This study comparatively analyzed succession under Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa customary law. Succession which under customary law governs issues of personal relation such as marriage and divorce, legitimacy and legitimation, validity of wills, adoption of children and succession but legal pluralism creates an atmosphere of legal confusion, whereas, there is expectation of a single codified law guiding intestate succession under customary law. The research adopted doctrinal methodology, historical and comparative approaches that examined theories, laws and decisions of both inferior and superior courts based on choice of law rules. Sources of data included statutes, subsidiary legislations, rules of customs obtained from case law, journals, books, Internet sources and law reports. The study was interpretative in nature and provided normative content evaluation of legal reasoning in case law on intestate succession. Findings revealed that Nigeria has not adopted appropriate mechanisms to harmonize the multiplicity of intestate laws. With respect to lands and houses, under the Igbo customary law practice, the study found out that the eldest son inherits his father’s compound (known as the Obi) exclusively in some Igbo Communities. A man’s land and houses other than his compound are inherited by his son or sons as a corporate body. The rule of the customary law of succession of the Yoruba is that the property of a person who died intestate is inherited by his surviving children. The Yoruba customary law rules of intestate succession are well settled and have been applied on several occasions by the courts. In some areas of the northern Nigeria, there still exist indigenous native laws and customs that are not Islamic law. However, the general rule is that where a man dies, his sons will inherit his property first, and the brothers are next in line. Females do not inherit a deceased man’s property but may inherit their mother’s entire moveable property. Only the males inherit land whether owned by a man or a woman. The study recommended that Establishment of Law Reform Commission at States and Federal Levels to reform the Customary Law in Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa culture should be adopted.
1.1 Background of the study
Ordinarily, every mortal that passes through this earthly terrain strives to acquire some properties and chattels of his own, and values the manner and to whom these properties would be distributed under law after his death. This art of distributing the properties and chattels of a deceased person to the living is referred to as succeeding to the rights of the deceased. “Succession”, therefore, is the process of transmitting the rights and duties of a deceased person pertaining to his estate, office and dignity to persons who succeed him, such as his heirs, children, spouse or relatives, in a manner sanctioned by the law. Once this is done, those properties are deemed to belong to the beneficiary, ie the successor to whom they have been given. It is then said that the properties have been inherited by the said beneficiary. Hence, it is hardly possible to use the word “succession” without accompanying it with its twin concept, “inheritance”. According to Emiola,however, the two words, though similar in meaning, are in no way like Siamese twins. Inheritance, in his view, is an estate or property that a man acquired by descent and can be transmitted to his heir in the same way on his death in intestacy, while succession includes the devolution of title to land by will as well as accession to office and dignity.