The Nigerian Constitution guarantees the rights to have a family life, and freedom of religion. To this end, it recognizes three forms of marriage, namely customary marriage, Islamic marriage, and statutory marriage. While statutory marriage is required to be registered by law, there is no law necessitating the registration of customary or Islamic marriages. Yet in recent times, statutory marriage has gained popularity amongst Nigerians regardless of cultural or religious affiliations. This development is linked to modernization, the requirement to prove marriage for official transactions, and a perceived protection that documentation from the marriage registry offers against socio-legal challenges such as guardianship of children, increase in interfaith marriages, immigration, protection against arbitrary divorce, etc. Thus, it is now common to find couples who may have contracted customary or Islamic marriage combining it with statutory marriage thereby giving rise to a multi-tiered or double-decker marriage which seems to have emerged as a fourth type of marriage in Nigeria.
Drawing on current literature and empirical research using qualitative methods, this study examines the systems of marriage in Nigeria while placing the spotlight on Islamic marriages that are accompanied by statutory marriage. The pattern of marriage registration among the Muslim community is investigated in order to understand its possible link with the growing popularity of multi-tiered marriage among Muslims in Nigeria. The study then reflects on the legal implication by probing potential conflict situations between certain provisions of the Marriage Act and basic ideals of Islamic law. It concludes by calling for the compulsory registration of all types of marriages in Nigeria within a unified system.