Enforceability of age limit for marriage in Nigeria

Age limit
Age limit
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Age limit



  • Definition of Terms
    • Age

Age limit: Age is defined as a span of years during which some event occurs.[1] It is also defined as the number of years something has been alive or in existence.[2] Age has also been defined as a period of time, especially one marking the time of existence or the duration of life.[3]

  • Age Limit

An age limit is the oldest or youngest age at which you are allowed under particular regulations to do something.[4] It is also defined as the age at which a person is allowed or not allowed to do something.[5]

  • Child

This word has two meanings in law: (1) In the law of the domestic relations, and as to descent and distribution, it is used strictly as the correlative of “parent,” and means a son or daughter considered as in relation with the father or mother.[6] (2) In the law of negligence, and in laws for the protection of children, etc., it is used as the opposite of “adult,” and means the young of the human species, (generally under the age of puberty,) without any reference to parentage and without distinction of sex.[7] A child also means every human being below the age of eighteen years unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.[8]

  • Child Marriage

Child marriage is a formal marriage or informal union entered into by an individual before reaching the age of 18.[9] It is also defined as any marriage of a child younger than 18 years old in accordance to Article 1 of the Convention on the Right of the Child.[10] Child marriage, defined as a formal marriage or informal union before age 18, is a reality for both boys and girls, although girls are disproportionately the most affected

  • Marriage

The legal status, condition, or relationship that results from a contract by which one man and one woman, who have the capacity to enter into such an agreement, mutually promise to live together in the relationship of Husband and Wife in law for life, or until the legal termination of the relationship.[11] Marriage is also defined as the civil status of one man and one woman united in law for life, for the discharge to each other and the community of the duties legally incumbent on those whose association is founded on the distinction of sex.[12]

  • Types of Marriages in Nigeria

There are three types of marriages legally recognized in Nigeria.

  • The Customary Marriage
  • The Civil/Statutory Marriage
  • The Islamic Marriage

1.2.1  Nigeria Customary Marriage

There are various ethnic communities in Nigeria and the various ethnic groups have their different marriage customs. There are however some generally accepted customs common to most of them which will be discussed here.

Marriage under customary law creates a relationship not only between a man and woman but also between the two families involved.[13] The wife is regarded by the members of her husband’s family as having been married not solely to her husband but into the family and therefore a member of their family.[14] The husband on the other hand is not so regarded by his wife’s maiden family, even though there exist a continuing relationship with that family.

Marriage under Customary Law is largely polygamous. A polygamous marriage is the union of one man with several wives. There is no limit to the number of wives a man can marry under customary law.[15]

After intentions to marry has been communicated between the two parties concerned and also between their respective