Inheritance According To Igbo Custom; How most properties are shared
Inheritance according to Igbo is one of the most important aspect every Igbo tribe indigene are always interested about. They care mostly about their investments and properties and can go extra mile to make sure that their hard earned properties which their have secured from their fore-fathers are kept well.
One rule of the inheritance According To Igbo is that Igbo tribes does not sell any land that they have gotten from their fathers, they can only lend out a helping hand to any of their brothers or relatives that does not have enough by giving him a portion for farming and this has being like a culture and tradition of the igbos.
The igbos are one unique tribes that has many diversified cultures and tradition and most of them were able to preserve theirs. In Igbo land, the law of inheritance according to Igbo states that only the males are allowed to get properties from their late parents.
The rules of inheritance are the same throughout the family groups in Aguluezechukwu except in Aro-Aguluezechukwu family group. This family group has its origin from Arochukwu. Arochukwu people retain their customs where ever they settle in different parts of Nigeria, mostly in Anambra State.
To the Aros, inheritance is only by seniority in age irrespective of whether the sons are from the same mother or not in case of polygamous family. The oldest of the sons in the family becomes the head of the family when the father dies. This order of the first son i.e. the oldest in the family after the death of the father is not disputed in Aro family group.
The Ohuhu i.e. non Aros in Aguluezechukwu inherit the family in different ways.
By making oral will or “Ike ekpe”: The father could make a will for his sons. This will is usually oral, it has to be in the presence of the family members who would remain as witnesses in case of misinterpretation at anytime.
Nowadays if the will is written, it has to be stamped and registered to make it more authentic. The will must not affect the birth rights of the oldest son e.g. the entire walled family compound, must remain intact for the oldest son.
By birth right: In Aguluezechukwu, the oldest son in the family inherits the compound after the death of the father. He takes care of the younger brothers and sisters. It is his responsibility to rehabilitate his brothers and sisters comfortably.
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Those younger brothers and sisters would be royal and obedient to him. Gang-ups by the younger brothers and sisters and the mother against the oldest son is never allowed. The elders in the family group will help to settle any misunderstanding that might arise.
If it is a polygamous family and they are Christians, the oldest son inherits all the assets and liabilities of the family, but the brothers also have their birth rights. Their father must give them their own share of his property – residential lands, farm lands and other things.
When the head of the family i.e. the father dies the sons will bury him and perform the full burial ceremony. After the burial ceremony, the fathers’ assets are shared. The oldest son has the entire walled premises and immediate front site “ihuezi”.
The remaining environs will be divided into two and one part will go to the oldest son still. The other parts will be divided for the other younger ones according to seniority in age. If any of the sons did not participate actively in the father’s burial, he will be denied some shares.
Those younger brothers who are from the same mother will have one share which they will later share among themselves. The girls, that is, the daughters of the late father, irrespective of their different mothers will be under the oldest son. If some body comes to marry any of them, the oldest son will play the role of the father, but the greater part of the dowry will be utilized by the immediate brother of the girl.
However, the oldest son in the family must enjoy some privileges whether the sister is of the same mother with him or not.
Farm lands usually away from residential area, (wilderness): In sharing such farm lands, a portion will be reserved for the oldest son, and such portion will be generally agreed to be reserved. It is done for a purpose and the portion will be generally agreed.
The portion will not be so large. If the parcels of land are not together in a location, the reserved portion will be carved from only one location. The remaining locations will be evenly shared. Those sons that are of the same mother will eventually sub divided their own share if they wish and that is usually the custom.
The sisters given out in marriage have no customary right over the assets of their late father. Such sisters come to the father’s compound and request for whatever they need – land for cultivation or any other thing. Such requests are not usually rejected.
Their needs must be satisfied as much as possible. The oldest son in the family must always try to be fair in the treatment he gives his sisters so that he will be obeyed and respected.
An investment by any of the sons made in the presence of the father in the compound will never be denied that son. That will only be claimed by the eldest son through a negotiated settlement with the son of the family that has the investment.
If the oldest son dies before his father the inheritance will be transferred to the next oldest son regardless of his mother. The right of inheritance of the oldest son ends if he dies before the father.
Inheritance according to Igbo: Redeemed Lands And Tribes
In some cases, the head of the family may out of financial problem put out a piece of land or even trees on lease. If any of the wives, in case of polygamous family, had the money, she could redeem the property. She would claim that she has a right to use the property as she redeemed the property with her money.
But it does not usually work like that. If the husband of the woman dies without paying back the money to the woman her son would assert ownership of the property as it was redeemed with his mothers’ money. When the women dies, the property, reverts to the family head after peaceful negotiations.
If the husband made it clear before elders that the property will be irreversible in the presence of the family that will hold, provided that there is evidence to confirm the negotiation.
In some polygamous, families, the head of the family the father, tries to change birth right for one reason or the other. This may be because of the love he has for a wife or for any other reason. It may be either that such a wife was very obedient or that she renders good services to the husband whenever such services are needed.
An Igbo adage puts it that the love a husband has on the wife effects her children so also is the hatred. In such a situation the husband would like his valuable property to go to the children of his beloved wife. This creates serious disagreements in a polygamous family. In such a manouvre God answers the prayers of the oppressed.
Whatever the situation may be, the first male child of a man inherits the fathers assets, and this should be recognized, whether such a son is rich or poor, he must be given the honour due to him by his younger brothers and sisters and even the wives.
Any attempt by any of the father’s wives or children who are wealthy to deprive him of his rights in the family, incurs God’s anger and punishment on them. The first son of a deceased father must always try to play the role of a father to his younger brothers and sisters.