Lagos provides free legal service for persons denied inheritance
Lagos State Government said it is providing free legal services to individuals whose relatives have denied them their entitlements from properties left behind by their late parents or guardians.
People experiencing such ordeal are advised to register a complaint at the Office of the Administrator-General of Public Trustee Lagos State, Alausa Secretariat, Ikeja.
Lagos State administrator-general Tunji Dawodu said the agency under the Ministry of Justice has a mandate to manage the properties of dead persons with controversies relating to their will and legitimate ownership of such properties.
“We have the mandate to step in the case of persons who died without leaving a will behind or if the will is being contested in court by the deceased’s relatives,” Dawodu told The Guardian in an interview.
“This agency manages the estate of the deceased pending when the case is resolved by the court, to avoid the property being a hideout for criminals.
“When a case is referred to us and we discover, for instance, that a minor who is supposed to be a beneficiary is involved, we become very passionate about it and we automatically become trustees for the minor and ensure that he or she gets the best care with regards education and welfare,” Dawodu said.
Dawodu said the Administrator-General Law Lagos State 2015 gives citizens the opportunity to appoint the office as the administrator-general as executor of a will.
“We are calling on a lot of people that the relatives of their late parents or guardians have sat on the properties left behind.. A lot of these people have no one to help them. Now the government wants to help them. We want them to come forward,” Dawodu said.
Dawodu explained that a valid will that enlists an individual as a beneficiary of an inheritance supersedes whatever the family says or tries to contest in court.
He, however, said a written will can only be bypassed if the owner of the property was devoted Muslim while he was alive.
“In that case the properties will be shared according to the Sharia Law,” Dawodu said. “The power to make a legacy in Islamic law is limited to one-third of the estate, the remaining two-thirds to be distributed among the heirs according to the prescribed portions (Faraid) after settlement of debts such as charges on the real property, unpaid purchase price etc and funeral expenses.”
But with regards to Yoruba customary law, Dawodu said properties are shared using the ‘Idi-Igi’ principle, which entails properties shared equally among the wives of the deceased irrespective of the number of children they have.
“But if this results to conflict, the Ori Ojori (per head) principle is applied where properties are evenly shared among the children,” Dawodu said customary law varies in different ethnic groups.
Dawodu stated that children who were born out of wedlock by the deceased also have equal rights as children of a legitimate wife.
“No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reasons of the circumstance of his birth,” Dawodu said quoting the chapter four, subsection two of the Nigerian Constitution.
He disclosed that the agency will begin sensitisation programmes to enlighten Lagosians on the provisions and services offered by the Lagos State Government.
The Office of the Administrator-General of Public Trustee Lagos State, Alausa Secretariat, Ikeja can be contacted on phone on 08082090112.