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Igbos fight themselves as Supreme Court upholds the right of a daughter to inherit her father's properties


The Supreme Court has upheld the right of a daughter to inherit her father's properties and this decision has divided Igbos as some are in support while some oppose it.

Igbo laws and customs prevent female children from inheriting their father's estate, specifically land in their father's ancestral home.

The decision by the supreme court voids this age-long Igbo custom on the grounds that it's discriminatory and conflicts with the supply of the constitution.

The Supreme Court held that the practice conflicted with section 42(1)(a) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution.

The land mark judgment was on the appeal marked: SC.224/2004 filed by Mrs. Lois Chituru Ukeje (wife of the late Lazarus Ogbonna Ukeje) and their son, Enyinnaya Lazarus Ukeje against Ms. Gladys Ada Ukeje (the deceased’s daughter).

Gladys had sued the deceased’s wife and son before the Lagos supreme court , claiming to be one among the deceased’s children and sought to be included among those to administer their deceased father’s estate.

The court found that she was a daughter to the deceased which she was qualified to benefit from the estate of their father who died intestate in Lagos in 1981.

The Court of Appeal, Lagos to which Mrs. Lois Ukeje and Enyinnaya Ukeje appealed, upheld the choice of the court , prompting them to appeal to the Supreme Court.

In its judgment, the Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeal, Lagos was right to have voided the Igbo native law and custom that disinherit female children.

Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, who read the lead judgment, held that: "No matter the circumstances of the birth of a daughter , such a toddler is entitled to an inheritance from her late father’s estate.

Justice Rhodes-Vivour said: "Consequently, the Igbo customary law, which disentitles a daughter from partaking within the sharing of her deceased father’s estate is breach of Section 42(1) and (2) of the Constitution, a fundamental rights provision bound to every Nigerian.

The said discriminatory customary law is void because it conflicts with Section 42(1) and (2) of the Constitution. within the light of all that I even have been saying, the appeal is dismissed. within the spirit of reconciliation, parties are to bear their own costs."

Justices Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, Clara Bata Ogunbiyi, Kumai Bayang Aka’ahs and John Inyang Okoro, who were a part of the panel that heard the appeal, agreed with the lead judgment.

The decision has evoked mixed reactions from Igbos.

In his reaction, the Bishop, Diocese on the Niger, Anglican Church , Rt. Rev. Owen Nwokolo described the judgment as a welcome development.

According to Vanguard, he said that female children aren't second class citizens and will not be treated like one.

He said: Female children have and will be accorded the same rights given to their male counterparts and thus shouldn't be discriminated against.

This isn't the first time the Supreme Court has given this judgment. Some years ago, the Supreme Court gave similar judgment but we are happy and that we thank the Supreme Court for upholding the same judgment and there's no going back in females inheriting their fathers’ property.

Families should put the judgment in practice and female children should get up and claim their right. it's not only Supreme Court judgment but God given right and that they should take that right.

Prof. Uzodinma Nwala-led Alaigbo Development Foundation, ADF, also welcomed the choice , saying, "In today’s world, daughters have proved their mettle in bringing sustainability, honour and dignity to their families. a number of them have played the role of bread-winners for their father’s houses.

So, it might have amounted to great injustice to still deny them the proper of inheritance. they ought to be entitled to a good share of their family wealth whether married or single.

However, a prominent monarch in Nsukka and the grand patron of Enugu State Traditional Rulers Council, and also the traditional ruler of Aji autonomous community in Igbo-Eze North government Area of Enugu State, Igwe Simeon Osisi Itodo, said the Supreme Court ruling cannot abolish the tradition and custom of the Igbos.

Itodo said that any plan to implement such law in Igboland would provoke chaos and skirmishes among various communities.

He argued that the custom is exclusive to the people of South-East Nigeria and will not be touched.

There are traditions which had existed before the law. Before the emergence of law courts, Igbos have their tradition and custom which can't be exhausted due to Supreme Court ruling.

There are numerous things we've in common which can't be stopped due to court verdict.

We aren't against that ruling but we might not abolish our customs and traditions which all folks met. you'll imagine a wife returning to her father to share his property with the sons.

We wouldn't allow it because it might breed chaos and troubles in our communities. If there are customs that allow such inheritance, let the people continue the practice but it won’t add Igboland.

In India, women pay the dowry but the reverse is that the case here. we might not abolish our unique customs due to court ruling," the monarch said.

The President- General of Ndigbo United Forum, NUF, Chief Godson Ezenagu, commended the choice of the Supreme Court, saying that granting females access to their fathers’ property is natural, adding that it might give them a way of belonging within the society.

"According to Igbo tradition, the feminine child inheritance doesn't happen and now that the Supreme Court has ruled that they're entitled thereto , by natural justice and conscience, I accept as true with them completely.

Granting them access to their biological father’s properties may be a natural thing. Sometimes, customs handed over from generation to generation are often awkward and may be discontinued.

For denying them that, they're put in serious jeopardy; they're molested reception and also in their marital home. Their partaking in sharing of property will make them easier than things during which they found themselves. that's what's alleged to happen naturally.

All animals are equal and at an equivalent time, all children are equal. We shouldn’t due to custom deny the feminine child her natural right.

"So, it's a welcome development and that i am sure all people of excellent faith will support it and advocate that even those that haven't been done or already done might be revisited.

Chief Augustine Emelobe, a renowned Chemical Engineer, said the Supreme Court's ruling has removed the unjust and unfair treatment on the female children.

He told Vanguard: "I support the decision of the Supreme Court. Children are children regardless of whether or not they are male or female. I even have always had the notion that it's unjust and unfair on the a part of the female children.

"I applaud te Supreme Court because the last hope of the commoner during this age-long man’s inhumanity to man."

For the President-General of the Coalition of South-East Youth Leaders, Goodluck Egwu Ibem, the Supreme Court decision may be a welcome development.

According to him, it's an exquisite defence of the girl-child who already , has been treated as a second class citizen in our society.

He said: She is seen because the property of her husband who loses all sorts of rights once she gets married. a person who has only female children in our society loses his rights to certain privileges like being a standard ruler or his inheritance in his own father’s compound. things already has been very ugly.

We deeply appreciate the Supreme Court for this landmark judgment that has brought back the arrogance of the girl-child in our society today.

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