Nigeria inheritance: 'My brothers take everything when my papa die'

  • Nduka Orjinmo
  • BBC News, Abuja
Onyinye Igwe

Women still no dey get share from dia parent’s inheritance for some parts of south-eastern Nigeria, even as Supreme Court rule say na discrimination.

After Onyinye Igwe lose her papa two years ago, life become difficult for her financially even though her papa dey very rich wen e dey alive, im leave behind houses, land and money for bank.

Her father, like most men for dis part of di kontri wey no dey believe to write will, di duty of how dem go share im property dey im children hand.

Despite say na she be di first pikin, Ms Igwe, wey be 29 years old and her five other sisters no get anything from dia papa property, all di property na for di three men for di family as dat na di custom among di Igbo people.

"Di men [her brothers] claim everything our papa leave behind.

"Dem tok say we [women] we go marry so we no get right to inherit anything from our papa. Because that na di tradition, we no fight dem," she tell BBC.

Sake of dat, she no fit go university again to complete her education, now she dey into small business where she dey sell cooked noodles for Abagana town for Anambra state wey dey south-east of Nigeria.

‘Here na di men dey take everything’

Another woman, Evelyn Onyenokwalu, na di first child inside family of four.

When her papa die, her only brother – di last born of di family – inherit all di papa estate including di family house.

"So many people chook mouth before my brother agree to give me one room [for di family house] and e say make I no dey lock di door.

"E get one time wey I broke because my brother rent some of di rooms and no give me any share from di money”.

Her brother, Oscar Nonso, wey be musician and also get poultry business wey e dey do for di compound e inherit say im no do anything wey dey bad and na di tradition of im pipo im dey follow.

Wetin we call dis foto,

Oscar Nonso rebuild dis house im inherit from e father while im sister get nothing

"Here di men na im get everything, dem go give dia women whatever they wish," he tok.

"To dey fight for inheritance for your papa house just be like say you dey fight for double portion, because wen you [women] collect from your papa house finish, una go still collect from una husband, im add join.”

'You dey say girls no belong?'

Di Nigerian constitution forbid dat kain gender-based discrimination but many Igbo pipo still stick to their traditions.

For most families, property left behind by fathers dey divided among male children - di size of each person share dey determined by age, di senior brothers dey collect more and women no dey part of am. In some cases where dem share di inheritance reach women side, na things wey belong to dia mama and no be things like lands and houses.

Many Igbos believe say women no suppose inherit ancestral family land as e dey expected say dem go comot di community when dem marry, while di men go remain to carry on di family heritage. Fear also dey say di husband fit gain access to family land through marriage if dem allow women inherit land.

Inheritance of family houses dey exclusive for male children only in order of seniority.

But no be all women accept dis tradition.

Map: Nigeria

E get one case wey dem drag for more than 20 years, wey na 2014 dem resolve am in favour of a woman wey carry her family go court sake of say dem disinherit her.

Nigeria Supreme Court rule say na discrimination to exclude female children, "e no mata how dia birth take happun to deny dem to not share from dia parents' estate and say di Igbo custom, wey dey go against di constitution therefore dey illegal.

But nothing much don change despite di ruling.

Wetin we call dis foto,

Egodi Igwe don handle many cases wey involve women wey no get any inheritance

Di oga of Women Aid Collective (WACOL), Egodi Igwe, one NGO wey dey provide free legal representation to women wey choose to challenge disinheritance in court, say her organization dey receive hundreds of cases each year.

"Di cultural norms and cultural inhibitions wey dey empower these harmful practices still dey very much alive for di communities.

"If you dey tell a girl say she no fit share from her parents' estate, e mean say you dey tell her say she no belong for there,” she tok.

'Women must take di decisions'

Disinherited women get di option of going to court, but di legal process wey dey expensive fit last for many years and fit cause make family scata, so most time dem dey approach local chiefs – wey be men and relatives to find compensation, wey dem no dey get.

"E dey very difficult for change to happen for dat kain setting as long as na men still dey dominate dat political corner,"Egodi Igwe tok.

She add join say, "If change go happun, women must dey part of di decision-making bodies."

To end dis practice go require di help of di region ogbonge kings wey fit put an end to di tradition. But most of dem say na custom wey dem no fit change.

Ending the practice would require the help of the region's influential kings, who can abolish the tradition, but most of them say it is a custom that cannot be changed.

Igwe Chiwendu Onuoha di traditional ruler of Eke in Enugu state, no think say e dey discriminatory to disinherit women.

"Men na di custodians of di land and di culture," he tok.

He add join say even community lands na male members of di community dem dey give.

"Na these men go take care of di communities. if anything happun, kasala burst, fight dey, issues with culture, na di men go settle am.

‘Men and women dey created equal'

Although di practice na very old practice wey don spread for di region, some communities have abolished it.

Igwe Godwin Ecko na one of di few kings wey don stop di customs for im kingdom, also for Enugu state.

Wetin we call dis foto,

Igwe Godwin Ecko na one of di few Igbo kings wey get women for e council of chiefs

"We believe say men and women dey created equally so to deny them [women] certain things dey wrong.

"For my community women fit inherit things, even land. We no dey gree make extended families collect properties from women wey no get sons,” he tok.

'I no fit quarrel with my brothers'

"With all di family conflict wey dey go on wit girl child disinheritance, Egodi Igwe think say make men begin to think how to make sure dia family no get issues wen dem die.

she believe di solution dey di hand of parents make dem write dia will and let dia relatives know how dem want make dem share dia property wen dem die.

Onyinye Igwe also agree wit di point.

She say she no vex for her brothers and she no dey go court to challenge di inheritance.