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PROJECT TOPIC AND MATERIAL ON REVISITING THE DECISION OF THE SUPREME COURT CASE OF UKEJE V UKEJE VIS A VIZ IGBO CUSTOMARY LAW
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This research study borders on examining the discriminations that women in Igboland face as regards the acquisition of property and inheritance of same upon death of their husband or father. It is a settled fact that women would grievously suffer from various inequalities and discrimination. So the Supreme Court in the case of ukeje v ukeje held that any customary law which says or tends to suggest that a female child cannot inherit the property of her father is not only unconstitutional but also null and void.In an attempt to identify the problems of gender discrimination of women’s right to inheritance under Igbo customary law are due to some factors which include non-codification of customary laws,illiteracy,limitating the right of women in and out of marriage due to obnoxious custom. The research is an attempt to identify those laws that discriminate against women from inheritance within the Igbo customary law which the law intends to wipe our through effective and legal means.This will be done by a critical analysis of the celebrated case of ukeje v ukeje and other legislative enactments and Judicial decisions, information gathered from researches and authors. The findings are that with the recent judicial decisions and our legislations,these obnoxious custom can be scrapped out entirely in Igboland. In achieving this,the researcher adopted doctrinal and approach. It relies on primary and secondary sources of gathering material l. Therefore, This work recommend the need for free legal services and advice as regards property rights should be made available to women in Anambra State to enable them protect and enforce their property rights. This could be achieved by targeting strategic places like churches, markets and rural areas which have large population of women who are not educated. Also there is need for improvement and enforcement of our laws on women’s right to inheritance. Recommendations are made and if followed will help liberate women from the shackles of property rights deprivation.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Title page i
Table of Contents vii
Tables of Cases vii
Table of Statues viii
Table of Abbreviation s ix
CHAPTER ONE: GENERAL INTRODUCTION
1.1 Background to the Study 1
1.2 Statement of Problems 2 1.3 Purpose of Study 3
1.4 Scope of Study 3
1.5 Significance of Study 3
1.6 Methodology 4
1.7 Literature Review 4
1.8 Organizational Layouts 7
1.9 Definition of Terms 7
CHAPTER TWO: FORMS OF PROPERTY RIGHT
2.1 Succession 16
2.2 Testate Successions under Customary Law 17
2.3 Intestate Successions under Customary Law 19
2.4 Acquisition and Ownership 24
CHAPTER THREE: LEGAL FRAMEWORK ON WOMEN’S RIGHT TO INHERITANCE
3.1 Women’s Right to Property in Nigeria 26
3.2 Constitution 26
3.2.1 Customary Law vis a viz the provisions of the Constitution
(The Repugnancy and InconsistencyRule) 28
3.3 Property Right of Women as Provided by International Human Rights Instruments
3.3.1 Convention for the elimination of all forms of discrimation against Wome 30
3.3.2 African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. 31
CHAPTER FOUR: LEGALITY OR OTHERWISE OF UKEJE V UKEJE VIZ A VIZ SUCCESSION RIGHTS OF WOMEN IN ANAMBRA STATE
4.1Summary facts of the case Ukeje v Ukeje33
4.2 Judicial Interpretative Approach towards Inheritance Rights of Women 35
4.3 Forms of Discrimination 39
4.2 Discrimination under Igbo Customary Law Generally 40
4.3 Discrimination under Onitsha Customary Law 42
4.4 Discrimination under Nnewi Customary Law 43
4.5 Discrimination under Awkuzu CustomaryLaw , 45
4.6 Discrimination under Yoruba Customary Law Comparative Instance
of another customary law Jurisdiction 46
4.7 Discrimation under Hausa Customary law Comparative Instance of
another customary law Jurisdiction 47
CHAPTER FIVE: FINDING, RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCLUSION
5.1 Findings from the Research 49
5.2 Recommendations 50
5.3 Conclusion 58
1.1 Background to the Study
Nigerian women have been marginalized in different spheres of existence. The rights of women have been hardlytested from a human rights perspective. As a result, there is a dearth of judicial decisions and strict legal women’s right Jurisprudence on the issue of judicial system for the enforcement of women’s rights. The gender disparity in Nigeria especially in Igbo land exists because of the primordial patriarchal nature of the society, where the man dominates everything. The women are regarded as less human. Thus the seed of inferiority is sown in the female child at an early stage. The unequal status of women has being pointed out by international community as barbaric and highly unacceptable. In Igboland, it is noted that an average father prefers the male child to the female child. The discriminatory trend is largely influenced by the nature of Igbo society and custom. Women especially in recent time have begun with much vigor to question the substantial legal, social, political andmaterial inequalities and discrimination suffered by them. The rights of women are therefore undergoing a period of rapid change. There has been development of national laws with some relating to the rights of women and as well several sound decisions of the court .These decisions includes the recent case of ukeje v ukejewhere the Supreme Court held that any customary law which says ortends to suggest that a female child cannot inherit the property of her father is not only unconstitutional but also null and void.
In the customary laws of many towns existing in AnambraState, the South Eastern part of Nigeria, women are excluded from succeeding in their father’s or husband’s property. Although there are slight variations in the prevailing customary law succession in various parts of AnambraState, the main principle are basically the same. This work is concernedwith an appraisal of property rights of women in the Igbo Customary Law x-raying therefore the problems and discriminations associated with women property rights in Igbo Customary Law (AnambraState)
Finally this research work will examine whether the apathy to issues of enforcement of the inheritance rights of women is as a result of lack oflaws or lack of knowledge of the law on the part of the women.
1.2 Statement of Problems
This research is an attempt to identify certain laws that discriminate against women from inheritance within the Nigerian legal system as well as the values and philosophies that have directed the development of the laws and to demonstrate that women have recognized and protected rights by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Several questions have been posed as regards these problems and are under listed therein;
- What are the various laws on inheritance rights of women in Nigeria?
- What laws are in existence to combat this trend and how effective are they?
- Will the judgment of the court be complied with, especially in Igbo land?
- Does a married daughter have any right on her father’s property?
- Are women treated equally with their male counterparts as regards Igbo customary inheritance?
1.3 Purpose of Study
The purpose of the research is to review the provisions of the law relating to the inheritance rights of women, and determine the impact of recent decided cases on the property rights of women in the Igbo Customary Law. Another is to identify the loopholes and make a clarion call to the judiciary to be actively supportive of these laws by ensuring that they are fully implemented.
1.4 Scope of Study
The scope of the research is to a large extent limited to the property rights of women under Customary Law in Anambra State. Existing statutes and provisions of the Constitution are as well highlighted. Aside from domestic laws are the International Laws, namely theUnited Nations Conventionssuch as theConvention on Elimination of all Forms of DiscriminationAgainstWomen (CEDAW) 1979.
1.5 Significance of Study
The knowledge of women’s right to inheritance under customary law in AnambraState will among other things enable the average woman to be conversant with her property rights.
Also by addressing the various inequalities and discriminations, recommendations would be proffered as to this problem.
Furthermore, this study will be of immense importance to legal practitioners, laymen, policy makers and the general public as it will assist them in finding ways and solutions to the problems of women whose rights to property are violated.
This research study will rely on primary and secondary sources and qualitative doctrinal research to achieve the objectives of the study. Sources of materials used to include Legislative enactments, Conventions and information as gathered from textbooks, journals, and related reports as secondary sources.
1.7 Literature Review
Some customs in Nigeria communities relating to the status of women and their right to inheritance is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience. This is the import of Section 42(1) and (2) of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999(as amended), a fundamental rights provision guaranteed to every Nigerian and also Section 43 and 44 of the same Constitution which deals on right to property.
Thus, Carol Arinze-Umobi and ArinzeDilimUmobistated that
Any law inclusive Customary Law that denigrates women and places them as second class citizens must be null and void and of no effect, for its failure to comply with the world accepted human rights standard. The standard in clear terms includes everybody’s right to freedom from discrimination
The authors discussed extensively the concept of marriage under the Act and Customary law respectively. Thus, the authors did not discuss the daughter’s rights to inheritance which my research is to review the law relating to inheritance rights of women.
According to Nwogugu under the intestate succession he did not discuss all the prevailing patterns of successions especially the daughter’s right to inheritance extensively. Rather he went on to discuss;
- Distribution of Estate
- Succession by the widow
- Persons who lack capacity e.g. illegitimate child
- Succession to a married woman
- Success of an unmarried woman
- Succession amongst the children.
Here he rather examined the question rights of succession of the children.The question he said in the case of Ugboma v Ibeneme. He did not profer solution He said the cardinal principle of customary law in Nigeria is primogeniture, i.e. succession by the first born of the male line. Also that the rule that a daughter is not entitled to inherit her father’s estate is partly mitigated by her right to be maintained by the person who inherits her father’s estate until she marries or becomes financially independent or dies.
My research work borders on some major parts in Anambra state and women’s right to inheritance there. In some parts of Anambra State like Nnewi, Awkuzu, Onitsha, Ozubulu and others, the unmarried daughter and wives or widows are entitled to reside in the family house but do not however have property rights in the family land. This is to say that they are not entitled neither to portions of the family land to build on nor to any share in the partition or sale of the land.
Nwogugu,also stated that one argument has been that a woman is not capable of acquiring and owing a property to the exclusion of her husband. The research study here is show that, she is a wife, a different entity in the instance and therefore is capable of acquiring and owing property as seen in our constitution.
Onokah examined testate and intestate succession respectively under the dualistic system (under the statute and under customary law marriage). He also discuss the inheritance rights of the spouse. Onokah, did discuss daughter’s right to intestate succession. He was rather brief when he discussed the inheritance rights of the spouse.My research is an attempt to identify certain laws that discriminate against women from inheritance within the Nigerian Legal System as well as the values and philosophies that have directed the development of the laws. Also to demonstrate that women have recognized and protected rights by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Ikpeze, stated recent jurist views on gender and inheritance. She analysed inheritance under various customs and opined that, the rule in Igbo custom that a woman has no right of inheritance to her deceased husband estate. She paid no attention to discriminatory practices against female children.The research work boarders on jurist view in daughter’s right to inheritance.
Anyaogu, the author discussed the discrimatory laws against women’s right generally. The author did not explicitly explain the discrimation faced by women in different parts of the Igbo land. My work here is to discuss the discriminating practices that women face in different parts of the Igboland explicitly and still profer solutions.
1.8 Organizational Layout
This research work comprises of five chapters. Chapter one deals with the preliminary issues like the background of the study, statement of problem, purpose of study, scope of study, significance of study, methodology, literature review and organizational layout.
Chapter twoexamines forms of property rights under customary.
Chapter three lays of the statutory framework on women’s right to inheritance.
Chapter four underscores and examines the problems/discrimination encountered by women with regards to inheritance of property.
Chapter five provides the conclusion and recommendation for the study.
1.9 Definition of Terms
For us to have a proper understanding of this work, the definitions of some important terms are inevitable. These terms include:
- Customary law
- Rights, and
- Human rights
1.9.1 Customary Law
According to Ogbu, custom means the established or common usage of a particular people. Section 258 of the Evidence Act defines custom as a rule which in a particular district, has from a long usage obtained the force of law. It has also being defined as a body of rules regulating rights and imposing correlative duties. It is a body of rules which obtains or is fortified by established usage and which is appropriate and applicable to any particular case, matter dispute, issue or question. Custom is community bound, and the fact that a custom is applicable in one community does not render it applicable to another community unless it is shown that both communities are bound by the same communal affinity. Custom is stated to be a mirror of accepted usage importing justice into the lives of the persons subject to it. Custom is also dynamic as it evolves and changes with time. Custom may only reflect the common usage and practice of the people in a particular matter without necessarily carrying with it the force of law. In other words, a custom may exist without the element of coercion or sanction.
This view was the position of the Supreme Court in Ojisua v Aiyebelehins. According to per Niki Tobi JSC (as he then was) “customary law must be custom as well as law. It is the element of law that gives the custom a binding force.” In essence it could be said that custom is the common practice and usage of the people while customary law is the usage of the people which obtained the force of law. However, for a customary law to be enforced in the courts, it must pass the validity tests of not being repugnant to natural justice, equity and good consciences, not bring contrary to public policy nor incompatible either directly or by necessary implication with any written law for the time being in force.
The term property has a wide meaning. The Black’s Law Dictionary defines “property” as the right to possess, use and enjoy determinate thing. It is the right of ownership. It can further be termed as the right or interest which a man has in land and chattels to the exclusion of others. It is the right to enjoy and dispose things in the most absolute manner as he pleases provided he makes no use of them as prohibited by the law. The sea, air and the likes cannot be appropriated, everyone can make use of them but no one has exclusive right in them. When things are fully our own, or when others are excluded from meddling with them or from interfering, it is plain that no person besides the proprietor who has this exclusive right, can have any claim either to use them or dispose them.
Basically property is divided into real and personal property. Corporeal property comprehends such property as perceptible to the senses. Eg. Lands, houses, goods, merchandise and her like, incorporeal property consists of legal rights e.g. chooses in action etc. In general sense, property is therefore any entity that is owned by an individual or jointly by a group of individuals. An owner of the property has the right over the property. It is therefore, the legal domain with institutes the idea of ownership.
Mostly used interchangeably with inheritance. Succession is the acquisition or mode of acquiring a deceased property rights, duties and obligations. Blacks’ Law Dictionary defines it as the acquisition of rights or property by inheritance under the laws of descent and distribution, it went further to define inheritance as the property received from an ancestor under the laws of intestacy.Succession is therefore broader in scope than inheritance. However, for the purpose of this work both terms will be for the purpose of this work both terms will be used interchangeably.
According to Okoro, a distinctive characteristic of the customary law of succession is the principle that a successor inherits not only the assets in the estate but also the liabilities in the estate. This means that a successor assumes the duties of the deceased with regards to the maintenance of the deceased dependents. In this way, customary law of succession ensures that a deceased duties and obligations survive him. Thus a successor is liable to pay debts owed by the deceased even if the deceased’s estate is insufficient for discharging the debts. The death of a land owner does not extinguish his property rights in such land, whether the land was acquired under customary or statutory law. The right will devolve on the heir or the heirs of the deceased upon intestacy in accordance with his personal law or on persons appointed by the deceased in accordance with the provisions of the will made by the testator in his life time.
Discrimination as a word has several definitions. It has been defined as the effect of a law or established practice that confers privileges on a certain class or that denies privileges to a certain class because of race, age, sex, nationality, religion, or handicap. It also means differential treatment, especially a failure to treat all persons equally when no reasonable distinction can be found between those favoured and those not favoured.
Also, “discrimination” has been defined to mean a choosing with care, good taste, discernment: the making of distinctions (often unfair) in meting out treatment, service, etc. In my own opinion, discrimination put simply, is the practice of preferring or rejecting a particular class, specie, etc. over their counterparts without any natural, moral or legal justification (or without any reasonable justification/ distinction).
Discrimination shows the bias to classification with an aim to treat indifferently especially because of one’s feeling or prejudices about a person’s sex, race or religion and so on. Discrimination means to note the difference of; or between; to distinguish; to select from others; to make or note difference or distinctions, to distinguish and in favour of or against.
If something agrees with law, morality and justice, then we say that such a thing is right. In Nwankwo vOnuma, the word ‘right’ was defined to mean an interest or title in an object or property, a just and legal claim to hold, use or enjoy an object or property. As a noun, the word “right” means anything to which somebody can lay a just and valid claim. It therefore follows that anything which is below a given standard and upon which no one can lay a just and valid claim is not a “right”, but rather, a “wrong”.
The 1999 Constitution provided Nigerians with a realm of rights, some of which are:
- Right to dignity of person
- Right to life
- Right to fair hearing
- Right to personal liberty
- Right to private and family life.
- Right to freedom from movement
- Right to freedom from discrimination
- Right to acquire and own immovable property in Nigeria etc.
It is worthy to state at this point that for every right, there is a corresponding duty. The position of law is that as one citizen is protected against violation of his right by another, he is also expected not to violate the right of another person.
On the meaning of rights, it was held in Uwaifo v A.G. Bendel State &Orsthat a legal right is any advantage or benefit conferred or vested upon a person by law. In the same vein, it was held in Afolayan vOgunrinde&Ors that a right is an interest recognised and protected by the law.
Justice Oputa stated “rights” to be, a right in its most general sense is either the liberty (protected by law) of acting or abstaining from acting in a certain manner, or the power (enforced by law) of compelling a specific person to do or abstain from doing a particular thing. A legal right is thus the capacity residing in one man of controlling, with the assent and assistance of the state, the action of others. It follows then that every right involves a person or persons on whom that right imposes a correlative duty or obligation; an act of forbearance which is the subject matter of the right, and in some cases an object, that is, and in some cases an object, that is, a person or thing to which the right has reference, as in the case of ownership. A right therefore is in general, a well-founded claim, and when a given claim is recognised by the civil law, it becomes an acknowledged claim or legal right enforceable by the power of the state.
Some rights have been classified as human rights while some, fundamental rights though in Nigeria, human rights and fundamental rights are interchangeably used. Human rights are simply natural rights while fundamental rights are domestic rights, which are those enacted/entrenched in our 1999 Constitution. In my own opinion, the word “right” means an entitlement (just as a birthright which could be innate/inherent or acquired/attained and which is given legal support by the supreme law of the land or that which people believe in and practice.
1.9.6 Human Rights
Human means pertaining to or characterizing man or mankind. Also, human “is of or connected with people rather than animals, machines or goods”. Put simply, human rights are those rights which are characteristic of, or common to human beings. Over the years, scholars have found it very difficult to give the term “human rights” a comprehensive definition. This is because the term human rights is an emotive one. Our own Justice Niki Tobi stated thus:
Definition by their very nature, concept and content, are never accurate like a mathematical solution to a problem. Definitions are definitions because they reflect the idiosyncrasies, inclinations, prejudices and emotions of the person offering them. While a definer of a word or an agglomeration of words may pretend to be impartial and unbiased, the final product of his definition will be a victim of partiality and bias. The definer may not know in the course of his definition that he is working into the package, his petty sentiments and prejudices, but the end product proves it all. His embellishments show his emotions and sentiments. This is a human problem, which unfortunately has no human solution. As long as our orientations, our backgrounds, and outlooks remain distinct and distant, the problem will be with us. There is no point pretending about it.
The erudite Justice Niki Tobi continued:
Perhaps, we can afford to sound more relevant by relating the foregoing to the definitions of the word “law”. There are some basic problems. Law, as a social discipline, with a pretentiously egalitarian outlook, could be looked at from quite a number of angles. It could be looked at from the angle of the downtrodden in society, from the angle of the affluent in society or from the angle of the middle class, as distinct from the ruling class … And it could also be looked at from the viewpoint or criterion for the validity of any general legal system or what have you.
Having stated the fact that the term “human rights” have no comprehensive definition and for the aim of this work, some of the various ways in which legal writers have conceived human rights will be looked at.
Cranston defined human rights as follows, a human right is something of which no one may be deprived without a great affront to justice. There are certain deeds which should never be done, certain freedoms which should never be invaded, some things which are supremely sacred. This definition was approved and adopted by the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the case of RansomeKuti v Attorney-General of the Federation. The Supreme Court affirmed human rights to be:
A right which stands above the ordinary laws of the land and which is in fact antecedent to the political society itself. It is a primary condition to a civilised existence, and what has been done by our Constitution since independence is to have these rights enshrined in the Constitution so that the right could be “immutable” to the extent of the non-immutability of the constitution itself.
The Natural Law theorists see human rights as the specie of rights which can be said to inhere in every human being. This means that human rights are those inalienable and immutable rights which cannot be taken away from any person without affront to justice.
OsitaEze defined human rights as,
Demands or claims, which individuals or groups make on society, some of which are protected by law and have become part of lexlata (positive law) while others remain aspiration to be attained in future.
Bryan A. Garner defined it as “Freedoms, immunities, and benefits that according to modern values, all human beings should be able to claim as a matter of right in the society in which they live.
From the foregoing, it means that human right refers to rights enjoyable by everybody everywhere and at all times on equal proportion by the simple reason of our humanity
(2014) LPELR – 227SC
. C. Umobi and A. Dilim, Crises in Family Law [1stEdn, Folmech Ltd 2009] 106
 . E.INwogugu, Family Law in Nigeria [3rdEdn,HFRN Publisher Plc. 2014] 259
(1967) FNLR 251-37
 .M.COnokah, Family Law [2ndEdn, Spectrum Law Series 2003] 251
V.C. Ikpeze, Gender dynamics of inheritance rights in Nigeria (1stedn, Folmech ltd 2009)
 F. Anyaogu, Access to Justice in Nigeria (2ndedn, Ebenezer Ltd 2009)
O.N. Ogbu, Modern Legal System (2ndEdn., CID JAP 2007) 86
  NWLR II, 52
 B.A. Garner, Black’s Law Dictionary 9thEdn. 1335
N. Okoro, Customary Law Succession in Eastern Nigeria (3rdEdnAFP Pub 2002)
 The New Lexicon Webster’s Encyclopaedic Dictionary of the English Language, New York.
V.C. Ikpeze, Gender Dynamics of Inheritance Rights in Nigeria, Need for Women Empowerment.
Nwankwo&Ors.vOnuma&Anor. (1994) 5 NWLR (Pt. 343) 191 at 204.
(1982) 7 S.C. 124 at 273.
 (1990) 1 NWLR (Pt. 127) 369 at 391
Oputa, C.A. Human Rights in the Political and Legal Culture of Nigeria, 2ndIdigbe Memorial Lectures, Lagos: Nigerian Law Publications Ltd., 1989, Pp. 38-39.
 S. S. Smith p. 2438
Niki Tobi, Sources of Nigerian Law, M.I. Lagos, Professional Publishers Ltd, 1996, p.14
Niki Tobi, Op cit. p.14
 M. Granston, Human Rights: Real and Supposed: in Raphael (ed.) Political Theory and the Rights of Man, Bloomington, 1967, p.52.
 (1975) 2 NWLR (Pt. 6) 211,
OsitaEze, Human Rights in Africa, Some Selected Problems, Lagos: The Nigerian
Institute of International Affairs, 1984, p.5.
Op.cit p. 1875
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