Supreme Court – Female child can inherit property in Igboland

CourtFor female children in Igbo land, it is cheering news as the Supreme Court has abolished an age long custom in the South East that stopped them from inher­iting their fathers’ property.
In a landmark judgement delivered last Friday, the apex court nullified the Igbo law and custom which prevented women from inheriting their father’s estate.
The apex court ruled that the practice was discriminato­ry and conflicts with the pro­visions of the Nigerian Con­stitution.
The court specifically held that the practice was a breach of Section 42 (1)(a) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
The apex court’s judgment was based on the appeal filed in 2004 by Mrs Lois Chituru Ukeje (widow of the late La­zarus Ogbonna Ukeje) and their son, Enyinnaya Lazarus Ukeje against Mrs Gladys Ada Ukeje (the deceased’s daugh­ter).
Gladys had sued the wid­ow and son before the Lagos High Court, claiming to be one of the Ukeje’s children and sought to be included among those to administer their fa­ther’s estate.
The trial court affirmed that she was Ukeje’s daughter and was therefore qualified to benefit from the estate of her father who died in Lagos in 1981.
At the Court of Appeal, sitting in Lagos, which Mrs Ukeje and his son rushed to, the decision of the trial court was upheld, prompting them to approach the Supreme Court.
In its judgment on July 1, 2016, the Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeal, La­gos was right in voiding the Igbo’s native law and custom that disinherits female chil­dren.
Justice Bode Rhodes-Vi­vour, who read the lead judg­ment held that no matter the circumstances of the birth of a female child, she is entitled to an inheritance from her later father’s estate.
“Consequently, the Igbo customary law, which disen­titles a female child from par­taking in the sharing of her deceased father’s estate, is a breach of Section 42(1) and (2) of the Constitution, a fun­damental rights provision guaranteed to every Nigerian.
“The said discriminato­ry customary law is void as it conflicts with Section 42(1) and (2) of the Constitution. In the light of all that I have been saying, the appeal is dis­missed. In the spirit of recon­ciliation, parties to bear their own costs”, Justice Rhodes-Vi­vour ruled.
Justices Walter Samu­el Nkanu Onnoghen, Clara Bata Ogunbiyi, Kumai Bay­ang Aka’ahs and John Inyang Okoro, who were part of the panel that heard the appeal, agreed with the lead judg­ment.
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