By BONIFACE OKORO
FOR 55-year old Theresa Nwosu, the prospects of losing a house she laboured to build with her life savings in her father’s compound looms large.
Nwosu, a native of Uru, Lokpanta Autonomous Community in Umunneochi Local Government Area of Abia State, is a petty trader. She deals on stockfish and vegetables. For about four years, according to her, she invested her business savings in the building project sited on the portion of land that her father gave her in his compound before his death. Since the house was completed, she has been living there with her son. Her late brother, Innocent Nwosu, also built and resided in his own house in the compound.
But trouble started with the death of her brother, Innocent Nwosu, last December, as her nephews went to court in a bid to stop her from staying in the compound. They are contending that their tradition forbids a woman from sharing in the inheritance of family property.
Three of his brother’s children, namely Emeka Nwosu, Obinna Nwosu and Ikechukwu Nwosu have dragged their niece before the Leru Customary Court, praying the court to grant a perpetual injunction restraining her and her son, Christian, the second defendant in the case, from further entry into the compound.
The grief-stricken woman who broke down in tears while narrating her ordeal to a team led by the Voice to the People, V2P, a programme of Christian Aid Nigeria, sobbed, “I built this house with my sweat. It is different from the house our father built which I have no interest in. But my brothers are insisting that I must pack out of the compound and leave my house for them.”
Several mediations in the matter by relations, village authorities, it was learnt, that have failed to yield positive results.
A group, Voice to the People, V2P, Safe Space, a forum raised by V2P, an enlightenment programme by Christian Aid Nigeria for women in the rural villages to discuss issues affecting them and articulate solutions thereto, encouraged her to approach the National Human Rights Commission to see if the matter could be resolved.
And she raced to the Enugu office of NHRC, which dispatched a delegation to mediate in the family squabble. Their intervention also failed, hence the court action by the Nwosu brothers.
Madam Nwosu is now in court, battling to convince the court on why she must retain and live in her building.
In the suit, No. CC/UO/3/2017, Mr. Emeka Nwosu, Obinna Nwosu and Ikechukwu Nwosu (Plaintiffs/Applicants) are praying the court to make a declaration that the 1st plaintiff (Emeka Nwosu) being the first son of late Innocent Nwosu, is entitled to the Customary Right of Occupancy of that piece of land known as and called Ala Obi Innocent Nwosu (compound) at of Ugwuogo, Uru Lokpanta.
The plaintiffs also want the court to award N200, 000.00 as general damages for several acts of trespass on the said land against Madam Nwosu and a perpetual injunction “restraining the defendants, their servants, agents, privies, workmen from further entry into the said land/compound or claim joint ownership, or in any manner whatsoever interfering with the plaintiff’s right.”
In their particulars of claim, the 1st and 2nd plaintiffs acknowledged that the 1st Defendant, Mrs. Theresa Nwaele (nee Nwosu) is a blood sister of their late father.
They also stated that their late father built a five-room house without toilet and bathroom in his land called Ala Obi Innocent Nwosu (compound).
They added that with the death of their father, Theresa Nwaele (nee Nwosu) started disputing the Innocent Nwosu compound with his children.
According to them, parties (Umunna) have looked into the matter and advised Mrs. Theresa Nwaele “to remove her hand on Alaobi Innocent Nwosu but she refused.”
In a further affidavit in support of motion on notice deposed to by Emeka Nwosu, the 1st plaintiff, he narrated that the land in question was where his grandfather, Igwebuike Nwosu , lived and died and was buried before his first son, Innocent Nwosu, inherited it under the native law and custom of Ugwuogo, Uru Lokpanta.
He also contended that under the Ugwuogo, Uru Lokpanta native law and custom, a man’s daughter married out of the family has no inheritance in his father’s compound.
In the affidavit, Emeka also stated that it is the sole right of the first son to inherit the compound of his late father.
He equally averred that when his father was alive, his sister, Theresa Nwaele, never challenged or disputed the compound with him.
Emeka maintained that the court has the jurisdiction and the discretionary power to grant the application. The case, which was adjourned on the 17th of last month, comes up for accelerated hearing on the 7th, 28th and 29th of next month.