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Women and Property Inheritance in Nigeria

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The female child in most customs of the world according to Ogbuagu in his reviews of gender studies in Nigeria, (2002) is made to personalize the notion that, the female is subordinate to male authority and as such cannot and should not claim rights with the boy-child. Ogbuagu further states that the girl-child is taught to be a good wife and mother in future. In addition, the girl child is also perceived and actually made to believe that, she is a tool, an object or a possession to be possessed, controlled and used to fulfill the male desires.

These discrepancies between the old rules and facts are greater where women are concerned and it’s most detrimental to their interests. With this as a background, the researcher aims at taking an in-depth review of women’s right to inheritance of property making a case study out of the Eastern part of Nigeria where practices that are no longer in tandem with the global standards still appear to be a norm.

Women’s Right to property receives very little attention in different parts of the world. Nigerian women’s claims to land are usually accomplished through the male-gender as daughters, sisters, mothers, and above all as wives. Despite this, those rights are often limited to access and not ownership. Land insecurity is prevalent among Nigerian women. According to the 2012 Gender in Nigeria report conducted by the British Council, “women own 4% of land in the North-East and just over 10% in the South-East and South-South”. Less than 10% of Nigerian women own land due to the popular practice of patrilineal succession, where only male children can inherit. Such male-dominated customs cripples the roles of women, especially endemic ones.

Nigeria is a patriarchal society that has relegated women to the background for far too long; this she has sometimes done through the means of Customary Law and Customary practices. The statute has however constantly remained an apparatus for the liberation of women from unequal and discriminatory treatments. One of the ways through which the Law has sought to do this is by imparting property rights on women.

Property rights generally include the right to own, use, access, control, transfer, exclude, inherit and otherwise make decisions about land and related resources. I would acknowledge the right to inherit/acquire property as an inalienable condition of women’s property rights. Women have a right to inherit property from their deceased fathers, brothers, husbands and from any person who devises property to them under their will. This right is assured by Section 43 of the Constitution which states that every citizen (regardless of sex) of Nigeria shall have the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria, while Section 42 of the Constitution constrains prejudice on the basis of gender. When a woman is deprived of the right to acquire property by inheritance by virtue of her being a woman, that amounts to discrimination and prejudice, and the law would not allow it. There thrive in different parts of Nigeria, Customary practices which severely limits women’s right to inherit property, a few of these customs tie the right to inherit to having a male child or some other ludicrous conditions. It has been observed that this constrain is exceedingly common in the Eastern part of Nigeria. In a certain case, the court stated that a custom which forbade women from dealing in the land was invalid. The court further articulated that “A custom cannot derogate from the clear provisions of the Nigerian Constitution dealing with the right to own movable and immovable properties. Women can own landed properties” Women‘s right to use land and to own property is an essential developmental component in women’s fundamental rights, particularly in Nigeria.

It is an imperative truth that women are overlooked and are being treated with animosity in respect of the right of succession and the right of equal opportunity under the customary law. This animosity is also apparent in women going through a divorce, divorced women and woman’s right to inherit from her deceased husband‘s estate. This is, perhaps, the reason African women do not have shorter lives than African men but do have harder lives as stated by multiple studies and reports.

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Women And Property Inheritance In Nigeria. (2019, February 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from
“Women And Property Inheritance In Nigeria.” GradesFixer, 11 Feb. 2019,
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