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  • 2013-08-12
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Uwaifo v. Uwaifo

EDWARD OMORODION UWAIFO

V

  1. STANLEY UYINMWEN UWAIFO
  2. MRS. ELIZABETH EHEZOGHE IGBINOVIA
  3. MRS. GRACE EBENOVBEVBE KASIM
  4. MRS. LOVETH AIZE EMOKPAE
  5. MRS. AGHATISE UWAIFO
  6. MISS JOY AGHAMUOKU UWAIFO
  7. GREGORY SAMUEL O. IZEVBUHE
  8. ATEWE O. UWAIFO
  9. BENJAMIN O. EHENUWA
  10. THE PROBATE REGISTRY, EDO STATE
  11. DAVID UWAIFO

SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA

IBRAHIM TANKO MUHAMMAD JSC ( Presided )

CHRISTOPHER MITCHELL CHUKWUMA-ENEH JSC

SULEIMAN GALADIMA JSC ( Read the Lead Judgment )

CLARA BATA OGUNBIYI JSC

STANLEY SHENKO ALAGOA JSC

SC. 135/2004

FRIDAY, 19 APRIL 2013

CUSTOMARY LAW - Bini Native Law and Custom - Igiogbe  - Meaning of - Judicial notice taken thereof

INTERPRETATION OF STATUTES - Wills Law of Bendel State, 1976, section 3(1) thereof - ‘Subject to any Customary Law relating thereto’ therein - Meaning of

JUDICIAL NOTICE - Bini Native Law and Custom - Igiogbe therein Meaning of - Judicial notice taken thereof

STATUTE - Wills Law of Bendel State, 1976, section 3(1) thereof ‘Subject to any Customary Law relating thereto’ therein - Meaning of

WORDS AND PHRASES - Bini Native Law and Custom - ‘Igiogbe’ therein - Meaning of - Judicial notice taken thereof

Issues:

  1. Whether the Court of Appeal in Igbinoba v. Igbinoba (1995) 1  NWLR (Pt. 371) 375 decided that under Bini Customary Law, vacant land can also constitute Igiogbe.
  2. Whether the Court of Appeal still follows its earlier decision on a point which had been overruled by the Supreme Court under the doctrine of stare decisis.

Facts:

The appellant is the eldest son of late Pa Daniel Ediagbonya Uwaifo. Upon the death of the deceased Pa Daniel Uwaifo, the appellant discovered that he had been denied the right to inherit his father’s Igiogbe as his first son.

Aggrieved, the appellant instituted an action before the High Court of Edo State, Benin City, where he challenged the validity of the Will for being in conflict with the Bini Customary Law of Succession, and section 3(1)  of the Wills Law, Cap. 172, Laws of Bendel State of Nigeria (applicable to Edo State). He also sought rents and mesne profits from the rooms and stores located on the property, and injunctive orders against the respondents.

The trial court granted appellant’s claim in part, holding that he is entitled to inherit the house where his father lived and died. The court further held that the appellant is entitled to a declaration that the Will is invalid only to the extent that the Igiogbe was devised to another person other than the appellant.

Aggrieved by the judgment of the trial court, the appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal, which court dismissed the appeal. Further aggrieved, the appellant appealed to the Supreme Court.

Section 3(1) of the Wills Law, Cap. 172, Laws of Bendel State of Nigeria (applicable to Edo State) provides thus:

“subject to any Customary Law relating thereto, it shall be lawful for every person to devise, bequeath or dispose of by his will executed in manner hereinafter required all real estate and all personal estate which he shall be entitled to either in law or in equity, at the time of his death and which is not so devised, bequeathed and disposed of would devolve upon the heir at law of him or if he became entitled by decent of his ancestor or upon his executor or administrator.”