shall look at the legal ways and means of proving title in court.
The following are the Documents that you are required to demand while considering a purchase of Property-

1. Purchase Receipt –
This is the first Document which evidences that the property the subject of the demise has been paid for and by extension an evidence of title or sort, short of a conveyance.

2. Deed of Assignment
A registered Deed of assignment is a conveyance and a good title under the Land Use Act which entitles the Holder to 99 years lease under the Land Use Act subject to renewal. Section 2 of the Conveyancing Act 1881 defines a conveyance to include any Assignment, Appointment, lease, settlement, and other assurances to surrender title. It may take the form of a mortgage, Assent, lease, vesting declaration other than a Will.

3. Power of Attorney –
A power of Attorney is a delegation of Authority to deal with land. It is not really considered as a good root of title but often used in the South east where it is made irrevocable. It is better in my view to execute a Deed of Conveyance rather than a Power of Attorney. In Imo state, a Government Policy made it non registrable in pursuance of a C of O.

4.Survey Plan –  
A registered Survey is a delineation of a land or parcel thereof. It accordingly states the Owner and location of the land in clear delineations.

5. Excision –
This means that the property the subject of sale is free of Government acquisition and largely determines the owner in consequence thereof.

6. Gazette –
It is a declaratory and confirmatory government publication in favour of a beneficial owner.

7. Governor’s Consent

Subject to the Land Use Act, any transfer of land or property is subject to the prior authenticated consent of the Governor of a state before a transfer of title in theory. This is preparatory to obtaining a certificate of occupancy. Where a C of O has not been obtained, or pending, a Governor’s consent to dispose of interest in land is a good root of title.

8.Certificate of Occupancy –
A certificate of Occupancy is a statutory affirmation of title over land issued by a state Government. The Occupant is Assigned a leasehold of 99 years. Any conveyance of the unexpired residue of an Assignment is called a Sub Assignment which is also a good root of Title.

The first step in obtaining a Certificate of occupancy is to obtain a registered conveyance with all stamp duties paid including the authentication of the Governor’s consent.

Registration of title:
It is very important on acquiring a Property in an Urban Area to execute a receipt of purchase Sealed by a Lawyer’s (NBA) Stamp / Seal together with a Conveyance which should thereafter should be registered at local registry. Any documentation in respect of land without a lawyer’s Seal is incompetent and not registerable.

Have you acquired any interest in property in an Urban Area? Do you have the required Documentation and registration of Title? Are you considering a search in the lands Registry? Is the land the subject of the conveyance properly delineated by a survey?
Consult your lawyer now for further explanations of steps to take to protect your land transactions and interests.

If you have any question on preparing Deeds, searches and Disputes arising from title, please feel free to call for help.


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