THE LAW OF SUCCESSION UNDER THE NIGERIAN CUSTOMARY LAW


THE LAW OF SUCCESSION UNDER THE NIGERIAN CUSTOMARY LAW

CHAPTER ONE MEANING AND SCOPE OF CUSTOMARY LAW

        Before looking at  the  meaning  of  Customary  Law.  Let’s know  what  custom  means.  In  the  case  of  OKONKWO  V  LUCKY  OKAGBUE  ORS 1the  court  defines  “Custom”  as  follows,

        “A  particular  way  of  behavior  which  because  it  has  long  been  established   among  members  of  a  social  group  or  tribe,  can  develop  and  acquire  the  force  of  law,  it  be  approved  by  consent  of  those  who  follows  it”.

From  the  above  dictum  of  the  presiding  Judge,  it  can  be  seen  that  custom  has  been  in  existence  from  time  immemorial,  here  it  means  “a  long  time  ago”.  A  custom  is  also  a  tradition,  a  way  of  behavior  of  the  people.  Human  conduct  is  governed  daily  by  certain  custom  which  the  people  recognized  and  accepted  by  themselves.

        A  custom  is  not  necessary  customary  law  until  requirement  are  made.  For  a  custom  to  become  a  customary law,  it  must  have  the  force  of  law.  In  other  words,  it  must  bind  on  the  people  which  it  is  applied.  It must  have  a  force  of  law.  It  should  be  noted  and  I  believe  that  all  customary  law  advocate  will  agree  with  me  also  that  the  existence  and  long  life  of  custom  is  the  strength  of  acceptance  by  the  local  populace,as was in the case of  Eshugbayi  Eleko  v.  Govt Of  Nigeria2  furthermore,  customs  also  refers  

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(1994) 9 NWLR pt 368 30 1, at pg 345, shabu Aku v us man amaka (1991) 8 NWLR (pt 209) 280

at pp. 292, 294.

(1931) Ac 662 At 673.

The  practice  or  usage  “Which  by  common  adoption  and  unvarying  habit  has  become  compulsory  and  has  acquired  the  force  of  law  with  respect  to  the  place  or  subject  matter  which  it  relates” 3 .

Now  that  we  have  already  known  what  custom  is,  I  will  like  us  to  go  further  by  explaining  what  customary  law  is.

The  supreme  court  in  the  case  of  Kharie  Zaidan  Fatima  Khalil  Mohssen4Define  customary  law  as  follows:-

        “It  is  a  system  of  law  not  being  the  common  law  (England),  and  not  being  a  law  enacted  by  a  competent  legislature  and  binding  within  Nigeria  as  between  the  parties  subject  to  it  sway”.

According  to  Obaseki  J.S.C5a  customary  law  is  the  organic  or  living  law  of  the  indigenous   people  of  Nigeria  regulating   their  lives  and  transaction. It is  organic  in  that  it  is  not  static.  It  is  regulatory  in  that  it  controls  the  lives  and  transaction  of  the  community  subject  to  it.  Custom  is  a  mirror  of  the  culture  of  the  people  and  it  imports  justice  to  the  lives  of  all  those  subject  to  it  that  is  why  it  is  referred  to  as  “A  mirror  of  accepted  usage”.

Section 2  of   the  customary  court  of  appeal  law  of  the  old   Plateau   State 5bdefines   customary   law   as   the  rules  of  conduct  which  governs  legal  relationship  as  established  by  custom  and  usage.  In

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Blacks Law Dictionary 5th Edu, p. 3 47, Yinka folawiy & son ltd  Y.A  Hammond project ltd 4

FRCR (1978) 26.

 1973 1 All NLR 86 at lot. Bilewu Oyewumi v.  Amos Awaoda Ogusesan  (1990)  N W L R. Laws of the old Plateau State  Appeal  Court.

lewis  v.  Bankole  (1908)  I NLR 81  at 1006 customary  law  has  been  stated  to be  the  unwritten  customary  law  recognized  as  law  by  the  members  of  an  ethnic  group.  If  these  definitions  are  anything  to  go  by,  Muslim  law  cannot  be  customary  law.  It  is  a  fact  that  Muslim  law  is  written  in  the  Holy  Koran.  It  is  only  by  virtue  of  some specific  provision  in  a  law  such  as  section  2  of   the  high  court  law  cap.49,  law  Northern Nigeria  19637which  provides  that  native  law  and  custom  include  Muslim  law  that  Muslim  law  is  regarded  as  a  native  law  and  custom.

 

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THE LAW OF SUCCESSION UNDER THE NIGERIAN CUSTOMARY LAW



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