• Four LGAs fault FG’s counter affidavit
By Davidson Iriekpen
A Federal High Court in Lagos will today begin hearing in a suit challenging the constitutionality of Ikoyi Marriage Registry and other registries being operated by the federal government through the Ministry of Interior across the country.
The suit, filed before Justice Rilwan Aikawa by Eti-Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State alongside others, seeks an order to enforce an earlier court judgment delivered in 2004 which restrained the Ministry of Interior from conducting marriages.
Aside Eti-Osa, other plaintiffs in the suit are Egor Local Government Council of Edo State; Owerri Municipal Local Government Area of Imo State; and Port Harcourt City Local Government Area of Rivers State, while the two defendants representing the federal government are Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau; and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN).
Malami in a counter-affidavit, argued that the plaintiffs failed to disclose any cause of action to initiate and maintain the suit as constituted and conceived, and urged the court to dismiss it.
The AGF, through his lawyer, Mrs. Maimuna Shiru, is specifically contending that the provisions of the Marriage Act did not in any way confer the exclusive authority on the plaintiffs to contract, celebrate and register marriages, adding that the suit was a mere academic exercise, which raised hypothetical questions.
“In this suit, the plaintiffs having not disclosed any cause of action, this honourable court should dismiss the suit as lacking in merit, malicious and vexatious,” the AGF argued.
Replying, the plaintiffs through their team of lawyers – Roger Adedimeji, Adedayo Oluyide and Olakunle Ajala, faulted the submission of the AGF, describing it as an attempt to make the court make another pronouncement on an issue that had earlier been determined by another court.
According to them, “It is trite law that judgment of this honourable court is valid and binding on all the parties until set aside by the Appeal Court. We hereby urge this Honourable Court to dismiss the counter affidavit of the 2nd defendant (AGF) and grant the plaintiffs’ prayers as contained in the application.”
According to the matter, the plaintiffs are urging the court to order the Ministry of Interior to hand over to them all the marriage certificates it had been issuing in the federal marriage registries in their respective jurisdictions since the 2004 judgment was delivered.
They also requested the court to direct the ministry to remit to them all the fees it had collected from all the couples who had been joined in the federal marriage registries in their respective local government areas.
Also, the plaintiffs want the court to seal off all the federal marriage registries managed by the Ministry of Interior in their jurisdictions and further restrain the ministry from operating the entities.
According to them, in the June 8, 2004 judgment, which they are seeking to enforce, Justice Oyindamola Olomojobi had declared that the conduct of marriage was an exclusive preserve of the local government council.
They urged Justice Aikwa to determine whether in view of Justice Olomojobi’s judgment, “this honorable court can grant a perpetual injunction restraining the 1st defendant himself and/or either by his privies, agents, officers and/or delegates from contracting marriages as required to be done by the plaintiffs’ registrar under Section 27 and/or other relevant section(s) of the Marriage Act, Cap M6 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.”