Most marriages conducted in religious houses in Nigeria could be deemed illegal as the Federal Government has disclosed that most worship centres conducting marriages in the country lack the license to do so under the statutory Marriage Act.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Interior, Barr. Georgina E. Ehuriah stated this Wednesday in Abuja while speaking at a one-day stakeholders’ conference on conduct of statutory marriages in accordance with the Marriage Act cap, M6, LFN 2004 as amended.
“At present, only about 4, 689 licensed places of worship in Nigeria have updated their records with the Ministry of Interior, of which only 314 have renewed their licenses.
“The implication of this is that marriages conducted in unlicensed places of worship are not in line with the Marriage Act and cannot serve legal purposes when the need arises, and such unlicensed places of worship are operating contrary to Section 6(1) of the Marriage Act,” she said.
According to her, the decision to organize the stakeholders’ conference was necessitated by the ministry’s experience in the discharge of its duties “which pointed to the fact that there are extant issues which require the joint attention of key stakeholders”.
She added that while the ministry was already building a database of all statutory marriages conducted in Nigeria, it had also developed a database of all places of worship licensed for celebration of marriages, urging stakeholders to take advantage of the Conference to discuss the major challenges they face in complying with the provisions of the Act.
The Permanent Secretary said she had already put in place machinery to kick start the process for the amendment of the Marriage Act to adequately meet the needs of citizens in the 21st century. “Also, arrangements are on-going to give couples whose certificates were not issued in line with the Act the opportunity to bring them to conformity”.
Earlier, Director, Citizenship and Business in the ministry, Mr. Stephen Okon had said the conference was scheduled to hold in three major cities across the geo-political zones, adding that it would provide an avenue to educate the public and create awareness on the key requirements of the Marriage Act while also drawing the attention of stakeholders and the general public to the consequences of non-compliance with the Marriage Act.
After 10 years, the truth of the lie that destroyed my life – My story
I looked up, and my world came to a screeching halt. There he was, the man who destroyed my trust. I had told myself I would not be overcome by emotions, I would control the tears. I would look him in the eyes and curse him, nothing would betray what was underneath, that I would be cold – the same way he had been when he first left me. I had gone over this meeting so many times in my head, I had played five hundred and ten scenarios and I was well equipped to come out victorious in all, to twist a knife in his heart.
I just hadn’t been prepared to actually see him.
I tried to control my breath. I couldn’t afford to look ridiculous in front of him. But by God, he was as dashing as ever. He wore a simple shirt on his faded jeans and had his hands tucked into his jean pockets. I noted with satisfaction that the years had taken their toll, however slight the signs were. He had gone a bit soft in his belly and he had strings of white in his beards.
I straightened and remembered to smile coldly. “Kayode, It’s been a while.” After a brisk handshake, I pulled my hand away and he sat down, looking as uncomfortable as ever. He ordered a drink for himself after I declined. I wanted to talk to him with a straight head. As soon as his order came, I went all business.
“Why did you want to see me?”
He sighed and leaned on the table. I leaned away in response.
“I want you back, Remi.”
My head was a blur of wires. I wanted to think I hadn’t heard correctly. He wanted me back? How dare he sit there as if nothing happened and make demands? After all these years, he wanted me back?
“Interesting.” I couldn’t keep the acid from my tone.
“There are some things I wish I had understood in the past…things I understand after we spoke. Please, give me a chance to explain.”
I narrowed my eyes at the plea in his tone. The reasonable part of me insisted we hadn’t come for explanations, we were here to say our 10-year-old piece and leave. But the curious side won the battle in the end. I needed to understand why.
Why he left, why he had abandoned me, why, why, why.
When I didn’t reply, he took the cue and began talking.
“Twelve years ago, if there is anything I was sure about, it was that I loved you with all my heart.” Kudos to him for ignoring my icy glare, as he continued without batting a lid. “My plan was to come to Lagos and make enough money to bring you over. As soon as I left the village, a friend introduced me to a man, Dr. Onakpa, who gave me a job while I struggled through school. He was a widower and had a striving business. I lived in their quarters while I shuffled between school and work. His daughter, Memuna, eventually took a liking to me.”
I visibly stilled at the mention of that name. I knew her. I knew that woman.
“You see, I was never attracted to Memuna and I made it clear from the start. I told her I was already promised to someone in the village, but she continued to insist on a relationship. A few months after I started working with her father, he became gravely ill. When he expressed his desire for me to run his business in case he died, I was shocked since I had only been with him for three months. But eventually, I honored his request.”
As much as I was itching to ask some questions, I didn’t want to rub off as overly curious. It took a lot of effort to swallow my questions back as he continued.
“You are probably wondering why me and not his daughter?” I hated how he could still read my body language, so I said nothing. “Well simply put, he felt she was irresponsible. Memuna was always running into debts and expressed no interest in what funded her extravagant lifestyle. She was, unfortunately, his only child.” His face took a pained expression as if he remembered something sad, but he shook it off and continued.
“I couldn’t let his business crumble, so I took it over after his death. Four months later, as soon as I had enough money, I moved out of the quarters and got my own apartment. I was preparing to come back to the village as soon as the papers for the company was complete.”
He held my gaze. “I was going to bring you to live with me.”
“A day before I was supposed to go to the village, I stopped over at Dr. Onakpa’s house and the security told me a pregnant woman had come looking for me, and she’d told him her name was Remilekun. When I questioned Memuna, she told me you had asked her for money for an abortion, and insisted you didn’t want to see me. She said she fulfilled your wish, and you left in a hurry.”
And finally, my heart truly stopped. An abortion? She lied that I requested for money? The tears came rushing then as I saw the walls of the so-called truth I had built all around me, crumbling into clouds of dust, filled with manipulation.
Kayode reached out and tried to hold my hands, I brushed his hands away and wiped my face. “Go on.” I needed to hear this. He eyed me for a moment before be continued. This time, twisting his hands around nervously.
“I refused to believe Memuna, so I left that very day, without thinking. It was too late to make it early and I was ambushed on the road by thieves and eventually spent a week in a coma.”
I put down my head on the table and wept silently. If there was anything I knew about Kayode, it was the same thing the tabloids knew him for. He was an honest man. He would never lie to me. For the first time, I was hearing the true story of my own life. “When I recovered, three weeks later, I went to the village, but your parents said you had disappeared. Your friend, Ramota, confirmed your pregnancy, so I assumed the worse.”
He reached for my hands and this time, I didn’t brush him away. “I searched for you, Remi. I have been searching for a long time. I hired private investigators, I went through all the private and public hospitals I could, thinking you might have had an abortion done there. And when I still couldn’t find you, I searched the morgues. And all I had to do was go on Facebook to see you among my suggested twelve years later.”
I cried harder, my promise to be hard forgotten.
Without stopping, I told Kayode my part. From when he left our village to look for work, my flight from the village after I discovered my pregnancy, to my failed abortion with Iya Dupe’s bitter potion, and how I eventually ended up looking for him but meeting Memuna instead, who told me they were engaged and offered me money to abort my baby. I explained how I had eventually settled in Lagos and had my son.
He stilled at that.
“I’m a father?”
I brought out my phone to show him pictures and Kayode came around the table and fell to his knees in front of me, not caring he was a public figure. He hugged me close with tears in his eyes.
“Thank you, Remi. I thought you did it, after so long, I didn’t know what to believe. I can’t believe you kept our baby. Thank you, thank you.”
He started asking me so many questions. He wanted to know our son’s name, what school he was in… I pinched myself many times to be sure I wasn’t dreaming. Kayode was in front of me, he had searched endlessly for me, he wanted me back, he was asking about our son.
I started crying again.
He hadn’t abandoned me, he had been searching all those years. When he looked up at me with tears in his eyes, my emotions threatened to burst.
“Look at us, Remi, two success stories despite our past. I always thought I would make it for you, but you built a business in foreign Lagos for yourself and our son. You have given him a good life all on your own.”
I smiled as he squeezed my hands. “Forgive me, Remi. I want to get to know you again, I want to meet my son,” a tear fell from his eyes. “I want to know my family.”
I felt the last of my resistance crumble as Kayode gathered me into his arms. Years wasted, we had wasted so much time hating.
I sobbed, “I need time.”
“I have time, Remi. I won’t lose you again.”
I laughed and smiled at his words.
Oh, Remi! I still loved this man. We would start small, I still wasn’t ready to rush. I would take his advice. I would get to know the successful Kayode, and be would get to know the successful Remi.
“Would you like to pick Kunle up from school with me?”
Emotions gathered in his eyes and I saw he was holding back more tears, so I squeezed his hand.
“Yes. Yes, I would, Remi.”
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