TVC N. An Akwa Ibom State High Court sitting in Ikot Ekpene Judicial Division, has nullified the practice among Annang people where female children are denied their deceased parents’ inheritance.
The court presided over by Justice Ntong Ntong, said the practice was against good conscience and unconstitutional in the present day realities, declaring it null and void and of no effect.
On the other hand, the judge also declared that for the son to inherit the main building of his father and his personal effects to the exclusion of the female children in Annang tradition was not repugnant to natural justice and good conscience.
The declaration is contained in a judgment delivered Wednesday in a 2014 suit filed by one Mrs. Joyce Obot (formerly known as Joyce Akpan) against her stepbrother, Idorenyin Akpan, as the respondent.
It was gathered that late Udo Akpan who hailed from Ikpe Ikot Akpan, Ikpe Annang in Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area died without a valid will some years ago.
He was said to have married two wives who gave birth to six children.
The complainant, Mrs. Joyce Obot, is the eldest and only child from the first wife while her brother – the respondent, is the only male child among his mother’s five children, and the only male child of late Udo Akpan.
It was also gathered that shortly after his demise, the eldest daughter and her stepsister, Useneno Akpan from the second wife had applied for and obtained a letter of administration.
As administrators of their late father’s estate, it was learnt that Obot had caused the Adiasim/Ikpe Annang District Court to partition the assets left behind.
The main building was said to have been given to the only son (respondent) while the boys’ quarter went to the eldest daughter (plaintiff) in the final judgment of the District Court in suit No. 64/98.
It was gathered that the subsisting decision of the Customary Court was neither challenged nor set aside by any higher court before an attempt by the respondent to deprive his elder sister of her inheritance on grounds that as a woman, she was not entitled to the boys’ quarter due to the long held tradition that she had been married out.
The court noted that the wrong belief about women and girl children did not exist only among the Annang people, but also prevalent among the Oro, Ibibio, the Efik and even among other ethic nationalities, including the Igbo of the South-East.
Justice Ntong held that the tradition had from time immemorial been a thing of worry.
According to him, the 1999 Constitution (as amended) section 42 (1) (a) and (2) has since laid to rest the discriminatory issue in the society, affirming that it is now known and settled that any girl child or a woman and even a widow should not be left to go empty handed in the deceased father or husband’s assets and liabilities.
He insisted that since the constitution frowns on discriminating against citizens of Nigeria on the basis of sex, no court should fold its arms and keep mute when the constitution was contravened.
Relying on a plethora of authorities, including the celebrated 2014 Supreme Court decision in Ukeje vs Ukeje, 234 LRCN, where the apex court declared the Igbo tradition that deprived a female child from inheritance of her father’s property was contrary to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and to the extent of its inconsistency, the said Igbo custom and tradition remained void.
Justice Ntong held, “In this vein, I am inclined to hold that the contention of the respondent that his elder stepsister – the complainant in this case, is not entitled to what was shared to her, to wit; the boys’ quarter of their father’s main building as in exhibit “B” in this case by virtue of the tradition and customs of the Annang people of Ikpe Ikot Akpan is null and void and of no effect and substance whatsoever.”