Mr Effiong said this during an interview with PREMIUM TIMES in Lagos on Thursday.
His remarks came on the heels of a recent Twitter thread where Nigerians blamed Nollywood, Instagram comedians, and celebrities for the rising cases of broken marriages, moral decadence, rituals in the society.
During the interview, the fiery lawyer, who sued the federal government over the suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria in July 2021, noted that most Nigerians have a flawed idea of divorce as most movies tend to be economical with the reality.
He noted: “There is no place in the law for spouses just to sign divorce papers and end their marriages, just like that.” He described it as a ‘legal fiction popularised by Nollywood.’
Among other issues, Mr Effiong stressed that some Nigerian filmmakers continue to make these mistakes or misrepresent facts because they ignore facts.
He said: “What this does is that the unsuspecting mind, especially the young ones, would be misled on account of the misrepresentation of reality by filmmakers. Therefore, it is important that they reflect on this and also ensure that their content is not only beneficial to the society, but it is also a true reflection of the society”.
The legal fiction of divorce
Speaking further, Mr Effiong said that while there is no empirical evidence that Nollywood movies influence the rate of divorce in Nigeria, practitioners are guilty in some areas.
“Nigerian movies make it look as if one can walk out on a marriage just by signing a paper, which in reality doesn’t happen like that,” he said.
Buttressing his point, Mr Effiong explained that the Nigerian movies are misleading people to think that a statutory marriage can just be annulled without proper legal proceedings.
He also cited examples that prove that customary marriages are not just annulled without going through the customary courts or authorities.
Nigerian divorce laws
The ‘Matrimonial Causes Act’ 1970 and the ‘Matrimonial causes Rules’ 1983, which are primarily the laws that govern matrimonial cases such as divorce, annulment, legal separation in Nigeria, state that the sole grounds for divorce in Nigeria is that the “marriage has broken down irretrievably.”
However, the Act under Section 15 (2) (a-h) and Section 16 states that the petitioner must prove specific facts upon which the grounds for dissolution of marriage can arise.
These facts are contained in eight paragraph sub-sections, which are the main reasons for the divorce, and a party seeking to divorce in Nigeria is only required to establish just one of them in court.
In Nigeria, some conditions for divorce are willfully and persistent unconsummated marriage (marriage without sexual intercourse is no marriage at all), adultery, or cruelty.
Others are abandoning the marital home without justification or the partner’s consent for seven years or intolerable acts.
Also, the partners both have to live apart for at least three years immediately preceding the case for divorce before the court can annul the marriage.
The President of the Actors Guild of Nigeria, Emeka Rollas, told our correspondent that the AGN is aware of the allegations that Nollywood is influencing divorce rates, ritual killings, and other social vices.
He, however, added that the guild would soon take a stance through his authority on the matter.
Mr Rollas said the stance of the guild would be made public in no time, and it would authoritatively address these outstanding issues faced by the guild.
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