The Akwa Ibom State High Court sitting in Etinan Local Government Area has nullified the practice of denying female children inheritance, saying the practice is unconstitutional.
Justice Pius Idiong ended the practice in a judgment delivered in Suit No: HET/3A/2019 between Mr Michael Patrick Noah and seven others, and Mrs Gertrude Ekanem.
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According to the suit, eight children of late Obong Patrick Joseph Noah of Edem Ekpat in Etinan LGA disallowed 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.
Patrick Noah and seven others had appealed against the ruling of the case which emanated from the Etinan District Court to the Chief Magistrate Court and the High Court.
The appellants contended that their aunt cannot inherit her sister’s property located at No. 24 Iman Street, Etinan, because she is a woman and had also been married out of the family.
In his judgment, Justice Pius Idiong described the practice as anachronistic, primitive and unconscionable, saying it should not exist in 21st-century society.
He held that any custom that denies a woman an inheritance on the grounds of her sex is not only unfair but also runs contrary to the fundamental objective of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He 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 on the law.
The judge held that the custom of the people of Edem Ekpat and Etinan local government areas, which denies 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.
He 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 applauded 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 Court declared that the native laws discriminating against women, whether married or not, are nullity and unenforceable throughout Etinan Local Government Area.
Justice Idiong dismissed the appeal and awarded N50, 000 costs against the eight siblings, consisting of six brothers and two married sisters, who tried to deny their married aunt the right to inherit the landed property of her only sister.