The Right of Women to the Inheritance of their Husbands’ Estate in Nigeria




Women’s property rights, widows, customs, inheritance, succession


In Nigeria, the legal position of a woman’s rights to both her father’s and husband’s property continues to cause controversy, despite numerous academic efforts to clarify it. A widow’s right to inherit her deceased husband’s property is missing under native laws and customs. This is a significant gap in the legal framework, which perpetuates inequality, even with the human rights principles in post-independence constitutions. This article evaluates the validity of a woman’s claim to inherit her deceased husband’s property. The analysis is limited to Nigeria’s three largest tribes—Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba tribes. A qualitative method of analysis is used to identify best practices from Tanzania, India, South Africa, and English law. The article finds a need for Nigeria’s legal framework to abolish archaic traditional laws that prejudice women, especially widows. It recommends that Nigeria should investigate the status of its customary laws to identify discriminatory customs that require abolition and customary values that require codification. It urges the judiciary to develop the customary laws of Nigerian ethnic groups to conform them with constitutional principles. There is also the need to encourage and promote the work of non-governmental organisations that educate and financially empower women to assert their right to inherit their deceased husbands’ estates.


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How to Cite

Adeleke, Victoria, and Anthony C Diala. “The Right of Women to the Inheritance of Their Husbands’ Estate in Nigeria”. Journal of Law, Society and Development, 20 pages.



Received 2023-08-30
Accepted 2024-03-14
Published 2024-05-30