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WOMEN’S RIGHT TO INHERITANCE IN NIGERIA

Project topic for Law department.

CHAPTER ONE

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

1.1       Background to the Study

It is unarguable that the urge for this research topic was prompted by the incessant discriminatory intestate practices in Nigeria especially against the female person both married and unmarried. Therefore the essence of research on this topic was driven by the injustices and deprivities occasioned by some obnoxious practices and the quest to compare and contrast the various contemporary approaches to these obnoxious intestate practices especially as it concerns the nature of intestacy in Igbo land.

Intestacy law no doubt is one aspect of law that x-rays the method, extent and degree of distribution of a person’s Estate in the absence of a Will. However, there are several Administration of Estate laws in various jurisdictions that govern intestate laws and practices. Be that as it may, the customary practices and the Administration of Estate laws as applied in various States of the federation shall be studied and researched upon. This research is truly intended to conduct a cursory inquest and thus unravel the entire contemporary intestate practice in Nigeria. The raging issues as to whether the concept of intestacy under Igbo native laws and customs is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience shall thus form the crux of the research.

This research will investigate the devolution practices of intestate estate in Igbo land unlike estates disposed by ‘Will’. It is indeed an area which requires special attention because while we think of laws for the protection of living beings, we should as well think of laws for the protection of the estate of a deceased person after his demise. Very often, there is the tendency to neglect the later aspect. The law of intestacy is a very serious litigation conscious area where law has a great role to play; hence this work discusses the general concept of intestate estate, various problems encountered by the beneficiaries who are mainly widows and children, duties of administrators under the customary laws and extant laws applicable to intestacy in Nigeria.

1.2       Statement of the Problem

Intestate practices in Nigeria have over the years been bedeviled by so many impediments obstructing the devolution of estate by intestacy. However, intestate estate is a probate matter which cannot be discussed without delving into marriage, inheritance and succession. This is so because the property owned by the deceased who died intestate is not governed by any will instrument. The complex problem thus created, being the devolution of the intestate estate equitably amongst the surviving beneficiaries.

  • Research Questions
  • What is the legal framework governing Intestacy and administration of women’s right of inheritance in Nigeria.
  • To what extent is this framework effective in regulating women’s right of inheritance in Nigeria.
  • What if any, can be done to improve on this framework for the regulation of intestacy practices in Nigeria.
  • To what extent can customary intestacy practices cure the deficiencies in our Administration of Estate laws.
  • What are the possible means for the enhancement of the operations Estate laws and practices on intestacy

1.4       Aims and Objectives of the Study

  • The research shall determine the extent and Nature of Testate and Intestate practices pertaining women’s right of inheritance in Nigeria.
  • This research shall assess the contemporary approach in Testate and intestate practices in Nigeria with particular reference to women’s right of inheritance.
  • To identify the legal framework governing intestate practices in Nigeria with respect to women’s right.
  • To determine the extent to which this framework is effective
  • To evaluate the various ways through which this framework can be effective.
  • To critically analyze the various intestate practices especially as applicable in Igbo land.
  • To determine the customary intestacy practices in some peculiar jurisdictions in Igbo land in line with the Administration of Estate laws
  • To discuss the juridical basis, role, extent and legal reasoning of the Supreme Court in curing predicaments on intestacy generally.
  • An analysis of problems and impediments bedeviling intestacy in the Nigerian nation jurisprudence.
  • This research shall unveil prospects for the future capable of making intestate laws and practices more viable and feasible.

1.5       Research Method

The research method employed is the doctrinal which will be executed using primary and secondary sources of law. The primary sources include various customary practices in Nigeria, case laws, legislations such as the Administration of Estate Laws of the various states in Nigeria, Land Use Act etc. The secondary sources relied upon in this research text books, law journals and other post scripted academic journals. Also dyadic or face to face contacts with Academics and Judges having implicit knowledge in Intestate laws and practices will be of immense assistance. Therefore emphatically, legislations, customs and other source materials to include internet sources are to mention but a few legal sources to be implored in this research.

1.6       Significance of Study

The significance of this research is to unravel the contemporary obnoxious intestate law in Nigeria affecting women’s right of inheritance. In fact, this research shall be a source material for future researchers, lawyers, courts and academics as to the legal rendition of Wills in Nigeria especially with respect to intestate laws and practices in Nigeria. The argument by academics and jurist that the concept of intestacy has little or no place under our native laws and customs being that the concept of intestacy is native and organic to Nigeria whereas that of Wills in alien to our customary practices, and all these expository shall have an indebt analysis in this research. At the end, possible and vigorous suggestion all aimed at tacking the loathsome intestate practices in Igbo land shall be marshaled out.

1.7       Scope and Limitation

The Supreme court and other superior court speak with unswerving voice in support of the unfettered right of a property owner to disburse his estate according to his wish subject to the statutory limitations especially the limitations provided by the tenor of the Land Use Act, 1978.

Therefore, the subject matter of this study is on the contemporary approach to obnoxious practices against women especially on intestate practices in Nigeria with a special case study of the decision of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in Ukeje V. Ukeje. It does not cover intestate practices outside the jurisdiction of Nigeria.

1.8       Literature Review

There are array of literatures discussing the concept of intestacy and women’s right of inheritance in Nigeria as a reference point. However, However, I considered the existing literatures on the subject matter of study in relation to the South East States of Nigeria comprising the Igbo nation. There are many literary works on the subject matter of obnoxious intestacy practices. Both local and foreign literature materials are quite relevant to this work but largely, this research requires more of local literature than the foreign literature because the obnoxious practices herein researched is more prominent locally than on the international scene.

Furthermore, the wave of modern research on this topic has revealed that local literature are more up to date with emerging trends and contemporary issues involving this obnoxious practices of intestacy in Nigeria. Those Nigerian writers therefore discuss the issue of obnoxious intestate practices making allusions to the various customary practices prevailing in Nigeria with incisive and elucidatory analysis of the subject matter. Therefore, the information from local literature are quite useful as a source for suggestions and recommendations on how to make intestate practice more receptive to modern approaches to intestate devolution.

From Nigeria, A.T Abimbola in his ‘Intestate Succession- A post Script on Idenhen V. Idenhen’ maintained that intestate succession should not be left to exist in isolation or within the exclusive reserve of customary norms and practices. This is because, under our laws, no customs exists in isolation even when it is generally acceptable by a people. For a custom to transcend as customary law, it must have passed the three validity tests in which case such a custom must have been acted upon by a High Court exercising jurisdiction in the area where the custom is applicable. This will go a long way to check mate the obnoxious practices bedeviling intestate succession in Nigeria.

D.B ODIBE ESQ. ‘’Property Succession in Nigeria’’ also argued that every intestate matter should be subject to legislation and judicial intervention in order to abhor obnoxious and unwholesome intestate practices inherent in the various customs. This position is in line with the postulate of I.M Simbis in his laws of Will.

Unije questions the constitutionality of any customary practice discriminating against the female person as same is repugnant to SECTION 42 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He further maintains that any discriminatory practice against the proprietary right of any female is an issue of fundamental right infraction which can be challenged accordingly together with the appurtenant consequential damages. However, while the views of the writers are correct, it is submitted that they ought to have called for a legislative intervention in order to alley due legislative paranoia in curing these obnoxious intestate practices.

Grifth did an overview of Intestate Estate in Contemporary society using the English and Scottish devolution practices as a case study under the common law practices. This discussion by Grifith is quite elucidatory but has little or nothing to proffer with respect to the Nigerian customary practices relevant to intestatcy.

Smith and Scrolls discussed the general principles of Wills laws which applicable only in a testate estate. It is worthy of note that obnoxious practices are known to be applicable in an intestate estate unlike a testate estate where the testamentary disposition of a testator prevails. In line with the principles of Wills, Mighty Alagoa wrote extensively on the application of Wills to our various customary practices in Nigeria. These two literatures indeed unveiled the various ways in which the practice of Wills outweighs and solves the predicaments bedeviling customary devolution.

Utuama in his ‘Crocodile tears at the Supreme Court- Post Script on Savanna Bank V. Ammel Ajilo’’ maintains that intestayte devolution practices under customary law largely involves land or fixations attached to the land, hence any devolution practice or instrument transferring interest in land must be in consonance with the provisions of the Land Use Act, 1978. The essence of Utuama’s postulate is that any instrument transferring interests in land save in accordance with the provisions of the Land Use Act, 1978 shall by the tenor of SECTION 26 of the Land Use Act be declared null and void.

I.A Umezurike argues that the issue of devolution in Igbo land and elsewhere cannot be constrained to one particular law as the regime of the Land Use Act, 1978, recognized both Statutory Rights of Occupancy and Customary Rights of Occupancy duo of which can be deemed granted or expressly granted depending on the situs of the land. More extensively, no particular legal frame work may suffice for intestate devolution going by the tenor of the Land Use Act. This same position was equally canvassed by D.B Odibe in his ‘Property Sucession in Nigeria’.

Ukeje had posited that there are several Administration of Estate laws in various jurisdictions that govern intestate laws and practices. Be that as it may, the customary practices and the Administration of Estate laws as applied in various States of the federation shall be studied and researched upon. Furthermore, various practices as norms, values, belief or even laws militating against intestate practices in Nigeria has been unraveled and discussed extensively by the various Nigerian authors.

F.C Abraham opined that academic, legislative and judicial discuss so far in the Administration of Estate laws in Nigeria shall also form a substantial focus in subsequent judicial intervention in order to have a more streamlined intestate practices in Nigeria capable of standing the taste of time, thus bringing to fore every merits and demerits applicable to intestate practice.

Almost every literature on this topic had a general concurrence that intestacy law, no doubt, is one aspect of law that x-rays the method, extent and degree of distribution of a person’s Estate devoid of a Will. This research obviously is one which will conduct an inquest into the contemporary approach to obnoxious intestacy practices with the Supreme Court decision in Ukeje V. Ukeje as a case study. It is also of general concurrence over the years that intestacy practices vis a vis our native laws and customs are obnoxious and accordingly ought not to be practiced except the validity test is applied and this is the consensus of most literatures consulted in the course of this research.

1.9       Synopsis of Chapters

This project is divided into five chapters. Chapter one deals with introductory matters such as background of study, statement of problem, research questions, aims and objectives, scope of study and significance of study. The same chapter one also reviews the synopsis of chapters and a conceptualization of terms.

Chapter two discusses general introduction of intestacy and nature of testate matters vis a vis intestate succession laws in Lagos and Enugu States, the role and impact of the High court Civil Procedure Rules of Enugu State and other applicable legal framework with respect to intestate matters. Chapter two will finally draw an analytical distinction between intestate and testate succession.

Chapter three will rummage and lay bare the concept of Administration of Estate in Nigeria and within, letters of administration and procedure for its application and inquest into the temporary conversion of realty and personality. A study of effect of Land Use Act in intestate administration of estate will be done, thereafter; a research will be done on the procedure for disbursing money to beneficiaries.

The penultimate chapter will discuss the problems of intestate practices in Igbo land especially the practices of intestacy affecting women, widowhood, illegitimacy and polygamy especially as it relates to amalgamation of two systems of marriage. Chapter four will subsequently do a cursory overview of judicial intervention of the Supreme Court as remedial effects of intestate impediments in Igbo land, which forms the fulcrum for this research as to the extent of judicial intervention in curing these detestable practices of intestacy in Igbo- South East Nigeria.

Finally in chapter five a conclusion shall be done from all that has been researched from which observation and recommendations shall be distilled in order to make viable prospects for the future.


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