Impact Of Deprivation Of Widows Inheritance Right By Their Husbands Relatives
The research was conducted to evaluate the deprivation of inheritance among widows in Nigeria. It critically examined widowhood with particular emphasis in Igbo society. Different calibers of people were interviewed both in the rural and urban communities. The problems associated with widowhood and inheritances practiced in Nigeria were supposed to experience basically equal pains for the death of the partner. But in Nigeria it appears that the prevailing societal practice tends to be pro-men. This appears to undermine the personality of women and violates the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and many other international conventions and treaties. The bereaved needs to express and deal with their feelings of loss before they can reorganize their lives. The outcome of our analysis of field data analysis depicts that in no distance time inhuman treatments of Nigerian widows in the area of inheritance will soon be antiquated.
1.1 Background To Study
In spite of Nigeria’s cultural dynamics, widowhood presents a myriad of problems across every facet of the country. The problems associated with widowhood and inheritance practice in Nigeria have considerably been researched into. The outcome depicts that they wear a toga of economic, social and psychological dimensions (Pearce, 2001; Robinson, 2001: Uchedu, 1994). These problems have biting effects on widows particularly in the first few years after the death of a spouse. Across the globe, the argument that there exist a water tight relationship between gender and economic development has gained currency (Knowles et al, 2002; de la Croix and Vander, 2008). In most underdeveloped countries, it has been argued that women are inadequately served when it comes to education, health, social status, opportunities, legal rights and, in our case, rights to inheritance (Dollar and Gatti, 1999).
Ordinarily, both the widow and the widower are supposed to experience basically equal pains for the death of the partner. However, in Nigeria, it is appears the prevailing societal practice tends to be pro-men. It is also in records that African traditional society was predominantly a man‟s society. The age-long practice of and believe in male dominance prevails in considerable dimensions in modern day Nigerian society. That Nigerian widow suffers many deprivations is a fact held in many circles. Obviously, the discriminatory approach in the practice of widowhood in Nigeria appears to undermine the personality of women. Also, it violates the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and many other related international conventions and treaties.
Deeply rooted in our customs, their practice constitutes the greatest threat to the realisation of the human rights of millions of widows in Igbo land (Okoye, 1999; Onwuejeogwu, 1987).
In Nigeria‟s statutory marriage, the inheritance law is governed by the Marriage Act of 1990. This act provides that a woman can inherit part of her husband‟s property and estate including land (section 26). Again, where there is a will, the property will be administered in accordance with the wishes of the deceased. However, this is a theoretical aspect of the law. The reality is a different thing. Worse still, multiplicity of laws on inheritance leaves a gap that permits the courts and traditionalists who include unscrupulous relatives to choose the laws that are beneficial to their self interest, and most often, to the disadvantage of the bereaved woman. Under the Igbo customary law, a woman cannot inherit land from her husband‟s estate. The relatives of the deceased usually regard such property as family property and a birth right ((Nwoga et.al, 1989; Nwebo, . & Eze . 1989). Furthermore, acquisitions of property with a spouse are not recognized under the custom to give the woman any right to any part of the property even when it is proven. The condition of a widow without a male child is better experienced than explained. In many instances, she is a total loser as she does not inherit anything directly or indirectly.
Outside the obvious intrinsic problems of associated with poor widowhood practices, the instrumental effects of such socio-cultural cum economic bias greatly inhibit the nation‟s quest for sustainable development. This aspect is of immense importance to us in the course of this study. This is so because such practices will obviously have adverse impacts on a number of valuable development goals. As Albanesi & Olivetti (2006) rightly observed, gender inequality in education and access to resources may have been argued to prevent a reduction of child mortality, of fertility, and an expansion of education of the next generation. Again, gender inequality in a long run leads to a reduction in economic growth. In this case, one needs not over amplify the fact that economic growth furthers the improvement in well-being. That economic growth, on average, furthers wellbeing (measured through indicators such as longevity, literacy, and reduced poverty) has been popularity researched into and documented by many (Sen, 1999, UNDP, 2000; UNDP 2007). In their work on the impact of gender inequality on development, Knowles et al. (2002) estimate a neoclassical growth model including male and female education. They came up with a conclusion that the educational gender gap is a barrier to economic development.
There is no gain amplifying the fact that the loss of a loved one is a source of intense emotional stress. The bereaved need express and deal with their feelings of loss before they can reorganize their lives. According to Ahonsi et.al (2001), normal grief often follows a fairly predictable pattern. First a few weeks after the death of a loved one, survivors react with shock and disbelief. Second, as the fact of the loss sinks in, this initial numbness gives way to overwhelming sadness. Some people cry almost constantly, many suffer physical symptoms like insomnia, shortness of breath and loss of appetite. Some fear that they will have an emotional brake-down; some drink too much or sedate themselves with tranquilizers. Third, beginning about 3 weeks after the death, continuing for about 1 year, survivors often relive the death in their minds, in an obsessive search for its meaning. Fasoranti and Aruna graphically captures this point when they postulate succinctly that:”they may hallucinate the presence of the dead person – seeing the face hearing the voice. Fourth, at the start of the 2nd year after the death, the survivors become more active socially, getting out more, seeing people, resuming their interest. At this point, survivors feel stronger, knowing that they have come through an ordeal. However, there are other cases in which the survivors find it very difficult to cope and adjust to their new status in life.
Culture certainly determines the pattern of reactions to the death of a man as husband or a woman as wife. Each culture determines the rationality of practices relating to widowhood and mourning rites The Igbo of South-Eastern Nigeria have differing practices relating to widowhood and widow inheritance. In igbo society, women either married, unmarried or widowed are being tossed up and down. Within their lineage, they are deemed to have no right because they are expected to marry and benefit from their husbands property. As married women they are considered to be strangers who have no part in the inheritance. In the light of the above, this researcher agrees that widowhood is a multifaceted tragedy in most Nigeria‟s society. It is overwhelmingly a woman‟s problem which reveals atrocious social injustice. The sustainability of poor widowhood practices in our culture endangers our quest for sustainable development and threatens the nation‟s progress towards meeting the MDGs. Caught in this eddy; we find it expedient to research into the dynamics of widowhood practices in Nigeria with a particular interest on the area of widowhood deprivation of inheritance. We intend to do so using selected urban and rural communities in Enugu state as sampled communities and hope to use the research outcome to extrapolate for the entire state. We equally intend to rely on the research outcome in making informed policy prescriptions on how to sustainable address problems associated with poor widowhood practices in Nigeria.
1.2 Statement Of Problem
Within the past few decades, research has shown that widows constitute a large proportion of the adult female population in many African communities (Okoye, 1999; Pearce, 2001; Fasoranti, and Aruna, 2007). It is also of note that systematic investigation into the dynamics of widowhood practices and inheritance in Nigeria is missing (Fasoranti, and Aruna, 2007). The result is that much of the scanty pieces of information we have today on this subject matter are mere raw and unprocessed information. A wide gap still exists on the aspect of a systematic and sponsored sociological and cosmological to this critical area of development. For the same reason of lack of analytical approach, comparative studies of widowhood practices in urban and rural communities of Igbo land are also conspicuously absent. There are also absence of diachronic studies aimed at showing how widowhood practices have evolved or changed over time especially as a result of religion (majorly Christianity and Islam) and modernization. This work holds it obvious that widowhood practices are, no doubt, a product of history intercepted by religious and cultural contstructs, since they are deprived their late husband‟s property such as landed property, car, finance and other things to get on with their livelihood.
Poor widowhood and deprivation of inheritance still exist in the Igbo society. Widows in urban areas are alleged to enjoy a better degree of inheritance practice than their rural counterparts. All these point to the fact that there is a gap in the degree of widows suffering by both rural and urban areas. The widowers have better conditions when compared to the widows. They can inherit whatever the late wife left behind without much problem. They can equally re marry with ease. These are not allowed by the society according to the cultural believe for the widows. This work therefore intends to establish the gaps observed above and considerably proffers measures of filling same with a specific interest paid to prevailing situations in urban and rural communities of Enugu state.
1.3 Area Of Study
This work limits its study area to Enugu State, South Eastern Nigeria. According to a publication by the Enugu State Government (1998) Enugu State derives its name from the capital city, came into being on August 27, 1991.
Enugu is the capital of Enugu State in Nigeria. It is located in the southeastern area of Nigeria and is largely populated by members of the Igbo ethnic group. The city has a population of 722,664 according to the 2006 Nigerian census (NPC, 2006). The name Enugu is derived from the two Igbo words Enu Ugwu meaning “hill top” denoting the city‟s hilly geography. The city was named after Enugu Ngwo which coal was found under.
Since the 17th century the location of present day Enugu has been settled by the Nike subgroup of the Igbo people; one of Enugu‟s neighbourhoods still retains the village‟s old name Ogui. In 1900 the Southern Nigeria Protectorate was established by the colonial administration of the British Empire. The discovery of coal by the colonialists led to the building of the Eastern Line railway to carry from the inland city to the port of Port Harcourt a city created for this purpose located 151 miles (243 km) south of what was called Enugu
Coal Camp. Enugu was then renamed simply Enugu and developed among the few cities in West Africa that were created from European contact. By 1958 Enugu had over 8,000 coal miners. As at 2005 there were no significant coal mining activities left in the city. Enugu became the capital of the Eastern Region after Nigeria‟s independence in 1960; a succession of territory adjustments in 1967, 1976 and 1991 led to Enugu becoming the capital of what is now Enugu State. On 30 may 1967 Enugu was declared the capital of the short-lived
Republic of Biafra; for this Enugu is known as the “capital of Igboland”. After Enugu was captured by Nigeria, the Biafra capital was moved to Umuahia.
Industries currently in the city include the urban market and bottling industries. Enugu has become a preferred filming location for directors of the Nigerian movie industry, dubbed as “Nollywood”. Enugu‟s main airport is the Akanu Ibiam International Airport which is being upgraded to accommodate large aircraft. The main educational establishment in the city is the Enugu campus of the University of Nigeria based in Nsukka, a town north of Enugu and in the same state.
The first settlement in the Enugu area was the small Nike village of Ogui which was present since the era of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Nike in the Igbo language means „with strength or power. It was through slave raiding that the Nike people acquired most of their lands, which, however, were mostly unsettled. The Nike people acquired most of their lands, which, however, were mostly unsettled. The Nike used slaves for a defence strategy where they would place slave camps at the edge of their territories so that it would be harder for an enemy to access the free born. The Nike people were allied to the Aro people who formed the Aro Confederacy (1690-1901) which was an Igbo organization that controlled slave trading in the Enugu area (Bostic, 2009). Along with the Aro people who came to trade from the north. The Hausa traders provided horses to the Nike which was used for rituals by the Igbo.
Industrialization; by 1909 coal was found under the village of Enugu Ngwo in the Udi and Okoga areas and by 1913 the coal was confirmed to be in quantities that would be viable colony and Protectorate of Nigeria commercially.
In 1915 the British began talks with the indigenous people of the land that would become Enugu about its acquisition in order to lay the Eastern Line railway and to building a colliery. The first houses built in the area were in a temporary settlement consisting of Igbo traditional mud housing inhabited by a W.J. Leck and some other Europeans on Milken Hill. Another settlement known as Ugwu Alfred inhabited by an Alfred Inoma (a leader of indigenous labourers from Onitsha) and his labourers, was located on a hillside. After the land acquisition by the British, Frederick Lugard, the Governor-General of Nigeria at the time, named the colliery built at bottom of the Udi Hills Enugu Coal Camp to distinguish it from Enugu Ngwo which overlooks the city from atop a scarp on Enugu‟s west.
In 1938 Enugu became the administrative capital of the Eastern Region. The number of employed coal miners in Enugu grew from 6,000 (of mostly Udi men) in 1948 to 8,000 in 1958. Enugu‟s population rose sharply with its industrialization; the population of the city reached 62,000 in 1952. Mining in Enugu was sometimes turbulent, as demonstrated by the events of 18 November 1994 when 21 striking miners were shot and killed and 51 wounded by police under British governance. The massacre that came to be known as “The Iva Valley Shooting” fuelled nationalist or “Zikist” sentiments among most Nigerians, and especially amongst Eastern Nigerians. “Zikisim” was a post World War II movement that was created out of admiration for Nnamdi Azikiwe who was a prominent nationalist of the National
Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC). The shooting was right after a period of unrest when miners were angered by the belief that their full pay was being held back by the colliery management, a belief that their was pushed by the nationalist press.
Enugu became a municipality in 1956 and Umaru Altine became its first mayor. After four years passed, Nigeria gained its independence in 1960. On 27 May 1967 the Nigerian government divided the Western, Northern and Eastern Region into 12 states and Enugu was made the capital of the new East Central State.
On 30 May 1967 Enugu was declared the capital of the short-lived Republic of Biafra which was created out of the East Central State. Radio Biafra, alternatively the voice of Biafra (formally the Eastern Nigerian Broadcasting Service), was based in Enugu, it was from here that the Biafran leader, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, broadcast speeches and propaganda to Biafrans and to the rest of Nigeria. Because of the war Enugu witnessed a decrease in the number of non-Igbo, especially non-eastern Nigerian residents.
In 1976 the East Central State was broken into two new states, Imo and Anambra; there were then 19 states in Nigeria; Enugu was the capital of Anambra. In August 1991 the military dictatorship of Ibrahim Babangida divided the old Anambra State into two new states, Enugu and Anambra state. Enugu remained as the capital of the newly-created Enugu state, while Awka became the capital of the new Anambra State.
Enugu lies at the foot of an escarpment and not a hill. Enugu is located in the Cross River basin and the Benue through and has the best developed coal in this area. Precambrian basement rock in this region is overlaid with sediments bearing coal from the Cretaceous and tertiary age. Coal seems in Enugu coal district measure between 1 and 2 meters (3.3 and 6.6 ft) in thickness and the reserves have been estimated to be more than 300 million tones (Duckworth, 1961).
Enugu‟s hills at the extreme may reach an elevation of 1,000 metres (3.300 ft). Highlands surrounding Enugu for the most part are underlain by sandstone, while lowlands are underlain by shale. Much of the escarpment stretching from Enugu to Orlu has been ravaged by soil and gully erosion. Other geological features in Enugu include the Nike Lake near which the Nike Hotel has been built. The Ekulu, Asata, Ogbete, Aria, Idaw and Nyaba rivers are six largest rivers located in the city. The Ekulu River is the largest body of water in Enugu urban and its reservoir contributes to part of the city‟s domestic water supply.
Enugu is located in the tropical rain forest zone with a derived savannah. The city has a tropical savanna climate. Enugu‟s climate is humid and this humidity is at its highest between March and November. For the whole of Enugu state the mean daily temperature is 26.7 o C (80.1o F). As in the rest of West Africa, the rainy season and dry season are the only weather periods that reoccur in Enugu. The average annual rainfall in Enugu is around 2,000 millimetres (79 in), which arrives intermittently and becomes very heavy during the rainy season. Other weather conditions affecting the city include Harmattan, a dusty trade wind lasting a few weeks of December and January. Like the rest of Nigeria, Enugu is hot all year round.
In the cityscape and architecture, the tallest building in Enugu‟s Central Business District (CBD) is the African Continental Bank (ACB) tower with six stories. The tower was built in the late 50s for the African Continental Bank Limited which was founded by Nnamdi Azikiwe who became the first president of Nigeria after the country‟s independence from the United Kingdom on October 1960.The opening of the building took place on April 1959. Other tall buildings include the Hotel Presidential opened on August 1963. The seven story building contains 100 rooms and is located in the Independence Layout. In the middle of Enugu is the Micheal Okpara Square, dedicated to the premier of the former Eastern Region Micheal Okpara. Beside the square is located the Enugu State Government House, Enugu State House of Assembly and Enugu State Judiciary Complex.
Enugu‟s coal mines are dotted around on the outskirts of the city, a majority of which are closed. The Colliery Camp mines are located in the Iva Valley which is near the neighboring town of Ngwo and Hilltop of Enugu. The Iva Valley coal mine is accessed through the Iva Valley road linking Enugu with Ngwo. Other coal mines are located in the Ogbete and Coal Camp layouts; these mines are located on the periphery of the city near the Iva Valley as well.
Architectural design in Enugu‟s early years was in the hands of the British colonial administration; Enugu‟s architecture was consequently very European. English cottage housing and Victorian houses were used for housing Europeans and Nigerian colonial civil servants in the early 20th century until Europeans started trying to adapt their architecture to the tropical climate. Some other examples of these European styles are visible in churches of the colonial era, such as the Holy Ghost Cathedral with its Greco-Roman stained glass windows depicting Europeans. Enugu‟s roads were reflective of its British rule; much of the city‟s narrow roads in the GRA have been preserved dating back to the incorporation of the city itself. Low rent one bedroom flats in Enugu and other Nigerian cities are known as “face –me-I- face- you” for the way a group of flats face each other and form a square where a compound entrance is lead into.
Government in Enugu city covers three local governments areas; Enugu East, Enugu North and Enugu South. A local Government Council exists for each of these seats that manage sectors including primary education and health; an elected Executive Chairman and a group of elected Councilors from the Local Government Council that heads each Local Government Area. Enugu South is split between its rural and urban parts when electing an Executive Chairman, these chairmen represent their LGA‟s in the Enugu State of Assembly. The Ministry of Lands, survey and Town Planning (at the state level) and the Local planning Authority (at the local government level) are responsible for the administration of urban lands and town planning. Government House, Enugu is split between two congressional areas; Enugu North/South.
According to the 2006 Nigerian census, the Enugu metropolitan area has an estimated population of 722,664. This estimate along with population estimates of other Nigerian cities have been disputed with accusations of population inflation and deflation in favour of the northern part of the country. The population of Enugu is predominantly Christain, as is the rest of southeastern Nigeria. Like the rest of Nigeria most people in Enugu speak
Nigerian English alongside the dominant language in the region; which is Igbo. Nigerian English, or pidgin (a mix of English and indigenous words) is often used because of ethnic diversity and sometimes because of ethnic diversity and sometimes because of the diversity of dialects in the Igbo language. In cultural and linguistic terms Enugu is within the Northern cluster of the Igbo region which includes other towns and cities like Awka and Nsukka.
The indigenous people of Enugu include the Ogui Nike who live in the areas surrounding Hotel Presidential, Obiagu, Ama-igbo, Ihewuzi and Onu-Asata. Other groups include the Awkunanaw people, who live mainly in the Achara Layout and Uwani areas. The Enugwu Ngwo people live in Hilltop on the west of the west of the city with their farm lands sprawling all over the valley. Other Nike people live around the Abakpa, Iji-Nike, and Emene areas of the city. Most of the non-indigenous people of Enugu are migrants from other parts of the Igbo cultural area. After the majority Igbo, the Yoruba people are another significant ethnic group found present in Enugu; other groups include the Hausa and Fulani people.
Enugu‟s crime rate rose in 2009 as kidnapping and armed robbery rates increased in southern Nigeria specifically between September and December. The Enugu State government sought to check the high kidnapping rates by passing a bill on February 2009 that made kidnapping by the use of a weapon a capital offence; the bill was passed by the Enugu House of Assembly unanimously. 1,088 arrests were made in the city between September and December 2009; 270 of these were in September, 303 were in October, 295 in November and 220 were in December. 477 of these detainees were accused of committing capital offences which included kidnapping (Sada, and Oguntoyinbo, 1981). The motives of kidnappers in Enugu are primarily financial and some ransoms went into the millions of Naira. Much of the crime in Enugu and the rest of Nigeria have been attributed to unemployment.
Enugu share cultural traits with its neighouring towns. Two important Igbo traditional festivals take place in Enugu annually; the Mmanwu festival and the New yam festival. The Mmanwu festival takes place in November and Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium as a parade of carnival-like masquerades that are accompanied by music and it is supported by the Enugu Council of Arts and Culture. The second important Igbo festival, the new yam festival known as “iwa ji”, is held between August and October marking the harvesting and feasting of the new yam (Nzewi, 1994). The yam is a root vegetable that is the staple crop and a cultural symbol for the Igbo people.
The tourism industry in Enugu, managed by the Enugu State Tourism Board (ESTB), is small; however, the state government recognizes a variety of historic and recreational sites. These sites include places like the Udi hills, from which the majority of Enugu city can be viewed. The polo amusement parks are a funfair that is among the first generation of public parks in the city; other parks in the city include the Murtala Muhammed park. Enugu‟s former coal mines, Onyeama and Okpara, are open to public visits.
Some other spots include: The Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) Sculptural Garden and Art gallery, the Eastern Region Parlimentary Building, the old Government Lodge, the Enugu Golf course. A National Museum is located near Enugu at its north, although it receives few visitors. It is managed by National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM).
In media and literature, English –language newspapers published and sold in Enugu include the Daily Star, Evening Star, The Renaissance and one of the earliest newspapers published in Enugu was the Eastern Sentinel published by Nnamndi Azikiwe‟s Zik Group in 1955, but failed in 1960. Among the city‟s television and radio stations are the Nigerian Television Authority‟s network affiliate (NTA Enugu) headquarters located at Independence Layout; and the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) network affiliate station (Radio Enugu) which broadcasts in English, Igbo, Efik, Ijaw and Tiv. Enugu State Broadcasting Service Television (ESBS-TV) is a state owned television broadcasting company which offers 18 hours of continuous broadcasting on weekends. Enugu, after Lagos is preferred city for shooting films in Nigeria and a film production centre in the East. In 2007, Enugu hosted the first-ever film festival in the state, the Enugu International film festival. Held at Hotel Presidential, the festival‟s intent was to highlight Enugu as a “film making hub” in Africa including movie premiers and prizes for different film categories.
Enugu‟s economy in the early 20th century depended on coal mining in the Udi plateau; this industry was the pushing force towards the city‟s growth. The Nigerian Coal Corporation has been based in Enugu since its creation in 1950 where it controlled coal mining. With the creation of the Eastern Line, Enugu was connected with the sea via Port Harcourt to its South and later connected to the city of Kaduna to Enugu‟s north. The Biafran war brought widespread devastation that forced a decline in coal production from damage or destruction of equipment. As of 2005 coal mining is no longer the major source of income and mines lay unused. Other minerals mined in Enugu include iron ore, lime stone, fine clay, marble and silica sand. There are three main urban markets in Enugu: Ogbete, Awkunanaw, and New Market. New Market is a major market for sales of garri. Ogbete market is patronised by merchants from all over the surrounding area, including merchants from cities like Onitsha, Aguleri, Abakaliki and Aba.
In education, Enugu has three main tertiary institutions; the Enugu State University of Science & Technology (ESUT); the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus (UNEC); and the Institute of Management & Technology (IMT). The city also is home to Our Saviour Institute of Science and Technology, a polytechnic. Some notable secondary schools in Enugu include the college of the Immaculate Conception (CIC) built in 1940, Holy Rosary
College (HRC) built in 1943, Colliery Comprehensive Secondary school, Queen‟s Secondary School, Federal Government College and the University of Nigeria Secondary school. University Teaching Hospital (UNTH) Enugu, under the University of Nigeria, is also located in the city.
Enugu State at present has 17 Local government areas (LGAs). About 59% of the population lives in the rural areas. The 3 LGAS in Enugu municipality together accounts for 22% of the population and, Nsukka, a rapidly growing University Community, a further 10% of the population. The other 13 LGAs are mainly rural, with widely varying population densities between 60 persons per square kilometer for Uzo Uwani in the west of the state and more than 500 persons per square kilometer for Igbo Eze in the North (Ukwu,1998). Figure 1 shows the location of the LGAs in Enugu state on the map.
FIGURE 1: MAP OF ENUGU STATE SHOWING ENUGU EAST AND AWGU
Source: Enugu State Ministry of Information.
1.4 Objectives Of The Study
The following objectives shall guide this study:
- To examine the cultural practices inherent in handling the death of a woman‟s husband. ii.To examine the level of disparity in treatment given to both widows and widowers in Igbo land.
- To examine the impact of such relationship as stated above on the wellbeing of the deceased household.
- To ascertain if the prevailing deprivation of inheritance in Enugu State significantly alienate widows from assets of their deceased spouses.
- To proffer solution to negative widowhood practices in Nigeria.
1.5 Research Questions
This work shall accordingly be guided by the following research questions so as to achieve the above-mentioned objectives:
- What are the cultural practices inherent in handling the death of a woman‟s husband?
- Is there any significant level of disparity in treatment given to both widows and widowers by the community?
- To what extent do such relationship stated above impact on the wellbeing of the deceased household?
- Do the prevailing deprivation of inheritance in Enugu State significantly alienate widows from assets of their deceased spouses?
- How could we satisfactorily address problems associated with poor widowhood practices in Nigeria?
1.6 Research Hypotheses
This study will be guided by the following hypotheses.
H0: There is no cordial relationship between widows and relatives of their deceased husbands in Enugu State.
H0: The prevailing deprivation of inheritance in Enugu State do not significantly alienate widows from assets of their deceased spouses.
H0: There is no significant level of disparity in treatment given to both widows and widowers by the society
1.7 Significance Of Study
We cannot end poverty and reach the MDGs in Nigeria if adequate commitment is not made to address some societal ills that are inherently anti-development. Poor widowhood practices and other societal induced poor treatment against women rank top in this very consideration. Until we eliminate incidences of discrimination against women (the girl child inclusive) in our society, our quest for sustainable development will continue to be elusive. Women have a vital role to play: to the economy, to better governance, to peace processes, to their communities and their households. Denying them the basic means to socio-economic freedom reduces their chances of contributing significantly to the process societal development.
When a widow is poorly treated, the future progress of the deceased household is endangered. Again, The MDG 3 target recognizes that education for girls is one of the most effective ways of reducing poverty. But education alone is not enough. Achieving MDG 3 also requires progress in other key areas such as: Political participation, access to productive assets and employment opportunities, access to health and other services and protection from violence. The true meaning of development depreciates in any society where half the population is prevented from fully benefiting from, and contributing to it.
This study is therefore important as it outcome will be useful to policy makers and implementers of development programmes in Nigeria. It could equally be adapted in similar society to tackle the menace of inequality among women and men. It is expected that students and researchers in development related discipline will find the work invaluable. The work is also hoped to accentuate valuable insight on the preparation of Enugu State in terms of attaining the Millennium Development Goals. Above all, the findings of the study will ultimately help in addressing poor widowhood practices among Nigeria‟s rural and urban women.
1.8 Scope Of The Study
The scope of this study is limited to disparity in women‟s socio-political and economic participation in some selected communities of Enugu State. Whatever will be the outcome of the research from these study areas will be used in extrapolating for the entire Enugu State. Primacy is given to the subject matter of inheritance. In the course of our research, we intend to limit our focus to issues involving Enugu widows residing in both rural and urban communities of the state. Where anything to the contrary would be done, such will be for the purpose of comparism.
The time dimension of this study shall be limited to the period 1999 – 2009. This is the period where Nigeria is experimenting democratic governance. It is expected that citizens‟ right, irrespective of sex, are better guaranteed in this epoch than in that of the military Again, the affirmative action and other international conventions aimed at uplifting women socio-economic and political standard can only be well sustainably practiced in a democratic society .
1.9 Limitations Of The Study
This study limits itself to widowhood and deprivation of inheritance among the Igbos in Nigeria. This scope however cannot give a holistic picture of the problems and prospects of widowhood in our society. Consequently, this researcher recommends for a comprehensive research into vital areas that will complement this very effort. Such areas recommended for future research will include, but not limited to, the following;
- A study of widowhood and re-marriage among the Igbos. Here attempts should be made to analyze the psycho-social and emotional conflicts that arise out of widows‟marriage practices in Igbo society with the exploration of its attendant effects on family, child-bearing, power and gender relations.
- Widowhood and widowhood empowerment Scheme among the Igbos. In this regard, exploration should be made to ascertain modalities made by communities and widows themselves to reduce widows‟ relative helplessness and alienation in order to gain greater control over all aspects of their lives and social environment.
Summary, Conclusions And Recommendations
The Igbo culture is inherently patrilineal and patrilocal. Consequently, family life is centered on the lineage as defined through male descendants. Upon marriage, a woman relocates permanently from her father‟s residence to that of her husband. Again, inheritance and residence are centered on the male lineage, and men are obviously major decision makers and controllers of wealth and power. Upon the death of their spouses, widows are more likely disposed to suffer some level of disempowerment, deprivation and discomfiture. This negative development is not so pronounced among the widowers. The age long cultural practice of treating widowers fairer than widows in Igbo land left the woman, especially the uneducated widows in the rural communities, with little or no choice on how to better her lots and that of her children after the demise of her spouse. This notwithstanding, data from this survey supports the fact that the ills associated with the customary practices of marriage, inheritance and widowhood in Igbo land is gradually becoming obsolete. Responses gotten mostly from our urban-based respondents support this assertion.
This work critically examined widowhood and inheritance in Nigeria with particular emphasis on what is obtainable in Igbo society. We have found out that though the issue of inheritance among widows calls for concern, widows in contemporary igboland, especially the educated ones, are not so badly affected when it comes to inheriting their deceased spouses‟ property. It thus goes to support the fact that while most of the rites associated with widowhood inheritance have found their ways to the modern day, some are obviously now practiced nominally. With western education, religious greed, improved situation on women education, gainful employment, improved legal system that allows a woman access to gainful employment as well as private ownership of property, international conventions to protect the rights of woman as well activities of some Non-Governmental Organizations, concerted efforts are being made to adjust deprivation of inheritance in favour of the widow. The outcome of our analysis of field data depicts that in no too distance a time, inhuman treatments of Nigerian widows in the area of inheritance will soon be antiquated.
From time immemorial, the death of one‟s spouse is a moment of devastation and sadness. This is usually occasioned by loss of love, care, company and livelihood, attended by a feeling of abandonment. Again, it represents not just the departure of a companion and soul mate but in most times, a breadwinner. This development could also lead to a radical change in one‟s social status and lifestyle. It is natural for one to grieve for the death of a loved one. Thus, in Igbo culture, issues associated with death are often emotive. . This is due to the fact that death presents a situation in which one loses the power of negotiation, since it is beyond human control. The survivor‟s helplessness is made worse if, as is the case for our many rural-based respondents who are widows, the loss of the capacity to negotiate is extended to the activities that are meant to restore normalcy to them. Put differently, when the process of re-adjustment to the new scenario created by bereavement is controlled by pre-defined cultural forces that are inherently detrimental to the wellbeing of the bereaved, the situation becomes more pathetic and calls for serious attention. Such is the situation with widowhood and inheritances, the subject matter of this study.
Culture, as we know, is dynamic not resilience. It could be adjusted over time to suit present situations/contemporary demands. Though it is often argued that the destruction of a culture is to destroy the root from which human society sprung from, it is even more pertinent to note that retaining a culture that is oppressive is destroying the oppressed. Therefore, with a positive disposition and change, widows can get an opportunity for growth, and discover aspects of their personalities that facilitate their own empowerment. In this task, the society must play a vital role. The process of change in a positive direction, which has begun, should be sustained and improved upon. Though this process may be slow, it must however be vigorously pursued and supported by all. This is so because if you, as a man, are not directly affected by poor widowhood deprivation of inheritance, your wife, mother, daughters or female relatives may be affected. The task to remedy the situation is not an individual task. It is a collective one that must be approached from a multifaceted perspective. The three tiers of government in Nigeria, the federal, state and local governments, the custodians of culture and traditions, the agents of the criminal justice system, non-governmental organizations, the men folk and women are all agents that will be needed in this move for a change against the wide spread of customary law abuses and in eliminating discriminatory practices against women.
Having critically examined and analyzed the dynamics of widowhood inheritances in Igbo land, we have come to see the need for all hands to be on deck in order to remedy the situation. Although conclusions from the research and data are not definitive, the researcher finds it expedient to make a number of recommendations with respect to how we address the practice of poor widowhood deprivation of inheritance in our society. As a corollary, this work makes the following recommendations;
- The education of both the girl and boy child should be given priority attention in our society. It should be noted that education plays an important role in causing societal change. Our society desperately needs this societal change especially in the area of value in land and property right. We must educate and gender sensitize both men and women. This is an effective way of transforming popular beliefs and attitudes. In this regard, awareness programs in the local languages, the distribution of booklets and posters in local languages and application of other trado-modern means of communication should be applied positively.
- Training and Empowerment Programs that will include formal and informal education geared towards enabling women to come out of their shells and be productive and not just child bearers should be implemented at all levels: Federal, State, Local Government and community.
- Networking and convergence among women groups for their collective benefits should be encouraged. Women themselves must rise to the challenge of remaining united, focus, purpose driven, proactive and resilience in pursuit of their collective dreams and aspirations.
- Traditional institution and practices should be modified in line with global trends and emerging facts. The age long tradition of making women to play subordinating role in the society should be vehemently discouraged by all.
- The mass media can be and should be applied as an effective tool towards ensuring women’s active involvement in every stratum of our socio-economic and political life. Women should also take advantage of the instrumentality of the mass media to propagate their message against gender inequality.
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