Akpan Etukudoh Asare
The age old Native Law and Custom still in practise in Nigeria is very oppressive to women and needs to be reformed immediately to save widows.
This was the stern position of a former attorney general and commissioner for justice in Cross River State, Mr Eyo O Ekpo
Ekpo who is a governorship aspirant from the Social Democratic Party spoke with journalists on the heels of Governor Ben Ayade’s recent pledge to place 200 widows on salary, disclosing that there are over 3000 of them in the state.
“The number one instrument, which promotes the oppression of widows in Cross River State is the native law and customs. If the state government means well for widows, let them reform the Native Law and Customs. Just before I left office, I realized that that was a big challenge in Cross River State and I started the reform process, I had set up a group of people to codify that law. This is an idea I am giving of my own free will to Gov Ayade.
“He has appointed a Law Reform Commission and he is paying the people. He should ask the commission to review Cross River State Native Law and Customs because every single ethnic group in the state has its own native law and customs, if the state is serious about widows, he should order the commission to review, codify those laws as they relate to widowhood and fatherless children.”
Ekpo said when he was in the government of Mr Donald Duke, he had set up instituted a system whereby the assets of a deceased husband would be left to his widow and children rather than have his relatives take that means of livelihood away.
He expressed sadness that many men no longer like their wives under civil law., thereby placing their wives at a huge disadvantage when they pass on because their marriages are subject to customary law, many of which he said are oppressive.
Recommending court marriage, the former attorney general said, “When I was at the Ministry of Justice as Attorney General, I urged every single young man and woman, who worked with me to get married in court. You cannot be in the system and place your own wife at a disadvantage.”
He lamented that the committee he instituted died and did not codify the law. He urged Ayade to take up the task if his government was truly concerned about the plight and oppression of widows. “The way to assist widows is not to throw small money at them. In most cases, where the women are not educated, it is still the deceased husband’s relatives, who will collect the money from them.”