Eldest child inherits ‘Igiogbe’ in Benin, court rules
BENIN CITY – Justice H. A. Ogbebor of the Edo State High Court, sitting in Benin City has declared that Washington Osaretin Ogiemwonyi (now late) is the first surviving son of his late father, Ogiemwonyi Agbonkpolo and haven performed the burial rites of his (Washington) father is the rightful owner of house No. 7A Upper Sakpoba Road, Benin City to the exclusion of his siblings and claimants in a suit instituted before the court
The claimants in the suit with No. B//421/2021 were Thomas Ogbomo Ogiemwonyi and Mrs Odion Ugbogbo (suing on behalf of the children of Madam Igbinomwanhia Ogiemwonyi).
The defendants/counter claimants were Madam Enoghayin Osunde and Miss Otasowie Ogiemwonyi.
The court therefore dismissed the suit seeking a declaration that the house does not belong to Washington Osaretin Ogiemwonyi, but to him and his siblings
The suit also sought a declaration that Washington Osaretin Ogiemwonyi did not marry Madam Enoghayin Osunde, one of the defendants/counter claimants in the suit and a declaration that the corpse of Washington Osaretin Ogiemwonyi be released to the family for burial.
However, in a joint statement of defense denying the claim of the claimants and a counter claim, Madam Osunde and Miss Otasowie averred that the house was shared by the Azogie family of Ogiemwonyi Agbonkpolo to the late Washington Ogiemwonyi on September 29, 1991, the title to the house passed absolutely and vested on Washington predecessor-in-title of defendants, to the exclusion of everyone, including the claimants, their siblings, agents, privies and servants.
The joint counter claim sought a declaration that the first defendant, Madam Osunde, as a wife and Miss Otasowie, irrespective of gender of the defendants as female children under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) are the beneficiaries of the estate of Washington Osaretin Ogiemwonyi who died intestate, including the house, to the exclusion of of every other person, including the claimants.
It also sought a declaration that Washington exercised maximum act of ownership since he inherited it and that Madam Osunde, his wife and Miss Otasowie and her siblings are the beneficiaries of the estate, including the house No 7A Upper Sakpoba Road of Washington Osaretin Ogiemwonyi to the exclusion of everyone else .
Ruling on the matter, Justice Ogbebor averred that the objection of the claimants to the burial of Washington Osaretin Ogiemwonyi has no basis in the Benin Customary law and there “is no evidence or pleading for the basis of the objection to the place of interment and burial, safe for their erroneous belief.”
The court held that Miss Otasowie, in conjunction with her siblings who are adults has the prerogative to decide when, where and how to bury their father and request the family of the deceased to join in the performance of the burial rites.
The court also held that Madam Enoghayin Osunde adduced enough evidence to support the claim that she was legally married to Washington Osaretin Ogiemwonyi who paid the customary bride price on her and was received accordingly, adding that payment of bride price is the first step of a valid customary law marriage.