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Online marriages should be made acceptable – Lawyer

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A LAGOS-BASED lawyer, Spurgeon Ataene, has said that celebration of marriages virtually or electronically should become acceptable following the COVID-19 pandemic.

  He said that although the procedure was not envisaged by the provisions of the Matrimonial Causes and Rules, its practice should be adopted to enable individuals to get married amid COVID-19.

  According to reports, following the COVID-19 pandemic, various outlets have devised means of carrying on their activities online in a bid to maintain social distancing.

  Also, following governments’ ban on public and religious gatherings, some marriages pre-scheduled to hold on various dates are now stalled.

  Recently, the National Judicial Council (NJC) introduced the concept of virtual court proceedings and issued guidelines to be adopted by all courts in Nigeria as part of its effort to mitigate the spread of the virus.

  In the same vein, some lawyers are canvassing celebration of virtual/online marriage.

  Mr Ataene noted that the concept of virtual/online marriages was novel, but said that circumstances had made it necessary.

  “Marriages conducted virtually or electronically are not conjectured by the Matrimonial Causes Act and Rules, but it can be adopted considering prevailing circumstances.

  “However, the most important things to look out for before entering into marriage and which should also be the concern of those involved, must remain the principal focus.

  “Whether marriages are to be conducted virtually or physically, the most important factors must be in place.

  “Both persons must be of sound mind, they must be of age, their consent must be given, and in Nigeria, the union must be between a man and a woman,” he said.

  According to the lawyer, once the conditions are met, an official in any designated position empowered to conduct marriages can proceed with it whether electronically or virtually.

  “The important thing is that the marriage is between two consenting adults, who have also consented to virtual or electronic marriage,” he said.

  Mr Ataene said that while the place or venue for the ceremony might not be an issue, it would be instructive for parties to document such marriage proceedings to avoid denials.

  “Witnesses should also be virtually present at the ceremony, so they could testify in the event of dispute.

  “Once the conditions necessary for a marriages to take place are met, the said marriage should be valid whether the parties are physically or electronically present,” he said.

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