The Supreme Court’s judgement of granting inheritance to a girl child in Igbo land has ended a culture that has held the community as a patriarchal one.
The judgement was considered an abomination to many for an Igbo father to give his female child his estate.
This practice necessitated the saying, ‘Nwanyi bu ama onye ozo’ (a girl child belongs to another family).
The highest court confirmed the right of a female child to inherit the property of her father in an agreement, by that judgment the court went against the age-long Igbo tradition and customary law, which forbade a female child from inheriting her father’s estate.
The Supreme Court went against the tradition and custom on the grounds that it was discriminatory and conflicted with the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The court specifically stated that the practice conflicted with Section 42(1) (a) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution.
The judgment was given in an appeal marked: SC.224/2004 filed by Mrs Lois Chituru Ukeje, wife of the late Lazarus Ogbonna Ukeje, and their son, Enyinnaya Lazarus Ukeje, against Ms Gladys Ada Ukeje, who is the deceased’s daughter.
Gladys had sued the deceased’s wife and son before the Lagos High Court, stating that she was one of the deceased children and had to be included among those who were to receive the deceased’s estate.
The court found that she was indeed the deceased’s daughter and she qualified to benefit from the estate of her father, who did not have a will in Lagos in 1981.
The Court of Appeal Lagos, Nigeria, where Lois Chituru Ukeje and Enyinnaya Lazarus Ukeje appealed, confirmed the decision of the trial court and advised them to appeal to the Supreme Court.
In the courts judgment, the Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeal Lagos, Nigeria, was right to have voided the Igbo native law and custom that disinherit female children.