APPRAISAL OF SUCCESSION UNDER IGBO CUSTOMARY LAW
Right from the beginning there has always been a transition from one generation to another generation and whatever assets or liabilities that were owned or used by one generation is usually passed or transferred to the succeeding generation.
The law of succession is all about the transfer or devolution of property on the death of the owner. It is the manner or form by which property devolves. Though there may not have been any law or statute enacted by a legislature for this purpose, yet each community have had their own beliefs and practices regulating same. Thus, it was held that it is the assent of the natives of a particular community to practices and customs in that community that makes such practices and customs valid. Customary law embodies customs as practiced by the people which they regard as binding on them. Customary succession therefore, is concerned with the way and manner recognized and accepted by the people in which properties are transferred locally according to the customs, traditions and practices of the people.
This paper therefore is aimed at examining customary succession among the Ibo speaking peoples of Nigeria
INTRODUCTION TO SUCCESSION
1.1 Inheritance and succession, an overview
Inheritance is defined as “hereditary succession to a Property, title, office ,e.t.c. a continual right to an estate Invested in a person and his or her heirs”1.The meaning of succession is however defined as “the legal transmission of an estate, throne from one person to another, that to which a person succeed as heirs”, in other words Succession is the transmission of rights and obligations of a deceased person in respect of his estate2. From these definitions ,it can be said that in an ordinary sense that ,inheritance means the passage of a deceased possessions to his or her heirs, while succession is the transfer or passage of a deceased possessions to another person, not necessarily his or her heirs. Conclusively it can be said that there is little or no difference in the two words, therefore the two words will be used interchangeably in the course of this work.
To inherit means to come into possession by transmission from past generations3 or to receive especially as a right. Inheritance in legal parlance therefore is the entry of a living person or living persons into possession of a dead person’s property4. Over time inheritance has come to mean anything received from the estate of a person who has died, whether by the laws of descent5
- The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary
- Idehen v idehen
- Chambers 20th 4th Century Dictionary Edition 1981
- Yakubu, M.G, Property Inheritance and Distribution of Estate under Customary Law, Lagos 1991 p.
- The body of law that determines who is entitled to the property from the estate under the rules of inheritance
or as a beneficiary of a will or trust and it operates where private ownership of property exists as a basis of social and economic enhancement.
In another way, looking at inheritance and succession sociologically, it may go beyond mere transference of property but may also mean transference of statuses and positions. This view was aptly stated by Llyod P.C6. quotiong E.A Hoebel as follows
“A social anthropological approach to property as a social institution lead us to the position where
we look upon inheritance not as entrance of living persons into the possession of dead person’s property or even as succession to all the rights of the deceased but rather as the transference of statuses from the dead to the living with respect to specific property objects”
The first part of the law of inheritance guiding who is to receive the property left by a person who dies in the aspect of the rules governing testate and intestate succession and inheritance. The other part of how the property is to be distributed is the aspect of rules governing the administration of estate, this is where inheritance or succession under the general law or statutory law are being discussed. Apart from the general law, it is common knowledge that customary law is part of our law in Nigeria and as such we have some rules governing inheritance under native law and customs as well.
Under the general or statutory law where a deceased left a valid will behind, there will be a testate succession to his or her property. However, where he left no will or the one he left behind was declared invalid he would be taken to have died intestate. A grant of probate7 must however