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Women Have Equal Rights To Own/Inherit Any Property In Any Part Of Nigeria Irrespective Of Culture/Religion

Women Have Equal Rights To Own/Inherit Any Property In Any Part Of Nigeria Irrespective Of Culture/Religion

Women Have Equal Rights To Own/Inherit Any Property In Any Part Of Nigeria Irrespective Of Culture/Religion.  DAILY LAW TIPS (Tip 521) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LLM. ACIArb(UK)

While human beings are equal, sex of a human being is arguably not a biological/psychological makeup rather a social construction. Since all human beings are equal, there is no “main” sex or the “other” sex. Albeit, male designed cultures, customs, religions, societies and institutions seem to consciously dehumanize women, the laws and courts seem to have been strong and fair to all human beings. Like the blind goddess of justice, truly Nigerian laws and courts are blind to the protrusion that arguably classify and dehumanize some human beings.

Today in Nigeria, not minding culture, religion, education, race, tribe, colour, reproductive organ and peculiar choices, all human beings have equal rights and powers to own, inherit, deal, transact, gift and keep any immovable and movable property/assets in Nigeria. The constitution of Nigeria is the greatest of all laws, rules, regulations and customs in Nigeria. Hence, any law, rules, tradition, custom, religion, practise or conduct that contradicts the constitution is illegal, invalid and dead on arrival.

Below are the clear words of learned justices of the apex court in Nigeria (the Supreme Court of Nigeria) and the Court of Appeal reiterating equality of men and women on this issue.

“Is such a custom consistent with equity and fair play in an egalitarian society such as ours where the civilised sociology does not discriminate against women? Day after day, month after month and year after year, we hear of and read about customs which discriminate against the womenfolk in this country. They are regarded as inferior to the menfolk. Why should it be so? All human beings – male and female – are born into a free world and are expected to participate freely, without any inhibition on grounds of sex; and that is constitutional. Any form of societal discrimination on grounds of sex, apart from being unconstitutional, is antithesis to a society built on the tenets of democracy which we have freely chosen as a people. “We need not travel all the way to Beijing to know that some of our customs, including the Nnewi “Oli-ekpe” custom relied upon by the appellant are not consistent with our civilised world in which we all live today, including the – appellant. In my humble view, it is the monopoly of God to determine the sex of a baby and not the parents. Although the scientific world disagrees with this divine truth, I believe that God, the Creator of human being, is also the final authority of who should be male and female. Accordingly, for a custom or customary law to discriminate against a particular sex is to say the least an affront on the Almighty God Himself. Let nobody do such a thing. On my part, I have no difficulty in holding that the “Oli-ekpe’: custom of Nnewi, is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience.” Happily, I have come to the conclusion that the applicable law is the lex situs, which is the Kola Tenancy Law of 1935 and not the personal law of the parties, which is the Nnewi custom of “oli-ekpe” I should say, for avoidance of doubt, and in the alternative that even if the applicable law was the “oli-ekpe”, the position could not have been different. After all, a Court of law being a Court of equity as well, cannot invoke a customary law which is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience. The “oli-ekpe” custom is one of such customs. I have so held.”

Per TOBI ,J.S.C ( Pp. 28-35 ) MOJEKWU v. MOJEKWU (1997) LPELR-13777(CA)

“No matter the circumstances of the birth of a female child, such a child is entitled to an inheritance from her late 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 in breach of Section 42(1) and (2) of the Constitution a fundamental right, provision guaranteed to every Nigerian. The said discriminatory customary law is void as it conflicts with Section 42(1) and (2) of the Constitution. ….. By the above provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) the custom of the Egede people and of Igbos as a whole which discriminates against the children of Benjamin Ugbene from inheriting their father’s estate in the property in dispute on ground of sex or gender is inconsistent with the Constitution apart from being repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience and the current public policy of this nation.” Per AGUBE ,J.C.A ( Pp. 64-67) UGBENE v. UGBENE & ORS (2016) LPELR-42110(CA)

“None of these cases established any Yoruba customary principles that excluded female inheritance of family property. On this issue of female entitlement to inherit family property under Yoruba customary law, I agree entirely with the statement of this Court in SANUSI V. MAKINDE (1994) 5 NWLR (Part 343) 214 at 225. Therein this Court per Mukhtar, JCA said: “It is on record that Adesinyan had two daughters who also begat children and there was nothing to show that as females they and their descendants were not entitled to their ancestors’ property. The position of the law under Yoruba customary law is that all children male and female are entitled to inherit their parents land.” See also the Supreme Court case of ADESEYE V. TAIWO (1956) NSCC 76 where the 1st Defendant/Respondent, a daughter of the deceased and her children were held entitled to inherit the property of her deceased parent. For the foregoing considerations I hold that there is no substance in the contention of the Appellants on this issue which is therefore also resolved in favour of the Respondent.” Per TABAI ,J.S.C ( Pp. 19-23) AMUSAN & ANOR v. OLAWUNI (2001) LPELR-6976(CA)


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

2. MOJEKWU v. MOJEKWU (1997) LPELR-13777(CA)

3. UGBENE v. UGBENE & ORS (2016) LPELR-42110(CA)

4. AMUSAN & ANOR v. OLAWUNI (2001) LPELR-6976(CA)

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