CAN A WIFE INHERIT HER HUSBAND’S PROPERTIES IN NIGERIA?
One of the most worrying and troubling customs in some parts of Nigeria is that which denies women from inheriting their husband’s properties upon his death, not minding that most times, these properties were acquired by combination of the sweats of the husband and the wife.
Under the English law which is applicable to couples who are married under the Act, the wife is the first beneficiary of the estate i.e. her husband’s properties upon his death, which she would inherit with her children to the exclusion of all others. The only exception to this is where the husband writes a Will and gives specifications as to the sharing of his properties.
The custom which dis-inherit a wife from inheriting her husband’s properties in some parts of Nigeria, is hinged on the ‘crazy’ belief and idea, that wives are themselves chattels or properties, that are in some cases even shared among the kith and kin of the husband.
Effects of Dis-inheriting Wives of their Husbands Properties.
A lot of widows suffer untold hardship as brothers and sisters of their husband, pounce on the estate, not minding the fact that their brother’s wife is bereaved and would need the support of everyone to go through that phase of life.
This custom of denying the wife from inheriting her husband’s properties, which is noticeable and prevalent in the South Eastern part and South-South of Nigeria, has the following impacts on the widow, Children and society in general:
- Depression: The wife at this point is left distressed and feels abandoned by the death of the husband, in the absence of support from his kinsmen.
- Economic-Deprivation: A wife who had been enjoying strong economic support from her husband and who would have drawn from the estate of her husband, would suffer great economic hardship where she is not allowed access to her husband’s properties.
- Hatred and Bitterness: the act of denying the wife from inheriting her husband’s properties along with her kids, breeds hatred for her in-laws and general society which had failed to protect her from ‘wicked’ in-laws.
What Does the Law say about this Situation?
- The Constitution: The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is the supreme and highest law of the land. Section 42 of this Constitution provides thus:
A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not by reason only that he is such a person:
… be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reason of the circumstances of his birth.
The clear interpretation of the above section is that it amounts to a breach of one’s human right to be discriminated against simply because of his sex-woman! Therefore, the Constitution frowns at any custom, that denies a wife right to inherit her husband’s properties with her children.
- Decided Authorities: This means what the Superior courts of the land has decided on any matter. Once they take a decision on any matter, it becomes law and an authority on that issue. Superior courts for this purpose are the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Lets us draw from such decided authority from the Supreme Court to buttress the point being discussed:
In the case of ONYIBOR ANEKWE & ANOR .v. Mrs Maria Nweke, Mrs Maria was married to her husband who was a native of Awka in Anambra State. Unfortunately, the man passed on without a male child. As typical of most relatives from those regions, they mobilized themselves and attempted to deny the woman, the privilege of inheriting her husband’s properties with her Children.
Their basis for this decision was on the ground that under the Awka Custom, a wife is forbidden from inheriting her husband’s properties. Consequently, in the absence of a son in the marriage, they have a right to kick the woman out and take over her husband’s properties.
Drawing strength from the advice of her lawyer, she filed an action in court against this act. The matter went all the way from the Anambra State High Court up to the Supreme Court, Abuja. While giving judgment in her favor, the Supreme court stated thus:
“…I hasten to add at this point that the custom and practices of Awka people upon which the appellants have relied for their counter-claim is hereby out rightly condemned in very strong terms. 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 womenfolks 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 properties 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…
Dear esteemed reader, you heard it from the horses’ mouth. i.e. the Supreme court of the land to the effect that, where a man dies without writing a Will, No custom can deny his wife from inheriting his properties simply because there was no male child in the marriage.
Now listen, are u a widow or you know one, who is presently being maltreated by in-laws simply because you are a woman and therefore cannot inherit your husband’s properties? Don’t cry ceaselessly and do nothing. The law is on your side and you deserve justice and that you will get. Place a call or WhatsApp immediately to our help lines for free consultation and counselling on +2348034869295 or send an email to email@example.com