Drama of an erroneous NEXT OF KIN

A law student recently joined Ojulari’s Chambers as an Intern. The intern sat on a chair lying opposite to that of Barrister Ojulari’s sit. He was being given some cases to read and summarise as an assignment. A violently aggrieved client entered.

BARR. OJULARI: Good day Sir, please have your sit.

THE CLIENT: Nothing is good in this day, the law. I am being deprived of my right! BARR.

BARR. OJULARI: Please have your sit, I want to assure you that where there is wrong, there is remedy! Besides, your face looks familiar. (The client sits beside the intern)



THE CLIENT: Yes sir, I am the younger brother of your client that has land dispute, whom you won his case at the supreme court last year.

BARR. OJULARI: Wow! I thought as much (They both extend their hands to shake each other) where is your brother now?

THE CLIENT: I am here because of him, he is dead, and some people are trying to destroy his legacy after him which I will never allow. In fact, I don’t care if anybody this on this matter.

BARR. OJULARI: That’s bad! I feel your pain; may he rest in peace!

THE CLIENT: Amen! What I’m here for is that, I want to claim the ownership of my brother’s properties, because he made me as his NEXT OF KIN when he was alive. All his documents have my name on them as his NEXT OF KIN.

BARR. OJULARI: A NEXT OF KIN is a person’s living closest relative [1]. In fact, your brother must love you so much to have chosen you as his next of kin. Sometimes, he may be friend or even confidant [2]

THE CLIENT: Yes of course! He loved me excessively. But now that he is dead, his wife who is on a sick bed is now preventing me from using his property, property that is mine! I just need your help to legally claim all his property and make it mine. That is why I legally need the assistance of a competent legal expert like you.

BARR. OJULARI: (Smiles) Really?

THE CLIENT: Yes o! In fact, your share is 30% of the proceeds

BARR. OJULARI: That’s awesome!


THE CLIENT: It does not end like that, I will make sure I sack all the legal advisers in his companies and make you my personal lawyer. I am talking about companies that worth billions of naira. Only an expert like you should enjoy this mouth watery offer.

BARR. OJULARI: I am very grateful that you give me this offer, in fact, I am very happy because your brother did not even give me this kind of opportunity when he was alive.

THE CLIENT: Forget about him, he is dead now, let us let the living live lively and happily!

BARR. OJULARI: Would you like to answer some questions to help me discharge my professional duty competently?

THE CLIENT: Go on, my competent professional lawyer!

BARR. OJULARI: Does your brother has a Will?

THE CLIENT: No, he doesn’t, and even if he had one, I would have stolen it and get rid of it.

BARR. OJULARI: If you stole a Will, and you were found guilty, you would have been sentenced to life imprisonment [3].

THE CLIENT: Ah! Imprisonment? What kind of law is that?

BARR. OJULARI: I assume you need legal advice, and you are getting it. Did you just confirm that your brother has a wife who survives after him?

THE CLIENT: Yes, he even has a small son!

BARR. OJULARI: Because your brother died without a Will, we would say that he died intestate under the law.

THE CLIENT: Does that mean that I am now the bona fide owner of his property automatically?

BARR. OJULARI: The applicable law in distribution of the property of a deceased shall be determined by the incidence of the marriage of the deceased [4], since your brother has done a valid marriage before his death, his property shall be shared based on the type of marriage he did.

THE CLIENT: What concern marriage about this matter? But I should be my brothers heir after his death!


BARR. OJULARI: Under Nigerian law of intestate succession, one cannot choose his heir under the pretext of Next of Kin, it is the law that imposes whom to inherit his property on him. [5]

THE CLIENT: Ah! Which kind of law is this again?

BARR. OJULARI: Huh! That is why I’m asking your brother has a wife alive.

THE CLIENT: Yes, only that she is in hospital at presence.

BARR. OJULARI: What type of marriage did he conduct with his wife during his lifetime ?

THE CLIENT: Islamic marriage.

BARR. OJULARI: Since he conducted Islamic marriage, the law says that his property will be shared according to Islamic law of succession if he didn’t have a Will, and even if he had a Will, his Will would still be subjected to Islamic law. Meaning that, anything that contravenes Islamic law will not be followed in his Will.

THE CLIENT: Hmmm! Hmmmm!

BARR. OJULARI: This is because, the question of inheritance of a dead person on who has the legal right to inherit his properties and estates is determined by law, those laws are Islamic law, Customary law, English law or Administration of Estate law, depending on the type of marriage he did when he was alive. [6]

THE CLIENT: So, it is not whom he mentioned in his bank or companies as Next of Kin?

BARR. OJULARI: Yes sir!

THE CLIENT: Meaning that, using someone as Next of kin is useless!

BARR. OJULARI: Nope! Next of Kin is the first person to contact if any emergency matter should occur to the declarant.

THE CLIENT: Only that?

BARR. OJULARI: Next of kin is empowered to make medical decision for the declarant, especially in a matter of surgery and any other medical procedures.

THE CLIENT: Awesome!

BARR. OJULARI: Your next of kin can also drag a person, institution or an agency to court and seek relief on your behalf if your human right is trampled upon. [7]

THE CLIENT: So, I have locus standi to institute an action against anyone who breached the human right of my brother even as he is dead already?

BARR. OJULARI: Yes, as a matter of fact, you have a right to sue on behalf of your brother to enforce his breached human right, even if he is dead [8].



THE CLIENT: Wonderful! To be sincere with you barrister, I didn’t know anything like this before. No problem I will follow what the law says, I won’t claim the ownership of my brother’s properties and estates anymore until I get whichever is apportioned to me by law.

BARR. OJULARI: Ita lex, scripta est. It is gleeful to hear that from you Sir.

THE CLIENT: The problem now is where to get an Islamic law expert that will do the distribution of my brother’s properties appropriately.

BARR. OJULARI: Really! You can seek the service of our Chambers, we have interest and specialised in both Common law and Islamic law.

THE CLIENT: Unbelievable! It is blessing to have someone like you as one’s legal adviser. I shall seek your service when everything is ready. I still have your domiciliary bank details, I must transfer a huge amount of dollar currency to you now. Indeed, I was angry when I entered here, but now, I’m learned!

(Both of them smile as THE CLIENT moved out of the Chambers.)



KEYWORDS
1. INTERN: A student or trainee who works, sometimes without pay, in order to gain work experience or satisfy requirements for a qualification.
2. LEGACY: Property that is or may be inherited; an inheritance.
3. WILL: Legal declaration of a person’s wishes regarding the disposal of his or her property or estate after death.
4. INTESTATE: Dying without a legal will.
5. SUCCESSION: The act of getting a title or right after the person who had that title or right before you has dead
6. ISLAMIC LAW: The religious law of Islam, which is binding on Muslims.
7. CUSTOMARY LAW: Law consisting of customs.
ENGLISH LAW: Law consisting of customs of the English people.
ITA LEX, SCRIPTA EST:Latin words meaning As the law is written, so shall it be followed.
.
REFERENCE(S)
[1] JOSEPH VS. FAJEMILEHIN O.O. & ANOR (2012) LPELR-9849 (CA)
[2] An article retrieved from https://guardian.ng/features/next-of-kin-implication-on-beneficiaries-of-estates-in-relation-to-laws-of-succession/ on 20/04/2022
[3] Section 390 (1) of the Criminal Code Act.
[4] OBUZEZ VS. OBUZEZ (2007) 10 NWLR (Pt. 1043) 430
[5] KEKEREOGUN VS. OSHODI (1971) LPELR-1686 (SC)
[6] An article retrieved from https://guardian.ng/features/next-of-kin-implication-on-beneficiaries-of-estates-in-relation-to-laws-of-succession/ on 20/04/2022
[9] Section 46 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended in 2018.

Abdulrauf Abdullahi Adebayo is a Law Student l, a Teacher and a Writer . He can be reached via 09034904883 and [email protected]

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