Court nullifies agelong tradition against women inheritance in Akwa Ibom community
An Akwa Ibom State High Court sitting in Etinan has laid to rest the ancient traditional practice in Etinan Local Government Area, which denies women and female children the right to inherit their fathers’ and relatives’ landed property.
Justice Pius Idiong was delivering judgment in a suit brought before the court by eight children of the late Obong Patrick Joseph Noah of Edem Ekpat in Etinan Local Government Area, against 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.
In their evidence, 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 such practice as anachronistic, primitive and unconscionable, which should not exist in 21st-century society.
The court 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 Idiong 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 Local Government Area 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 Local Government Area.
Justice Idiong dismissed the appeal with the cost of N50,000 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.
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