OUR TRADITION, OUR HEALTH.
DISINHERITING WIVES AND DAUGHTHERS.
In the beginning, according to the Bible, god created man and woman in his own image. He said they should have dominion over all other things he created. So, this means men and women are equal before god. But human experience differs from culture to culture and from one geographical setting to another.
The disinheritance of wives and daughters in most Nigerian tribes seems to have made a mess of the parity status God commanded from the beginning. Most families neglect mothers and their daughters who are supposed to be considered first in every family decision when land matters come up due to native laws and custom imposed on them by their forefathers. Among the Igbos of southeast, for instance, the people’s culture, otherwise called Omenala, stipulates that women should not, in their maiden homes, partake in land heritage, because as daughters who will marry someday, they are regarded more or less as transient members of their father’s family. For that reason, they do not lay any claims to succession or sharing of any family inheritance. In the case of an unmarried daughter, the possibility of a future marriage subjects her to the same treatment.
For married women, they believe that there is possibility of divorce and the fact that she is not a blood descendant denies her the same right in that family. The situation is a vicious cycle.
In most cultural jurisdictions in Nigeria, particularly the Igbo, Yoruba, Edo and Urhobo, the wife or widow of a deceased does not come within the meaning family members so as to enable her acquire the rights and privileges accruing to the children of the family. She is regarded as a non- legal person and so cannot hold any right to property, inherit from her husband, and in some cases, even her father. Under the Yoruba native law and custom, a wife can share of her husband’s property, whether she has a kid or not. In addition, she can expect to enjoy some rights of inheritance from her father’s side. But where she is allotted a portion of land by her father’s side, that portion remains her father’s family land and not that of her husband’s. She cannot make an absolute gift of the portion to her husband. Therefore, her husband cannot dispose of such portion of land. But the sons and daughters can inherit the property on her death. That portion of land still remains their mother’s family land.
In some parts of Igbo land, a wife has a right to reside in her husband’s house as long as she remains the wife, but such right terminates as soon as there is a divorce. If a wife remains childless and becomes widowed, she still remains a family member. An arrangement can be made for her to procure children for the late husband through another man. But in other area, it is total disinheritance. Technically, she becomes homeless for the rest of her life, unless she is ready to be inherited by her husband’s eldest brother who, in turn, becomes her new husband. She therefore retains her rights be cohabiting with him.
In Igbo culture, women are not entitled to inherit land from their father’s side unlike the Yoruba system where a woman is entitled to some inheritance. Similarly, a female cannot be the family head no matter her seniority in the family. Even where the instate left behind some money, it is inherited by all his sons to the exclusion of his daughters and if the deceased had no son then his property would be inherited by his eldest full blood brother. The only means by which a female child can inherit her father’s property in the absence of a male child among the Igbos is to remain in the family with the hope of bearing a male heir!
N.B: Next edition features the health implication of disinheriting female children.