Female Children In Esan Laws Of Inheritance

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The position or lack of position of female children is emphasized thoughout in Esan Native Law and Custom and aptly expressed in the Esan Idiom: OKHUO ILE AGHADA BHE UKU (A woman never inherits the sword!) or El BIE OMOKHUO HE OLE IRIOGBE, literarily meaning you do not have a daughter and name her the family keeper! - She would marry and leave not only the family but the village, a wasted asset.

The woman could never be the family keeper. Whatever passed on to her passed on to her man, in order words the Esan believed the daughter to be a drain on the family and hence she should be disconnected by marriage, as quickly as possible. In Esan law and custom, particularly In Esan ‘A’ where the system of Arebhoa was unfavored , the family. Property was very  jealously guarded against its possible passing into the hands of daughters.
In laws of inheritance therefore, the woman had no place, in fact, she. was one of the inheritable properties! The respect paid to the Ehale non odion was special and only lasted the father’s lifetime really. During tie father’s lifetime when he shared certain property, a thing rarely done except when the old man felt the end was near, and even then, he had to be very careful what he shared and how he went about it, because LINMIN YIYI OBE EGBFLE KHUAN OLE A (The dead man makes bad laws but. the ivin4g elders over-rule!), he might give something on the feminine line like Ivie Coral Beads), clothing, a goat etc, to the daughter. If he had a cow or even two he could not successfully give one to the first daughter, even while he lived. When a father shared things like food, they were usually divided into two big lots: one for the Sons who shared theirs in odugha while the daughters irrespective of seniority, went to the women’s quarters to divide; theirs, obviously showing that they had no: place in the main house or Odiugha.

During the burial ceremonies, however. the Ehale had a place, albeit far inferior, irrespective of her age, to the first son’s, whose. Place might be many, many years down according to age.

It was this attempt to keep property in the family that led to the custom of a woman, however wealthy, not being allowed to bury her father, since he who performed the ceremonies inherited the property. If she was very influential and her brothers were minors, she could prevail on the Egbele to allow her to perform these ceremonies, strictly on the understanding that she was only doing this because she did not want their father to remain unburied and that she did everything on behalf of her brothers. Another thing which was designed to preclude her from inheritance was the custom which forbade the woman from handling UKHURE, since she could not do this, she could not take possession of the family shrine and hence she could not pretend to perform the burial ceremonies and hence own the family property.

If she was the only child of her father, the next male in line of succession stood to perform the burial ceremonies, the woman and her wealth fading away behind, so that after the ceremonies, she had no claim to property. This type of burial is only allowed to prevent property in the family passing outside the family and village as would otherwise happen if the daughter had been permitted by the Egbele to perform the burial ceremonies of her father.
The laws of inheritance as they affect women need some qualification as regards an Arebhoa and being the only child of the .dead person.

(i) Arebhoa: As already said, an Arebhoa was equivalent to a son. She could perform the burial ceremonies and inherit al! the father’s property except the title if had any, and the wives, of course. In this case the reason for forbidding other types of daughters having this right is satisfied: although an Arebhoa, a woman had inherited property, she and ah she inherited did not leave the family or the village.

(¡i) Property of a woman: When a wife died her property was inherited by her children. If she has only one child and already married, she came home, performed the burial ceremonies of her mother and inherited what she left behind. But if the woman had no issue, the husband inherited her Possessions.

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