INVESTIGATION: Extortion, inflated costs… the Nigerian marriage registry where fraud is a norm

Country/area: Nigeria

Organisation: TheCable

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 01/07/2021

Credit: Taiwo Adebulu


Taiwo Adebulu is the pioneer head of fact-check desk at TheCable, a leading Nigerian online newspaper. He has seven years of experience in investigative and development journalism. Taiwo holds a bachelor degree in Language Arts from Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) and a master’s degree in Communication Arts Education from the University of Ibadan (UI). He is presently a corps member of Report for the World, a global service programme of The GroundTruth Project.

In 2020, he won the PwC Media Excellence Awards and the overall prize at the African Fact-Checking Awards. 

Project description:

The investigation x-rays the corruption in public service delivery in Nigeria. The report exposed how corrupt government officials at Federal Marriage Registry, Ikoyi, Nigeria’s prominent marriage registry, divert millions of naira (Nigeria’s currency) into their personal bank accounts through illegal, extortive practices. It details how the corrupt officials of the registry bypassed the online portal meant for the marriage registration process with the aim of extorting prospective couples by charging above the official rate and forcing them to pay bribes to fast-track the wedding processes.

Impact reached:

After the publication of the investigation, the story sparked an outcry from the Nigerian public on social media, who shared their experiences of official bribery and extortion at the same registry. The victims narrated how they were frustrated and made to part with more money after their marriage certificates were withheld.

A few days after the publication of the story, the registry stopped physical registration for marriage applications, citing orders from the management. Applicants were referred to the online registration portal that was initially sabotaged to pave way for systemic corruption. As a result of the story, applicants now register for marriage certificates on the portal from the comfort of their homes, pay government-approved fees and avoid physical contact with the registry officials.

Techniques/technologies used:

I used a mobile app called background camera while at the agency to uncover the corruption being perpetrated by public officials. I also used infographics to depict analyse the huge amount of money the officials make illegally from prospective couples. I also included crowdsourcing from social media.

What was the hardest part of this project?

The hardest part of the project was going undercover to record a video and to expose the rot in the public system which mostly affects poor citizens in the West-African nations. 

What can others learn from this project?

Journalists can learn how to relate data to how it affects the ordinary citizens out there who are mostly affected by the corruption in the public service.

Project links: