Court Abolishes Customary Law against Female Inheritance in Akwa Ibom
The ancient traditional practice in Etinan local government area, Akwa Ibom State which denied women and female children the rights to inherit their fathers and relatives’ landed property has been abolished, FIRST REPORTS can report.
The State High Court sitting in Etinan held that any custom that denies a woman an inheritance on the ground of her sex, is not only unfair but runs contrary to the fundamental objective of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Justice Pius Idiong gave the ruling in suit number HET/3A/2019 between Mr Michael Patrick Noah (and seven others) and Mrs Gertrude Ekanem.
The eight children of late Obong Patrick Joseph Noah of Edem Ekpat in Etinan had opposed their aunt, Mrs Gertrude Ekanem from inheriting the landed property of her sister, late Immaculata Noah, who died and left behind the property without a husband or a child.
The case which originated from the Etinan District Court had its judgment appealed by the appellants to the Chief Magistrate Court and the High Court.
In their evidence, the appellants contended that their aunt cannot inherit her sister’s property located at 24 Iman Street, Etinan, because she is a woman and had also been married out of the family.
In his judgment, Justice Idiong described such practice as “anachronistic, primitive and unconscionable,” saying such should not exist in the 21st Century society.
The judge argued that although the Courts are enjoined to apply, administer and give effects to the custom and tradition of the people of its area of jurisdiction, the Court does not have to apply customs, which are unreasonable, discriminatory and an affront to the law.
He further held that the custom of the people of Edem Ekpat in particular and Etinan LGA in general, denying a woman the right to inherit the intestate property of her parents or siblings, where the deceased died without a male child, debases such a woman and contravenes section 42 of the 1999 constitution.
The Judge also disagreed with the Village Head of Edem Ekpat, Chief Emmanuel Okokon Eboh, who had testified as a witness that when a woman dies in Edem Ekpat without a child or husband, her property reverts to her family and not her sister, who has been married out to another family.
Justice Idiong saluted the trial District Court in Etinan for refusing to uphold such offensive customs and the appellate Chief Magistrate Court, for upholding the decision of the lower Court.
The higher Court declared that the native laws, discriminating against women, whether married or not, are nullity and unenforceable throughout Etinan LGA.
Justice Idiong dismissed the appeal with cost awarded against the eight siblings, including two married sisters, who joined their brothers to deny their married aunt the right to inherit the landed property of her only sister.
Credit: Ita Abia