Short Analysis of the Law of Consanguinity and Affinity

Section  33(1)  of  the  Marriage  Act  provided  that;  parties  to  the statutory  marriage  must  not  be  within  the  prohibited  degrees of  consanguinity  of  affinity.  Under  this  statute,  a  marriage  is prohibited  if  the  woman  is,  or  has  been,  the  main's descendant,  ancestress,  sister,  father's  sister,  mother's  sisters, brother's  daughter,  sister's  daughter.  And  reverse  position applies  to  a  man.
In most system of customary law in Nigeria the prohibited degrees of consanguinity for marriage are much wider than those applicable to marriage under the Marriage Act. Usually, minor lineages are exogamous. But where major lineages are widely dispersed, exogamy tends to be inconvenient and burdensome and is modified by reducing the scope of the prohibited degree of consanguinity. On the other hand, village exogamy exists in various communities in Nigeria. Sometimes this extends to a group of villages. The general rule in some areas of the country is that marriage is forbidden between persons who are related by blood, no matter how remote the relationship is.
This rule obtains among the Ibos, Yorubas, Ijaws and Itsekiris. Once blood relationship can be traced between the parties, most systems of customary law prohibit their marriage. Sometimes, where the blood relationship is quite distant and not directly traceable, intermarriage may be allowed after the performance of sacrifices of expiation. Such sacrifices are regarded as severing the relationship, thus leaving the parties free to intermarry. With regard to affinity, customary law in many parts of Nigeria prohibits the marriage of a man with persons to whom he is related through marriage. For instance, it may constitute an abomination for a man to marry his wife's sister, either as a second wife or after the death of his first wife.
Generally such marriage, though not expressly prohibited, is not approved by the families of either the man or the woman, the major reason for this being their reluctance to put all their eggs in one basket. Again, on the death of a married man, his adult sons may "inherit' his wife or wives, but not of course their own mother. It is often possible too for a father to 'inherit' his deceased son's wife.

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