Denial of Inheritance Rights Is A Crime In Nigeria. 

Denial of Inheritance Rights Is A Crime In Nigeria. DAILY LAW TIPS (Tip 667) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LLM. ACIArb(UK)


Across Nigeria, by custom and religion, women are treated and perceived to be lesser than men, by men and even some women. Women and girls are often treated as mere articles, property and tools for satisfaction of men. Hence, women are expected to have no dreams, visions and even religion, because they will be only what their fathers/husbands declare them to be or permit them to do; modern slavey. Obviously, one who is treated as a property cannot own a property, hence this is the basis most women, wives, widows and girls are denied their inheritance by tradition and religion. This also plays a role in the rising cases of sexual abuse and domestic violence against women in Nigeria. This work examines the denial of women’s right to inheritance/succession in Nigeria and the new criminal implication, with a focus on widows.

Religious And Traditional Violation Of Women Rights: 

For obvious reasons, there have been clamour for women rights; women demanding to be treated as human beings. This dates back to July 19–20, 1848, in Seneca Falls, New York. From Prague to Durban, Lisbon and to Saint Petersburg, women are treated poorly at homes, schools, sports, work, politics, national service, entertainment and even in the religious covens. Coming to the largest black nation (Nigeria), the situation is worse. Note that the worse of women, in terms of violation of their rights, are widows, whom are often poor, uneducated and without means of catering for themselves and their children. The villains and enemies of women and their rights, are never strangers rather their family members.

Religion is often argued to be a tool for harmony. Most religions are designed to exalt men over women. Women are to be seen not heard, women cannot hold/play certain religious positions or roles. Women are pushed so low that many are treated as children without rights. This also leads to early marriage and pressure to continue in unsafe matrimonial relationships. Religious leaders expect only women to be the peacemakers, home keepers and receivers of absues, while men are worshipped and expected to lord over women. In religions, the synonym for “Woman” if “Submission” while the synonym for “Man” is “Lord/Power”.

Traditions across Nigeria are designed to mentally suppress women as mere tools for achieving men’s dreams. Notwithstanding the educational might, exposures and status of a woman, she is often perceived as lesser than all men (at times boys), even by her male employees. Hence, male children are assigned greater traditional roles compared to girls and even women. For example, in most Igbo cultures, a woman cannot transact (buy or sell) on land or even discuss on land maters, rather a boy/male child can. In cultures and streets, you will find statements that depict that a woman is worthless without a husband and that a woman is a mere property of a man. Ever wondered why most customs in Nigeria, accepts bride prices (symbolic cost of a bride). Some customs charge bride prices of over One Million Naira (N1,000,000.00) (ie; about $2,222 USD), depending on the educational achievements/status of a bride. By the way, high bride price is said to have huge negative impact on young couples and often assign dominating roles on husbands, after all, they bought their brides.

At this rate, both in religion and tradition, women have no basis to challenge men and demand for enforcement of human rights. However, all hopes are not lost, since the gaps created by greed, conspiracy, conveince, religions, traditions, native laws and customs are to be bridged by LAWS made by the legislatures. However, the sex composition of the legislatures and the political gladiators, often will affect the interest of the legislatures and may have negative impact on Pro-Women Rights Bills. The impact of the sex of judges and executives may have huge impact on their roles in execution and interpretation of laws, including the enforcement of women rights.

Protection of Women (Widows) Rights To Inherit Property. 

Departing from the pains caused by religion and culture, the legislature has made several laws to protect women, nationally and internationally. The constitution of Nigeria, bestows on every Nigerian some fundamental human rights, including the right to own property. Several other estate administration laws, clearly provide for women rights to own property. On the international space, we have the “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women” and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, among others. Most these laws, lead to payment of damages/compensation to victims by offenders. In a country like Nigeria, fines will not deter offenders, rather imprisonment will. The Appeal system may aid an offender to still be with his/hr funds while appalling against a judgment ordering fine, but whether there is appeal or not, an offender once convicted and sentenced to imprisonment, goes to the correctional centre, and may fight for an appeal from there.

In 2015, the National Assembly (Nigeria’s federal legislature) made the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015 to discourage violence against human beings in Nigeria and to severely punish offenders. The said law listed the denial/violation of the inheritance/succession rights of a widow as a harmful traditional practise and declared such harmful traditional practises as unlawful and criminal. The Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015 is popularly known as the VAPP ACT, it is operational in the Federal Capital Territory and many states across Nigeria, have adopted and enacted similar laws. So, there are now the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Law in many states across Nigeria.

Punishment For Denial of Inheritance/Succession Rights:

Any denial or attempt to deny a widow (a woman that has lost her husband to death) of her rights to inherit any property of her husband is a crime. Aside bing a family matter, it is now a criminal matter and should be reported to the law enforcement agencies. The violation and denial of the inheritance/succession rights of a widow punishable with maximum of 2 years imprisonment or and fine of N500,000.00. The punishments for attempting such offence or assisting and aiding such offence is a maximum of 1 year imprisonment and or fine of #200,000.00.

Recommendation and Conclusion: 

The denial or violation of the inheritance/succession rights of a widow is a crime in Nigeria. Stop suffering in silence and going to traditional leaders and religious houses, please get a lawyer and report denials of inheritance to law enforcement agencies.

Kindly note that the law creating the above offence is operational in Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Similar laws are now operational in Oyo, Ogun, Lagos, Osun, Ekiti, Edo, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Benue, Cross River, Kaduna, FCT, and Plateau states. Soon, more States will enact similar laws as we encourage states to do so and condemn violence. However it is advised that the punishment stated in the VAPP Act be made to be minimum punishment instead of maximum punishment to avoid releasing offenders with mere slaps on wrists. Click this to read my earlier works on women rights in Nigeria <>.

My authorities are:

  1. Sections 42 (1), 43 and 44 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
  2. Sections 15, 47 and 48 of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2015 and similar laws across states in Nigeria.
  3. Articles 2 and 13 of  the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act
  4. Articles 13, 15 and 16 of the Convention of Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
  5. Judgment 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
  6. Judgment of the Court of Appeal in the case of UGBENE v. UGBENE & ORS (2016) LPELR-42110(CA)
  7. Judgment of the Court of Appeal in the case of MOJEKWU v. MOJEKWU (1997) LPELR-13777(CA)
  8. Judgment of the Court of Appeal in the case of AMUSAN & ANOR v. OLAWUNI (2001) LPELR-6976(CA)
  9. Judgment of the Court of Appeal in the case of OKAFOR v. ISITORH & ANOR (2015) LPELR-25892(CA)
  10. “The Women’s Rights Movement, 1848–1920” (History, Art & Archives, United States House of Representatives)<> accessed 2 October 2020.
  11. “What Research Tells Us About How Women Are Treated at Work”, Gretchen Gavett (Harvard Business Review, 27 December 2017) <> accessed 2 October 2020.
  12. “Women Have Equal Rights To Own/Inherit Any Property In Any Part Of Nigeria Irrespective Of Culture/Religion”, Onyekachi Umah ((Daily Law Tips [Tips 521]) <> accessed 2 October 2020.
  13. “25% of women report discrimination, unfair treatment at work”, Noria Corporation (Reliable Plant) <,-unfair-treatment-at-work> accessed 2 October 2020.
  14. “Women’s Rights in Nigeria: What’s Holding Nigeria’s Women Back?” (World Politics Review, 3 January 2017) <> accessed 2 October 2020.
  15. “Approval For Marriage Of Female Officers/Staff Is Unconstitutional and Discriminatory”, Onyekachi Umah (Daily Law Tips [Tips 660]) <> accessed 2 October 2020.
  16. “Nigerian Women Say ‘No’ To Gender-Based Violence” Leone Usigbe (United Nations) <‘no’-gender-based-violence> accessed 2 October 2020
  17. “Human Rights Situation in Nigeria and Women’s Rights Concerns in Mauritania: Submission to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights” (Human Rights Watch, 27 April 2018) <> accessed 2 October 2020.
  18. “Abolished Anti-Women Custom of Onitsha People of Anambra State, Nigeria” Onyekachi Umah (Daily Law Tips [Tips 522]) <> accessed 2 October 2020
  19. “The Role of Women Judges and a Gender Perspective in Ensuring Judicial Independence and Integrity”, Judge Vanessa Ruiz (UNODC) <> accessed 2 October 2020.
  20. “Citizen By Marriage Is Discriminatory and Against Nigerian Women”, Onyekachi Umah (Daily Law Tips [Tips 653]) <> accessed 2 October 2020.
  21. “Abolished Anti-Women Custom of Yoruba People of Nigeria”, Onyekachi Umah (Daily Law Tips [Tips 653]) <> accessed 2 October 2020.
  22. “It’s Not Freedom For Women in Nigeria as 23 States Hold Back Signing on the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act”, Aderemi Ojekunle (Dataphyte, 15 June 2020) <> accessed 2 October 2020. 
  23. “Can a Married Woman Inherit Her Parents’ Property?”, Onyekachi Umah (Daily Law Tips [Tips 535]) <> accessed 2 October 2020. 










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