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THE PRACTICE OF SHARING INHERITANCE IN A TRADITIONAL YORUBA SOCIETY

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THE PRACTICE OF SHARING INHERITANCE IN A TRADITIONAL YORUBA SOCIETY (A CASE STUDY OF EKITI SOUTH WEST LOCAL GOVERNMENT LLAWE EKITI)

INTRODUCTION 

1.1 BACKGROUND TO STUDY

Inheritance is a cultural practice that cuts across the whole world. It is a critical mode of property transfer in many Sub-Saharan African countries (Platteau & Baland 20), where inheritance distributions are culturally done through direct and intimate interactions among family members. The personal nature of such inheritance distributive practices is vulnerable to abuse. The existing research literature from various Sub-Saharan African societies highlights how as a result of existing social conventions widows and orphans are particularly vulnerable to losing their rights of access to properties they enjoyed during the lifetime of their husbands or fathers (Rose 26; Strickland 14; Drimie,; Human Rights Watch, 56;).

Inheritance in Nigeria is normally determined by the customary rules of where the deceased person originates from and not by where he resides or lives, or, where the property is situated. This of course presupposes that he or she did not make a Will, or, made a Will before getting married (Drimie 11). Nigerian systems on inheritance and succession are predominately patrilineal (i.e. inheritance through the father) than matrilineal (i.e. inheritance through the mother (Oleke, Blystad & Rekdal 13.).

Culture certainly determines the pattern of reactions to the death of a man as husband or a woman as wife. Each culture determines the rationality of practices relating to inheritance rites The Yoruba of South-Western Nigeria have differing practices relating to inheritance. In Yoruba land , distribution of an estate of a deceased person, who dies without a valid Will, is per stripe; i.e. by the number of Wives that the deceased had and not by the number of children. Where there is a serious dispute, the family head is permitted, in some parts of Yoruba land, to have a final discretion by recommending the distribution of the estate, per capital; i.e. by the number of children and not by the number of wives (Drimie 11,12).

In few instances when heirs are not favoured by inheritance distributive decisions, some members of the husbands’ family often become aggrieved. Consequently, they raise seemingly justifiable objections.  Their reactions to perceived inheritance distributive injustice often manifest in inheritance hijacking practices against heirs, who they insist, have got no property inheritance rights. As a consequence of the attendant effects of such alienation from property, the dwindling fortunes of these victims have been linked to economic vulnerability, poverty traps, chronic poverty and the intergenerational transmission of poverty (IGT poverty) (Carter & Barrett 6; Bird, Pratt, O’Neil & Bolt 4; Bird & Shinyekwa 12). This Suggests that problems of associated with poor inheritance practices, has instrumental effects on socio-cultural and economic disposition of the country.

STATEMENT OF PROBLEM

Against the foregoing background, African countries have presented evidence that the property of widows and orphaned children has been grabbed or stripped (Okuru 11; Izumi 26; Rose 12; Sloth-Nielsen 2; Strickland 41; HRW 23). For example, succession rights for the vast majority of Kenyans, like other African communities, are governed by customary norms, predominantly based on notions of patrilineal inheritance (Mwangi, Kiai, & Eric 2).

Conversely, bequeathing inheritable items such as real property, financial assets, and sometimes, the wives of the deceased, to younger members of the family, is one form of concrete African expression of cultural bond.

Within the past few decades, research has shown systematic investigation into the dynamics of inheritance practices and inheritance in Africa (Fasoranti, and Aruna 27). However studies particular to Nigerian traditional inheritance practice is missing. The result is that much of the scanty pieces of information we have today on this subject matter are mere raw and unprocessed information. A wide gap still exists on the aspect of a systematic and sponsored sociological and cosmological to this critical area of development. For the same reason of lack of analytical approach, studies of inheritance practices in rural communities of Yoruba land are also conspicuously absent. This work therefore intends to establish the gaps observed above and considerably proffers measures of filling same with a specific interest paid to prevailing situations in Ekiti South West Local Government Llawe Ekiti.

1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

The following objectives shall guide this study:

  1. Examine the Right of Succession among Ilawe Ekiti People
  2. Determine the ways of sharing inheritance in Ilawe-Ekiti
  3. Determine how Widows are treated in the society
  4. To proffer solution to the challenges of inheritance in Ilawe-Ekiti.

 1. 4   RESEARCH QUESTIONS

This work shall accordingly be guided by the following research questions so as to achieve the above-mentioned objectives:

  1. What is the Right of Succession among Ilawe Ekiti People ?
  2. What are the ways of sharing inheritance in Ilawe-Ekiti?
  3. How bereaved Widows are treated in the society?
  4. what solution can be proffered to the challenges of inheritance in Ilawe-Ekiti?

SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY

We cannot end poverty and reach the MDGs in Nigeria if adequate commitment is not made to address some societal ills that are inherently anti-development. Poor inheritance practices and other societal induced poor treatment against women rank top in this very consideration. Until we eliminate incidences of discrimination against women (the girl child inclusive) in our society, our quest for sustainable development will continue to be elusive.  Women have a vital role to play: to the economy, to better governance, to peace processes, to their communities and their households. Denying them the basic means to socio-economic freedom reduces their chances of contributing significantly to the process societal development.

This study is therefore important as it outcome will be useful to policy makers and implementers of development programmes in Nigeria. It could equally be adapted in similar society to tackle the menace of inequality among women and men. It is expected that students and researchers in development related discipline will find the work invaluable. The work is also hoped to accentuate valuable insight on the preparation of Ekiti State in terms of attaining the Millennium Development Goals. Above all, the findings of the study will ultimately help in addressing poor inheritance practices among Nigeria’s rural and urban women.

SCOPE OF THE STUDY

The scope of this study is limited to disparity in socio-political and economic participation in the selected communities of Ekiti State. Whatever will be the outcome of the research from these study areas will be used in extrapolating for the entire Ekiti State

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