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Supreme Court Dethrones Obong Of Calabar, Orders New Selection / Female Inheritance: Supreme Court, Igbo Culture In Head-on Collision / Supreme Court’s Decision On Female Inheritance Divides Igbos (2) (3) (4)
|Nigeria's Supreme Court Judgement On Female Inheritance, A Landmark Masterstroke by SaviolaGodwyn: 7:59pm On Sep 07, 2020|
Nigeria's Supreme Court judgement on female inheritance, a landmark masterstroke
By Ijeoma Unique
There is a perturbation going on now among the Igbos, brought about by the ruling of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the Ukeje versus Ukeje legal case.
The late Lazarus Ogbonnaya Ukeje died intestate with real estate property in Lagos State. The appellants are his wife Mrs. Lois Chituru Ukeje and her son, Mr. Enyinnaya Lazarus Ukeje, both of whom obtained Letters of Administration for and over the deceased’s Estate. The plaintiff/respondent is the daughter of the deceased and brought this suit seeking a declaration from the court that as the daughter of the deceased she is entitled to a share of his estate. The trial judge found for the plaintiff, declared the current Letters of Administration to be null and void, granted an injunction restraining the defendants from administering the estate, and ordered that new Letters of Administration be created.
The defendants/appellants lodged an appeal, which the Court of Appeal Logos (Division) dismissed for lacking merit. The case was brought before the Supreme Court of Nigeria by appellants appealing the Court of Appeal judgment. And there, the case was judged in the favor of the plantiff.
I will focus here only on the aspect of the case which addresses Igbo customary law which does not recognize female inheritance.
The process of fathering a child is the same despite the sex of the child, and no matter the circumstance surrounding the birth of the female child, she is entitled to an inheritance; this indicates that it doesn't matter whether the child was gotten in or out of wedlock. It is not debatable that God created us with equal rights, privileges and opportunities, but fellow humans who were not properly informed or educated created this tradition and custom for selfish reasons, thus, causing a breach in the section 42(1)&(2) of the Nigerian Constitution.
It is a misguided exploitation of the low educational background of some women in Nigeria especially in Igbo land.
It is heartbreaking to note that these women have very tough responsibilities and sacrifices they make almost on daily basis. They work tirelessly in some families to raise money for the "MOST VALUED" male child. They are later in some cases sold off in the guise of marriage without any empowerment or inheritance and most often, she is not given any warm welcome there.
Customarily, it is the obligation of these female children to take care of their parents during old age and sickness. And if eventually the parents die, they are to provide coffin for burial. The provision of coffin is seen traditionally as an obligation and doesn't stop her for contributing her own share of the burial levy.
In some parts of Igbo land, example the place I hail from, the daughters of the land are invited to come and settle certain disputes. The distance of their individual homes are not considered because traditionally it is an obligation for them to settle some kinds of dispute.
I strongly uphold the popular opinion that PAINS COME WITH GAINS. If it is worth doing that these ladies shoulder the aforementioned responsibilities, is it not worth doing that they have a share of the gains (inheritances) that come from their maiden homes?
Traditional rulers should be properly educated because they have a big role to play here as they are in charge of jurisdiction at the local level (communities and villages).
Females children should be properly educated too.
I know that there are agencies created for this in Nigeria. Such agencies should go to strategic places like the market and churches and villages where they can reach out to many women at a time; Proper sensitization of of female children especially those in the rural area is important. Women should be abreast of their rights and privileges.
Fathers can also help. Writing their wills when still alive will go a long way to clearly state the inheritance of his female children.
The judgement of the Supreme Court is a landmark one and should be adhered to. Women should share in the inheritance from their fathers. A daughter is a daughter through out her life time. Women should not be discriminated against.
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