The Dissolution of Customary Law Marriage in Nigeria and Intestate Inheritance: A Review of the Supreme Court Decision in Okonkwo v Ezeaku

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Mary-Ann Onoshioke Ajayi, PhD

Keywords

Customary Law, Marriage, Estate, Nigeria, The Supreme Court of Nigeri

Abstract




Marriage in Nigeria, can either be statutory or customary (including Islamic) and the incidences as well as the dissolution, of any of these marriages, is regulated by the applicable system of law. The failure to abide by the applicable system of law, would obviate anything purportedly done for or against the marriage including its dissolution. Also, subject to applicable customs and customary laws, everyone has testamentary capacity and once exercised, subject to fundamental irregularities, the court and everyone is bound by it. However, where a person dies without a testament, he/she is said to have died intestate and his personal law, subject to established restraints, regulates his estate. This paper, adopts the doctrinal methodology in examining the impacts of the Supreme Court of Nigeria decision in Okonkwo v Ezeaku on the mode of dissolving customary law marriage, inheritance and administration of the estate of a person who dies intestate. It also examines the proprietary of using an affidavit to sequestrate an estranged customary marriage wife from being entitled to share in the estate of her husband. It founds that failure to abide by the prevailing custom and customary law in dissolving a customary marriage is fatal and such an estranged wife, is entitle to inherit her late husband estate upon dying intestate. The judgment, heightens the need for persons to write wills to ensure that their wishes are complied with upon their demise. It recommends that for a divorce under customary law to be valid, it must comply with the recognised customary law. The judgment is a welcomed development and note of warning against untidiness.




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