MRS. TAMUNOMITEIM NOLA (Nee Graham-Douglas) & ORS
DUBOYE GRAHAM-DOUGLAS & ANOR
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Duboye Graham-Douglas, for himself and as Legal Representative of the Estate of Mrs. Gladys Claudiana Douglas, contested the validity of the marriage between late Chief Donald Graham-Douglas and Mrs. Mina Derebo Graham-Douglas.
Duboye’s case was that late Mrs. Gladys Claudiana Douglas was married to her deceased husband under both the Marriage Act and later under the Customary law, while Mrs. Mina Derebo Graham-Douglas was serving the family as their housemaid but later claimed to have been impregnated by the late Chief Donald Graham-Douglas, which relationship later produced a number of children. Chief Donald Graham-Douglas however still maintained his marriage with his wife, the late Gladys Claudiana Douglas with whom he celebrated a customary marriage called “Iya” customary marriage in 1975.
Duboye claimed that, even though the late Chief later divorced Mrs. Gladys Claudiana Douglas and married Mrs. Mina under the Act, his “Iya” customary marriage in 1975, with the late Gladys Claudiana Douglas subsists.
Tamunomiteim filed a Statement of Defence and Counter Claim stating that Mrs. Mina was the second wife of Chief Donald Graham-Douglas by their marriage at the marriage Registry in Port Harcourt on 20/4/1995 which produced seven children between them.
The trial Court delivered its Judgment and found that as at the time of the purported marriage between the late Chief and Derebo, there was an existing customary marriage between the late Chief Donald Graham-Douglas and late Mrs. Gladys Claudiana Graham-Douglas. This, therefore, rendered the marriage between late Chief Donald Graham-Douglas and Derebo Graham-Douglas invalid
Dissatisfied, Tamunomiteim appealed to the Court of Appeal. One of the issues put forward on appeal was:
Whether the learned trial Judge was right when he held that Mrs. Mina Derebo Graham-Douglas was in law not the wife of the late Chief Donald Graham-Douglas.
Can a party who is married under customary law validly contract a statutory marriage with a third party?
The Court of Appeal in resolving the issue referred to the decision of the High Court, where the learned Judge cited and quoted Section 33 (1) of the Marriage Act which provides that “No Marriage in Nigeria shall be valid where either of the parties thereto at the times of the celebration of such marriage is married under Customary law to any person other than the person with whom such marriage is had.” The learned Judge of the High Court further stated that: “The above provision is very clear; it gives due respect and credence to a preexisting customary marriage. It provides no dichotomy between a marriage under the Act and under Customary Law in the sense of one being main and the other minor… In view of the clear provision of Section 33 (1) of the Marriage Act and having regard to the fact that there was an existing customary marriage between the late Chief Donald Graham-Douglas and the late Mrs. Gladys Claudiana Graham-Douglas, it is very clear that the marriage between the late Chief Donald Graham-Douglas and Derebo was invalid. That being the case, it follows that Derebo was in law, not the wife of the late Chief Donald Graham-Douglas….”
The Court of Appeal held that the decision of the High Court was well reasoned and based on the evidence before the Court and the applicable law, endorsed the findings of the learned judge of the High Court.
The Court of Appeal finding no merit in the appeal dismissed it and upheld the decision of the High Court.