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Can A Married Woman Inherit Her Parents’ Property

Can A Married Woman Inherit Her Parents’ Property? Daily Law Tips (Tip 535) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LLM. ACIArb(UK)

When a woman marries whether by traditional or English law methods, most tribes in Nigeria expect her to move away from her parents’ house and join her husband (her new home). Such transition seems to cause serious changes in lives and rights of married women, even to the extent of loss of identity, indigeneship and even appointments. In lives of most Nigerian married women, there is the big question of whether they are entitled to inheritance from their parents even as they are entitled to inherit that of their husbands? Are married women deemed to have been married away from their parents, parents’ house and parents property? Can a married woman while in her husband’s house, still claim inheritance over her parents’ property? Generally, are girls, ladies, married women/unmarried women, entitled to inherit their parents’ property?

Trial courts and appellate courts in Nigeria, have answered the above questions. Their answers are in the AFFIRMATIVE, saying “YES, married women and unmarried women are entitled to inheritance over their parents’ property as well as their male counterparts (brothers). Both male and female children are entitled to equal measure of inheritance over their parents property including movable property (monies, shares, bonds, cars, equipment and investments) and immovable property (land, buildings, structures and any landed property). The apex court (Supreme Court of Nigeria) has made its affirmative position clear on this issue and same cannot be questioned by any custom, culture, government, royal head, religion, political group or international body. The Supreme Court is final and its final decision in answering the questions in the preceding paragraph, is shown below;

“In other words, a custom of this nature in the 21st century societal setting will only tend to depict the absence of the realities of human civilization. It is punitive, uncivilized and only intended to protect the selfish perpetration of male dominance which is aimed at suppressing the right of the womenfolk in the given society. One would expect that the days of such obvious differential discrimination are over. Any culture that disinherits a daughter from her father’s estate or wife from her husband’s property by reason of God instituted gender differential should be punitively and decisively dealt with. The punishment should serve as a deterrent measure and ought to be meted out against the perpetrators of the culture and custom. For a widow of a man to be thrown out of her matrimonial home, where she had lived all her life with her late husband and children, by her late husband’s brothers on the ground that she had no male child, is indeed very barbaric, worrying and flesh skinning. It is indeed much more disturbing especially where the counsel representing such perpetrating clients, though learned, appear comfortable in identifying, endorsing and also approving of such a demeaning custom. In a similar circumstance as the case under consideration, this Court in Nzekwu V. Nzekwu (1989) 3 SCNJ page 167 held amongst others and ruled “that the plaintiff had the right of possession of her late husband’s property and no member of her husband’s family has the right to dispose of it or otherwise whilst one is still alive.” The impropriety of such a custom which militates against women particularly, widows, who are denied their inheritance, deserves to be condemned as being repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience. The repulsive nature of the challenged custom is heightened further in the case at hand where the widow of the deceased is sought to be deprived of the very building where her late husband was buried. The condemnation of the appellants’ act is in the circumstance without any hesitation or apology.” Per OGUNBIYI ,J.S.C ( Pp. 36-37, paras. B-D )


1. Section 42 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

2. Decisions of the Supreme Court in the case of ANEKWE & ANOR v. NWEKE (2014) LPELR-22697(SC) and in the case of Nzekwu V. Nzekwu (1989) 3 SCNJ page 167.










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