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Right means that which a person has a total and valid claim to. The rights of women in Nigeria has been a very serious issue in almost every sphere of life. There are lots of customary law practices in Nigeria which promote gender discriminations. The provision of most if not all of these customary law practices are repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience, These customary laws are in one way or the other contrary to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) especially with regard to the fundamental human right of every citizen in Nigeria whether male or female and some additional sections. This work aims at examining the causes of most of the discriminations against women with regard to customary laws of Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, Ijaw and Igala/idoma respectively. By virtue of section 1(3) of the Constitution Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, the constitution is supreme and any law that is contrary to the provision of the constitution is null and void, therefore, all the customary law practices that causes gender inequalities are contrary to the provisions of the constitution viz-a-viz Right to life, Right to dignity of human life, Right to personal liberty, Right to freedom from discrimination e.t.c and this work pointed out the different ways such discriminations appeared. The methodologies employed in this work are doctrinal, which means teaching or exposing the law on a particular choice of interest. The work is also comparative and analytical in scope which means that the researcher delved into other jurisdictions and compared them with the 1999 CFRN (as amended) other methods of data collection includes statutes, case laws, textbooks, journals and internet sources. The researcher found out that the rights of women have been infringed in several ways, thus, there is need for modification and reformation of customary laws, enlightenment of masses, reorientation of  men and women, review of obnoxious laws,  to mention but a few.

















Title Page                                                                                                                                i

Approval                                                                                                                                 ii

Certification                                                                                                                            iii

Dedication                                                                                                                              iv

Acknowledgements                                                                                                                v

Abstract                                                                                                                                   vi

Table of Contents                                                                                                                   vii

Table of Cases                                                                                                                         ix

Table of Statutes                                                                                                                     xi

List of Abbreviations                                                                                                              xii


1.1       Background of the Study                                                                                           1

1.2       Statement of Problems                                                                                                1

1.3       Purpose of the Study                                                                                                  2

1.4       Scope of Study                                                                                                           2

1.5       Significance of Study                                                                                                 3

1.6       Methodology                                                                                                              3

1.7       Literature Review                                                                                                       3

1.8       Organisational Layout                                                                                                5

1.9       Definition of Terms                                                                                                    5



2.1       Igbo Customary Law                                                                                                  10

2.2       Yoruba Customary Law                                                                                             14

2.3       Islamic Customary Law                                                                                              15

2.4      Bini Customary Law                                                                                                   19

2.5      The Ijaw customary Law                                                                                             20

2.6    The Igala/Idoma Customary law                                                                                   20


3.1       The Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999                                              21

3.1.1    Right to Life                                                                                                               21

3.1.2    Right to Dignity of Human Person                                                                             22

3.1.3    Right to Personal Liberty                                                                                            23

3.1.4    Right to Fair Hearing                                                                                                  24

3.1.5    Right to Freedom from Discrimination                                                                      25

3.1.6    Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion                                           27

3.1.7    Right to Freedom of Expression and the Press                                                          28

3.1.8    Right to Acquire and Own Immovable Property                                                       28



4.1    Incidences of Abuse                                                                                                      34

4.1.1    Domestic/Physical Violence                                                                                       34

4.1.2    Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)                                                                              35

4.1.3    Sexual Assaults                                                                                                           42

4.1.4    Forced Marriage                                                                                                         43

4.1.5    Human trafficking and forced prostitution                                                                44

4.1.6    War, Rape and Sexual Slavery                                                                                   44

4.1.7    Mistreatment of Widows                                                                                            45


5.1       Conclusion                                                                                                                  56

5.2       Recommendations                                                                                                      57













Akinnubi v Akinnubi [1997] 4 NWLR (pt486)144                                                             14

Alixjean Carmichele v Minister of Safety and Security & Anor [2002] 2 CHR 179       22,27

Bello v Attorney General of Oyo State [1986] 5 NWLR 820                                             22

Bolaji v Akapo [1968] NMLR 203                                                                                       32,50

Chinweze v Masi[1989] 1 NWLR (pt97)254, 270                                                               12

Dunn v Dunn [1948] 2 All ER                                                                                              49

Ejiamike v Ejiamike (1972) 2 ENLR p11                                                                            10   

Ejinima v The state [1999] 6 NWLR (pt 200)635                                                                23

Gokpa v The police [1961] 1 All NLR 423                                                                          24

Isenalunhe v Amadin [2001] 1 CHR 458                                                                             24

Ihiama v Akogu unreported case of Okpo Area court, Grade 11 suit No MD/26A/78        20

Jatau v Mailafiya [1998] 2 NWLR (pt533) p682                                                                 16

Julie nezianya & Anor v Anthony Okagbue & ors [1963] 1 All NLR 82 &352       11,12,32,50

Kauesa v Minister of Home Affairs & ors [2003] 3CHR 234                                            28

Loye v Loye[1934] 11NLR  p134                                                                                         12

Mohammadu v Mohammed [2002] NWLR (pt 708) p104                                                 16

Mojekwu v Ejikeme [2000] 5 NWLR (pt657) at 402                                                           52

Mojekwu v Mojekwu [1997] 5 NWLR 283                                                                         53

Mojekwu v Mojekwu [2000] 2 NWLR (pt657) at 413                                                        26

Nzekwu v Nzekwu [1989] 2 NWLR (pt104)317                                                                  11

Obekpa v C.O.P [11981] 5 NCLR 420                                                                                 14, 23

Ojisua v Aiyebelehin [2001] 11 NWLR (pt723)44 at 52                                                      9  

Onwucheke v Onwucheke [1991] 5 NWLR (pt 197) at 738                                               52

Osilaja v Osilaja [1972] 10SC 126                                                                                        51

Owoniyi v Omotosho [1961] All NLR 304                                                                           9

Oyewunmi and Anor v Owoade [1990] 3 NWLR(pt 13)pp182-207                                   9

Razak Osayiande Isenalumhe v Joyce Amadin & 3 ors [2002] 2CHR at 186                  23

Salami v Salami [1957] WRNLR                                                                                          51

Sidi v Sha’aban [1992] 4 NWLR (pt121)pp208                                                                   17

Suberu v Sunmonu (1957) 2 FSC pp31-33                                                              15, 31, 49

Sule v Ajisegiri [1937] 13 NLR 146                                                                                      51

Sungunrio-Davies v Sungunrio-Davies [1929] 8 NLR 79                                      32, 49, 50

Uboma v Ibeneme (1967) ENLR pp 251                                                                  13, 32, 50

Uke v Iro  [2001] 11 NWLR (pt723) at 196                                                                          51

Ukeje v Ukeje [2014] LPELR-22724 CSC                                                                           54

Yakubu v Governor of Kogi State & 4 ors [1995] 8 NWLR (pt414)386                          25

Zaidan v Mohssen [1973] USC 1                                                                                          9















African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child 1990

Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended 2011

Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women 1979

Evidence Act 2011 No. 18

Malpractices Against Widows and Widowers Law 2015

Marriage Act Cap 18, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990

Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Right on the Right of Women in Africa 2003

Violence Against Persons(Prohibition) Act 2015













All ER           —     All England Reports

All NLR        —    All Nigerian Law Report

CAP            —      Chapter

CEDAW     —      Convention on the Elimination of All Form of Discrimination Against Women

CFRN         —      Constitution Federal Republic of Nigeria

CHR           —      Human Rights Cases

EA              —      Evidence Act

ENLR         —      Eastern Nigerian Law Reports

FGM           —      Female Genital Mutilation

FSC            —       Federal Supreme Court Reports

J                  —      Judge or Justice

J C A           —      Justice or Judge of the Court of Appeal

J S C           —      Judge of the Supreme Court

NCLR         —      Nigerian Constitutional Law Reports

NLR            —      Nigerian Law Reports

NMLR        —      Nigerian Monthly Law Reports

NWLR        —      Nigerian Weekly Law Reports

SC               —      Supreme Court Cases

VVF            —      Vesico Vaginal Fistula

WHO          —      World Health Organisation

WNLR        —      Weekly Nigerian Law Reports

WRNLR     —      Western Region of Nigerian Law Reports

WWW        —      World Wide Web




1.1       Background of the Study

Right is that quality in a person by which he can do certain actions or possess certain things which belong to him/her by virtue of some title[1]. This study however will be based on the right of women in Nigeria both under the customary law and in the constitution of Nigeria.

Discrimination against women is anything that brings about unequal treatment between men and women while carrying out their livelihood. Nigeria is made up of diverse ethnic groups that occupy 36 different states, therefore, cultural and gender norms differ. The researcher choose this topic because she is of the opinion that such discrimination against women in Nigeria is unjustifiable, however, that has been the order of the day till date.

1.2       Statement of Problems

The illegal treatment and abuse against women with regard to their right in the society is one of the problems discussed in this research. Again, prejudice and oppression against women has been the order of the day in Nigeria society and most women do not even know their rights not to talk of when it is being infringed upon. This project tries to educate all women especially Nigerian women on their rights in the society and how it can be protected.


1.3   Purpose of the Study

This research focuses on gender justice. It seeks to redress gender inequality, a situation where women’s fundamental rights are infringed upon without justifiable reasons, such situations includes;

(1)Domestic/physical violence

(2)Female Genital Mutilation

(3)Sexual Assaults

(4)Forced Marriages

(5)Human Trafficking and Forced Prostitution

(6)War, Rape and Sexual slavery

(7)Mistreatment of Widows

1.4       Scope of Study

This study illustrates the simple meaning of right. It analyzes to some reasonable extent the customary laws of the Igbo’s, Yoruba’s, Hausa’s (Islam’s), Ijaw and Igala/Idoma with regard to the right of women. These customary laws will be compared to the provisions of the Nigerian legal system like the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and the Malpractice Against Widows and Widowers law 2005 and the 1979 Convention on The Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women(CEDAW). The provisions like the fundamental human right is applicable to everyone equally whether male or female.

1.5       Significance of Study

This work will expose to a great extent the various ways the rights of women has been infringed upon in Nigeria. The researcher will create a clearer picture of what the rights of women are with regard to the provision of the statutes. It is therefore hoped that after this work there will be a clearer and better understanding of the rights of women in Nigeria. This work will also expose the discriminatory practices against women and its effect on the country as a whole.

1.6       Methodology

The methodologies employed in this work are doctrinal, which means teaching or exposing the law on a particular choice of interest. The work is also comparative and analytical in scope which means that the researcher delved into other jurisdictions and compared them with the 1999 CFRN (as amended) other methods of data collection includes statutes, case laws, textbooks, journals and internet sources.

1.7       Literature Review;

 In this work, so many books, journals and even online sources was consulted. In a book called “The Law and Ethics of Healthcare”[2] it was stated that a woman cannot pluck or pick fallen pod of kolanut in Igbo Customary law. Also it was stated that under Benin Kingdom, if there is a will, the maker of that will cannot give the house where he lived and died to any person other than his eldest son.[3]

The Journal on “Discriminatory Cultural Practices and Women’s Rights among the Igbo’s of South-Eastern Nigeria: A Critic’’[4] was also so informative because it criticized all the discriminations against women in Igbo customary laws and gave lots of recommendations on how such discriminations will be abolished. From time immemorial the rights and duties of women in Nigeria is subject to the wishes and aspirations of their men counter parts. Nigerian culture perceives and treats men as superior to women and this is seen in the “son preference syndrome” which is prevalent in Nigeria.

The book “Fundamentals of Nigerian Legal System “[5] was consulted on the different customary practices in Nigeria and this text is very beneficial .The researcher also examined the provisions of different statutory provisions like ” Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), The Malpractice Against widows and widowers Law 2005, The 1999 Constitution Federal Republic of Nigeria, African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the child 1990 and The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Right of Women in Africa 2003.

A very great reasoning was gotten from the textbook “Guides to Fundamental Rights litigation”[6] which talked extensively about the degrading treatments against women.

Another educating textbook which the researcher examined is “Gender Dynamics of inheritance Rights in Nigeria: Need for women empowerment’’[7] In this textbook, the customary law practices of different parts of Nigeria was critically analyzed.

1.8   organizational Layout

This work consist of five(5) chapters. Chapter one of this work contains the preliminary issues like the background of the study, statement of problem, purpose of study, scope of study, significance of study, methodology, literature review, organizational layout and definition of terms. Chapter two(2) deals with the right of women in different customary laws like in Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Ijaw and Igala/Idoma customary laws. Chapter three (3) of this work deals with the rights of women under the 1999 Constitution Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFRN). Chapter four (4) has to do with critical appraisal of the legal rights of women in Nigeria, lastly Chapter five (5) has to do with conclusion and proffer of recommendations with regard to the rights of women in the society as a whole.

1.9       Definition of Terms

Conflict: This is a clash or disagreement between two opposing groups or individuals.[8]

Conflict of law: A different between the laws of different states or countries in a case in which a transaction or occurrence central to the case has a connection to two or more jurisdictions.[9]

Custom: It is then general rules and practices that has become the norm through unvarying habits and common use.[10]Also custom was defined as a rule which in a particular district has from long usage obtained the force of law.[11]


Customary law: Customary law was defined as a law relating to the Custom and tradition of the people. It is also the organic or living law of the indigenous people of Nigeria, regulating their lives and transactions. It is a law consisting of customs that are accepted as legal requirements or obligatory rules of conduct, practices and believes that are so vital and instructed as part of a social and economic system that they are treated as if they were laws.[12]In Oyewunmi and Anor v Owoade,[13]Customary law was defined as the organic or living law of the indigenous people of Nigeria regulating their lives and transactions.

Niki Tobi JSc defined Customary law as the customs, rules and traditions which govern the relationship of members of a community.

Furthermore, in Ojisua v Aiyebelehin[14], customary law was defined as a law relating to the Custom and tradition of people. For the purpose of this research, it is the difference between customary laws and the constitution

Domestic Violence: According to World Health Organization, it is any act of gender-based violence that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.[15]

Degrading treatments: This includes the elements of lowering the societal status, character, value, or position of a person.[16]

Female Genital Mutilation: It is commonly known as female circumcision. It involves the cutting off of part or whole of a girl’s clitoris and some other parts of her sex organs for cultural or any other non-therapeutic reasons.

Feminism: The believe and aim that women should have the same rights and opportunities as men[17]

Gender: Includes the biological sex of an individual usually male or female.It is the mental analogue of sex, also called gender identity. As construed in this book is the condition of being male or female.

Gender Discrimination: It is a distinction or exclusion or restriction made on d basis of sex, which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by men and women of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field[18]. By virtue of Article 1 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Gender discrimination was defined as any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of the marital status on a basis of equality of man and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, and cultural, civil or any other field.

Inheritance: It includes money or property which a person is entitled to after the death of another person mostly a father or mother.

Inhuman treatment: It includes treatments which is devoid of feelings for the sufferings of others.

Justice: It ordinarily depicts fairness and what is right.

Law:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             It is a custom or practice recognized as binding by a community ,especially as a result of having been so decreed by the governing authorities. It is also a whole system of rules that everyone in a country or society must obey[19]

Patriarchy: A society, system or country that is ruled or controlled by men[20]

Right: The word ‘right’ is an English word derived from the Latin word ‘rectus’ which means ‘that to which a person has a total and valid claim, whether it is land, a thing, or other privileges of doing something or saying something’[21].

Violence Against Women: it was defined in ‘The Declaration on Elimination of Violence Against Women’ as any act of gender based violence that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty whether occurring in public or private life.

Women: The ordinary dictionary meaning of a woman is “An adult female human being”[22]. In a more restrict sense, it means all such females who have arrived at the age of puberty.




[1]B A Garner, Black’s law dictionary(9th edn west publishing co 2004)  p. 442

[2]  edited by M O Izunwa and D R Izunwa

[3]http// accessed 28th may 2018

[4]S C Ifemeje and N Umejiaku, ISSN 2224-3249(paper)ISSN 2224-3259(online) 25, (2014),20 -24

[5]edited by G C Nwakaby(Phd), K C Nwogu (Phd). and  M N Umenweke (Phd)

[6] I D Uzo Guides to Fundamental Right Litigation (Law Digest Publishing co 2005) p 1

[7] V C Ikpeze, Gender Dynamics of Inheritance Rights in Nigeria: Need for Women Empowerment(folmech printing and publishing co ltd 2007) p 4

[8]A S Hornby Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary(8th edn Oxford University Press 2010) p 545

[9]B A Garner opcit p 1

[10]B A Garner opcit p 1

[11]Section 2(1) Evidence Act 2011

[12]B A Garner, opcit p 1

[13] [1990] 3NWLR. P 182

[14][2001] 11 NWLR (pt 723)44 at 52

[15] accessed 1st may 2018

[16] I D Uzo, opcit p 4

[17]A S Hornby opcit p 1

[18]E C Ibezim, Gender Issues in Nigerian law :Developments and need for changes,( a paper presented as the proceedings of the 42nd law teacher’s conference themed” Law and the Challenges of the  Nation Building in the 21th century, 2009)

[19]A S Hornby 0pcit  p 5


[21]N O Osita, ‘Human Rights law and practice in Nigeria; faculty of law journal University of Ibadan ’ vol.11 p.55

[22] Ibid


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