23 April 2013

Nigeria: Supreme Court Re-Affirms Bini Succession Law

The Supreme Court of Nigeria, Friday re-affirmed the Bini customary law of succession in which the first son inherits his father's place of abode (Igiogbe).

Edward Omorodion Uwaifo (appellant) had challenged the validity of his father's will in an action filed at the high court and fought up to the Supreme Court seeking to set aside the entire will.

In a unanimous decision, the apex court held that the entire will of the appellant's late father cannot be voided simply because the "Igiogbe" was bequeathed to someone else, but added that it was against Bini customary law to disinherit the eldest son of the Igiogbe as done in this case.

Justice Suleiman Galadima in his lead judgment held that the said will was invalid only to the extent that house No. 4 Ohuoba Street, declared as the Igiogbe was devised to persons other than the appellant. The court held further that the other parts of the will could be saved.

Pa Daniel Ediagbonya Uwaifo, (appellant's late father) died on 29 August, 1985, in his house at No. 4 Ohuoba Street, Benin City as a Bini man subject to Bini customary laws. He also built another house in the same compound which he gave out to tenants and personally collected rents. However the two houses were shared to other children who excluded the appellant.

After the completion of his father's final burial ceremony, the appellant was informed for the first time that his father made a will which was later read at the probate registry of the Benin City High Court.

It then became clear to the appellant that he had been completely disinherited by his late father.

The high court granted some of his reliefs. He then appealed to the Court of Appeal against the parts of the judgment of the high court that did not favour him but his appeal was dismissed.

Dissatisfied, he further appealed to the Supreme Court which Friday, re-affirmed the Bini customary law on succession.

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