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August 19, 2018

Why The Imo State Government Must Reform The Igbo Customary Law As Applicable In Imo State

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The need to reform the Igbo customary law has become obligatory by assent of our people who are crying out for the abolition of some archaic and pagan practices in Igbo land. It is however heart warming that some of our widowhood practices are dying out but the discrimination against the girl child in respect of inheritance rights in the absence of a male issue remains in practice all over Igbo land.

Thus where a man has three girls as children without any male issue, it is often the practice to ignore their existence as if they amount to nothing. In such circumstances, the male relatives of the deceased often wrongfully appropriate without criminal sanctions, the urban and rural properties of the widow and her children and force out the widow out of the family estate, leaving the children with barely enough to survive.

Indeed the Nigerian law has in its own way attempted to reform the application of customary laws as subject to the condition that, such rules are not barbaric, incompatible with written enactments, natural justice, equity and good conscience. This has come to be known as the repugnancy test for affirming the application of notorious customary norms in the various constituent states of the federal republic of Nigeria.

What is deemed as repugnant is  however, subject to varied interpretations but nonetheless it is clear from judicial interpretations , that a  custom must appear to be barbaric and repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience for the courts to disallow its application.

The discrimination against the girl child is in my view an evil if it undermines her equality. This however is not to suggest that the girl child should resort to be single or procreate in her father’s compound as to entitle her to inheritances. Indeed certain customary goods are shared by virtue of accrued natural rights and by order of birth. But parents can however make financial provisions for their girl child irrespective of her marital status or sex when sharing their properties.

One other aspect of our customary law which has acquired notoriety and caused so much hardship, anguish, siblings rivalry, encouraged greed, perhaps, murder and resort to diabolism is the rule  of disinheritance against the eldest male child who predeceases his father irrespective of whether he has surviving male issues or not.

Such a surviving male child immediately loses the right of inheritance of the Isiobi, by himself or heir, which often is the choicest estate and symbol of authority in the family. The reason for this customary rule is that, the eldest male child is supposed to bury the father and bear the funeral expenses for these passage rites.

However in recent times, siblings go to a great length to eliminate their eldest male brother, make it impossible in one way for him to marry, create problems with his father in a manner that fixates hatred  between the duo, either by asserting wrongfully through clever representations that the eldest male does not care for the father or wants him dead before his time, and or that the eldest male child is in the habit of dominating and oppressive to his siblings.

Such intent is evil from beginning and requires the collusion of the mother, and or the conspiracy of a richer but minor sibling who planned to take over the eldest brothers inheritances. Persons who resort to these evil deeds face dire consequences and inexplicable calamities in life according to legends.

The result of such a conspiracy is that the eldest male child may unknown to him be the subject of diabolic attacks, often leading to attacks on his life in one subtle way or the other in which he may be the last to know. Efforts are made to ridicule him publicly and constantly to undermine his status and respectability. Those behind his predicament are often those who are appear to care.

This moral wickedness against this vital system and pivot of Igbo linage system is unacceptable. In communities where a Diokpara is disinherited by virtue of predeceasing his father and or in any other way, there can never be peace in that compound and the bad blood is carried into generations that become eclipsed in hate and bloodshed.

There are often suspicions and lack of cooperation as the eldest male child of the man who predeceased his father becomes the smallest inspite of age and accomplishment in the family order.

This is because; those who are affected by such disinheritances often attribute their misfortune to diabolical criminality and witchcraft of the other which robbed them of their inheritances. The beneficiary of such disinheritance often is never at peace and aptly suspicious. This leads to family feuds and destabilization of the lineage itself.

This development led a community in Orlu to abolish the rule this obnoxious rule, when it found out that the eldest male children were often killed under mysterious circumstances or rendered useless in life and most die unmarried by reason of black magic is worthy of emulation..The culprits are often the younger siblings and many a times they are the ones acutely aware of the rights of inheritances and the position of the eldest whom they envy and distrust.

In some families, the father is coerced to partition and share the Isiobi amongst the siblings, permitting thereof many masters in one ship. The Isiobi no matter how big, beautiful and accommodating is the sole inheritance of the Diokpara and cannot be shared or willed. It is never the subject of a will, or gift, according to judicial authority as the ownership and authority of the father comes to end upon his demise. The Siblings are however entitled to live thereupon peacefully until they build their own house in so far they do no dispute the ownership with the diokpara.

The government must intervene and abolish the rule of disinheritance against the eldest male who predeceases his father but had male survivors. If this is not done, it would lead to the destabilization of the family system in Igbo land. In Imo state, it is already a cause for grave anxiety.

The Imo state government is already on the right path when it intended the abolition of certain customary rules in its unconcluded customary census. This should be done through a legislative reform vide the IMO STATE (CUSTOMARY RULES REFORM AND ABOLITION) LAW swhich will make inapplicable certain customary laws in our state and empower the various customary and native tribunals to act accordingly.

I will also like to comment on the Osu customary rules and its applications in Igbo Land. There is no doubt that this custom in Igbo land is barbaric and evil which has left many of our beautiful and  well educated girls  no alternative but to marry outside Igbo land for no other reason that they are not wanted by the so called freeborn.

In terms of village politics, the so called Osu are the subject of discriminations and social outcasts. There has never been a successful approach to this issue that has torn Igbo land apart. Ndigbo are the only race in Africa that still labels their people as outcasts including whole communities. In times past, they were prevented from marrying and procreating and or organizing their own government and social structures. Today they are still prevented from becoming traditional rulers and subjected to social ostracization.

In recent past, a lady came to me with a problem. She had become pregnant for a man she met in the town, an only child of a chief in a very poor family who had struggled to educate himself and became a successful Banker. She wanted abortion and divorce because, since the discovering of her status, of being osu she had been banned from her husband’s family house and the man had gone almost mental at the idea of losing a woman he loved.

I did not divorce  the couple nor did I okay the abortion of an innocent being and the child now 8 years old is a vibrant life with two other siblings whom I sometimes wonder about their future in this our sad climate of anguish. This family walks under the cloud of despair. He was forced to change his family name and his father remarried at 69 without any issue yet. The families are now challenged over a stupid and superstitious cultural summation.

This issue of Osu caste system would destroy Igbo land if unchecked and the solution does not only lie in well crafted legislation but fresh public reorientation and civic education. It must be integrated into our school curricula and children taught from early age to despise this system of discrimination. Fortunately, all those who believe in these obnoxious practices would die off someday for the beautiful ones who shall be intolerant to this evil, and change would come someday like the morning dew through proper education reorientation and systemic reappraisal.

Sadly, though, the beautiful ones are not yet born who would discard this obnoxious practice to the refuse Bin. Or are they?


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