A professional football player’s ‘customary wedding’ in Nigeria is legally valid in England and Wales, a Family Court judge has declared.
In Nigeria, ethnic groups can perform traditional marriage ceremonies based on African customs. These ceremonies are recognised in Nigerian law as ‘customary marriages’.
The 34 year-old football player was only identified in the judgment as ‘D’ but had “played for a number of well-known clubs in England and also for the Nigerian national team”. He had lived in this country since he was a child.
In 2002, he began a relationship with a woman referred as ‘N’, which lasted until 2011. During this time, the couple had four children. In January 2005, a “major event” was organised in Nigeria at which “there were no fewer than 500 people present, possibly more”. N insisted that this event was a customary wedding, and asked the family court for a declaration that the pair had legally married.
D argued that he would not get married in the middle of a football season. He claimed that if he were to wed, he would do so during the summer break. However, Mr Justice Peter Jackson rejected this line of argument. The judge said that he had no trouble believing that the “headstrong” football player would get married in such a hurried fashion.
Having examined the evidence, such as a photo album labelled “Wedding Photo Album”, Mr Justice Jackson declared that the event had not been “just a party”, but a “formal and joyful celebration”. He declared that N and D had indeed been married and ordered D to pay his wife’s legal costs.
To read N v D in full, click here.