The research was conducted to evaluate the inheritance practices among widows in Nigeria. It critically examined widowhood with particular emphasis in Igbo society. Different calibers of people were interviewed both in the rural and urban communities. The problems associated with widowhood and inheritances practiced in Nigeria were supposed to experience basically equal pains for the death of the partner. But in Nigeria it appears that the prevailing societal practice tends to be pro-men. This appears to undermine the personality of women and violates the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and many other international conventions and treaties. The bereaved needs to express and deal with their feelings of loss before they can reorganize their lives. The outcome of our analysis of field data analysis depicts that in no distance time inhuman treatments of Nigerian widows in the area of inheritance will soon be antiquated.
1.1 BACKGROUND TO STUDY
In spite of Nigeria‟s cultural dynamics, widowhood presents a myriad of problems across every facet of the country. The problems associated with widowhood and inheritance practice in Nigeria have considerably been researched into. The outcome depicts that they wear a toga of economic, social and psychological dimensions (Pearce, 2001; Robinson, 2001: Uchedu, 1994). These problems have biting effects on widows particularly in the first few years after the death of a spouse. Across the globe, the argument that there exist a water tight relationship between gender and economic development has gained currency (Knowles et al, 2002; de la Croix and Vander, 2008). In most underdeveloped countries, it has been argued that women are inadequately served when it comes to education, health, social status, opportunities, legal rights and, in our case, rights to inheritance (Dollar and Gatti, 1999).
Ordinarily, both the widow and the widower are supposed to experience basically equal pains for the death of the partner. However, in Nigeria, it is appears the prevailing societal practice tends to be pro-men. It is also in records that African traditional society was predominantly a man‟s society. The age-long practice of and believe in male dominance prevails in considerable dimensions in modern day Nigerian society. That Nigerian widow suffers many deprivations is a fact held in many circles. Obviously, the discriminatory approach in the practice of widowhood in Nigeria appears to undermine the personality of women. Also, it violates the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and many other related international conventions and treaties.
Deeply rooted in our customs, their practice constitutes the greatest threat to the realisation of the human rights of millions of widows in Igbo land (Okoye, 1999; Onwuejeogwu, 1987).
In Nigeria‟s statutory marriage, the inheritance law is governed by the Marriage Act of 1990. This act provides that a woman can inherit part of her husband‟s property and estate including land (section 26). Again, where there is a will, the property will be administered in accordance with the wishes of the deceased. However, this is a theoretical aspect of the law. The reality is a different thing. Worse still, multiplicity of laws on inheritance leaves a gap that permits the courts and traditionalists who include unscrupulous relatives to choose the laws that are beneficial to their self interest, and most often, to the disadvantage of the bereaved woman. Under the Igbo customary law, a woman cannot inherit land from her husband‟s estate. The relatives of the deceased usually regard such property as family property and a birth right ((Nwoga et.al, 1989; Nwebo, . & Eze . 1989). Furthermore, acquisitions of property with a spouse are not recognized under the custom to give the woman any right to any part of the property even when it is proven. The condition of a widow without a male child is better experienced than explained. In many instances, she is a total loser as she does not inherit anything directly or indirectly.