Property Rights of Nigerian Women at Divorce: A Case for a Redistribution Order




Divorce, marriage, Nigeria, property, property rights, women


In Nigeria, marriage is hardly conceived as a partnership of equals in relation to the property rights of spouses during marriage and at divorce. This is because the Nigerian courts do not redistribute property at divorce. This leaves the financially weaker spouse (usually the wife) at an economically disadvantaged position. This article therefore compares the position of the matrimonial laws in England with that of Nigeria, whether there are provisions for the redistribution of property between the spouses at divorce. The comparative analysis reveals that family laws in England empower the family court to redistribute property amongst spouses at divorce. On the contrary, the matrimonial property laws in Nigeria provide for the settlement of property at divorce. The analysis also reveals that the courts in Nigeria adopt the strict property rights approach in ordering the settlement of property, which is detrimental to the wife. The article also makes a case for a redistribution through the economic analysis of the worth of a housewife. The authors therefore argue that the Nigerian courts should depart from this approach and borrow from the English courts. The authors recommend the amendment of the matrimonial property laws to fill this gap. That would enable the Nigerian courts to make a redistribution order, so as to vary the recognised property rights of spouses in order to provide compensation for any reasonable loss caused by marriage and ensure that the financial benefits of marriage are shared on a just and equitable basis.




Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...




Abdulmumini AO “Religious and Customary Laws in Nigeria” 25 Emory International Law Review (2011) 881-895

Akande JO “Women and the Law” in Obilade AO (ed), Women in Law, (Southern University Law Centre and Faculty of Law University of Lagos 1993)

Akande JO Akande: Introduction to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (MIJ Professional Publishers Limited Lagos 2000)

Alemika EI “Family Practices and Violations of the Rights of Women” 2010 University of Maiduguri Law Journal 8 25-38

Anyanwu JC “Marital Status, Household Size and Poverty in Nigeria: Evidence from the 2009/2010 Survey Data” Working Paper No 180 (African Development Bank Tunis 2013)

Arinze-Umobi C “Discrimination/Inequitable Distribution of Matrimonial Property upon Divorce – Critique of Section 72 MCA” 2004 Unizik Law Journal 4(1) 188-198

Ashiru MOA “Gender Discrimination in the Division of Property on Divorce in Nigeria” 2007 Journal of African Law 51(2) 316-331

Asiyanbola AR “Patriarchy, Male Dominance, the Role and Women Empowerment in Nigeria”, 2005 Presentation Paper, International Union for Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP/UIESP) XXV International Population Conference Tours, France 18 – 23 1-21

Bainham A “Divorce and the Multi-millionaire: The Search for Principle” 2006 Cambridge Law Journal 65(3) 511-515

Bromley PM Bromley’s Family Law 6th ed (Butterworths London 1981)

Edu OK “Women and Property Rights under Customary Law” in Oho FO and Edu OK (eds) Women, Law & Family (Art Masters Limited 2016) 136-156

Ellman IM “Financial Settlement on Divorce: Two Steps Forward, Two to Go”, 2007 Law Quarterly Review 123 2-9

Ellman IM “Marital Roles and Declining Marriage Rates” 2007-2008 Family Law Quarterly 45 455-489

Gbadamosi O Reproductive Health & Rights (African Perspectives and Legal Issues in Nigeria) (Ethiope Publishing Corporation Benin City 2007)

Heaton J “Striving for Substantive Gender Equality in Family Law: Selected issues” 2005 SAJHR 21 547-574

Hotchkiss JL and.Pitts MM “Female Labor Force Intermittency and Current Earnings: A Switching Regression Model with Unknown Sample Selection” 2003 Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta: Working Paper Series 1

Hotchkiss JL and.Pitts MM “The Role of Labor Market Intermittency in Explaining Gender Wage Differentials”, 2007 Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta: Working Paper Series 1

Jacobsen JP and Levin LM “Effects of Intermittent Labour Force Attachment on Women’s Earnings” 1995 Monthly Labour Review 14-19

Lasode AO and Awotedu F “Challenges Faced by Married University Undergraduate Female Students in Ogun State, Nigeria” 2014 Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 112 102-113

Lawson R “Domestic Contribution and the Allocation of Property on Marital Breakdown: A Comparative Study of Australia and New Zealand” 1994 University of Tasmania Law Review 13(2) 294-345

Lee R “Stack v Dowden: A Sequel”, 2008 Law Quarterly Review 124 209-213

Levitan A and Belous RS “Working Wives and Mothers: What Happens to Family Life?” 1981 Monthly Labour Review 26-30

Lowe NV and Douglas G Bromley’s Family Law 10th ed (Oxford University Press Oxford 2007)

Masson JM Bailey-Harris R and Probert RJ Cretney’s Principles of Family Law 8th ed (Sweet & Maxwell London 2008)

Miller JG Family Property and Financial Provision, 2nd ed (Sweet & Maxwell 1983)

Muna N “African Customary Law, Customs and Women's Rights” 2011 Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 81(1) 87-120

Musa CN “The Challenges of the ‘Husband Wife’ Phenomenon in Family and Marital Unequal Relationships” 2014 Journal of Education and Social Research 4(3) 297-302

Ngwanke J “Realising Women’s Economic and Cultural Rights: Challenges and Strategies in Nigeria” 14 2002 CJWL/RFD 143

Nwabueze BO Nigerian Land Law (Nwamife Pub. Ltd. Enugu 1972)

Omage MI “Critical Issues in Marriage Failure in Benin City, Nigeria: Signaling the Way Forward” 2013 European Scientific Journal 9(5) 324-337

Omolayo BO, Falegan T and Ajila CK “Influence of Job Demand and Employment Status on Marital Conflict and Marital Satisfaction among Women in Ekiti State, Nigeria” 2013 Journal of Psychology and Behavioral Science 1(1) 8-18

Onokah MC Family Law, (Spectrum Books Limited Ibadan 2003)

Onuoha RA “Discriminatory Property Inheritance under Customary Law in Nigeria: NGOs to the Rescue”, 2008 International Journal of Not-for-Profit Law 10(2) 79-93

Resetar B “Matrimonial Property in Europe: A Link between Sociology and Family Law”, 2008 Electronic Journal of Comparative Law 12(3) 1-18

Smithdale J “Inference, Imputation, or Both? Confusion Persists over Beneficial Interests in the Family Property” 2011 Cambridge Student Law Review 7(1) 74-88

Umukoro BE “Settlement of Matrimonial Property upon Divorce: Challenges and Need for Reform in Nigeria and Some other Commonwealth Countries in Africa” 2006 Commercial and Property Law Journal 1(1) 116

Wade JH “Measuring the Chancellor’s Foot – Matrimonial Property Law in Australia” 1985 Federal Law Review 15 76-87

Waite LJ & Gallagher M “What are the Possible Financial Consequences of Divorce?” in Hawkins AJ and Fackrell TA (eds) Should I Keep Trying to Work it out: A Guidebook for Individuals and Couples at the Crossroads of Divorce (and before) (Utah State University Utah 2009)

Wilkinson KHP and De Hass MR Property Distribution on Divorce 3rd ed (Longman Group UK Ltd 1989)



Divorce Act Cap 55 of 1969

Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act Cap 42 of 1984

Matrimonial Causes Act Cap 18 of 1973

Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Act Cap 45 of 1970


African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act No 2 of 1983 Cap A9 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004

Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 Cap C23 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004

Evidence Act No 18 of 2011

Marriage Act 1914 Cap M6 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004

Married Women’s Property Act 1882

Married Women’s Property Law Cap 76 Laws of Western Region of Nigeria, 1959

Matrimonial Causes Act No 18 of 1970 Cap M7 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004

South African

Recognition of Customary Marriages Act 120 of 1998

Case law


Abbott v Abbott [2007] WL 2126565 (PCA)

Gissing v Gissing [1971] AC 886 (HL)

Jones v Kernott [2012] 1 AC 776 (SC(E))

McFarlane v McFarlane; Miller v Miller [2006] 2 AC 618 (HL)

Pettitt v. Pettitt [1969] 2 All ER 385 (HL)

Piglowska v Piglowska [1999] 1 WLR 1360 (HL)

Stack v Dowden [2007] WL 1157953 (HL)

White v White [2001] 1 AC 596 (HL)


Akinboni v Akinboni [2002] 5 NWLR (Pt 761) 564

Amadi v Nwosu 1992 Legalpedia SC UJBT 1

Egunjobi v Egunjobi (1976) 2 FNLR 78

Essien v Essien [2009] 9 N.W.L.R (Pt 1146) 306

Essien v Essien [2009] 9 NWLR (Pt 1146) 306

Kafi v Kafi [1986] 3 NWLR (Pt 27) 175

Mojekwu v Iwuchukwu [2004] 11 NWLR (Pt 883) 196

Mojekwu v Mojekwu [1997] 7 NWLR (Pt 512) 283

Mueller v Mueller (2005) LPELR 12687 (CA) 1

Nwanya v Nwanya [1987] 3 NWLR (Pt 62) 697

Oghoyone v Oghoyone [2010] 3 N.W.L.R (Pt 1182) 564

Okala v Okala (1973) ECSNLR 67

Okere v Akaluka (2014) LPELR-24287 (CA) 1

Onwuchekwa v Onwuchekwa & Obuekwe [1991] 5 NWLR (Pt 194) 739

Sodipe v Sodipe (1990) 5 WRN 98

Sotomi v Sotomi (1976) 2 FNLR 164

Ukeje v Ukeje (2014) All FWLR (Pt 730) 1323

South African

Gumede v President of the Republic of South Africa and Others 2009 (3) SA 152 (CC)

International instruments

African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (1986)

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1981)

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1976)

Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (2003)

Internet sources

Adekile 2010

Adekile KM 2010 “Property Rights of Women in Nigeria as Impediments to Full Realization of Economic and Social Rights” accessed 25 March, 2015

Etomi and Asia 2015

Etomi E and Asia E 2015 “Family Law in Nigeria” accessed 2 May 2016

National Association of Women and the Law date unknown responsibilities

National Association of Women and the Law, date unknown “When a Relationship Ends: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities” in A Woman’s Guide to Money, Relationship and the Law in Ontario accessed 15 August 2016

Omoyemen 2010 rights-nigeria

Omoyemen O 2010 “Assessing Women’s Rights in Nigeria” accessed 15 April 2015



How to Cite

Efe, C. J., & Eberechi, O. E. . (2020). Property Rights of Nigerian Women at Divorce: A Case for a Redistribution Order. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 23, 1–39.




Similar Articles

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 > >> 

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.