CYPRAIN PETER OBUSEZ & ANOR. V MRS. SYLVIA TECKIA OBUSEZ & ANOR (2007)

CYPRAIN PETER OBUSEZ & ANOR. V MRS. SYLVIA TECKIA OBUSEZ & ANOR

(2007) LCN/3792(SC)

In the Supreme Court of Nigeria

Friday, April 27, 2007


Case Number:SC.405/2001

 

JUSTICES:

ALOYSIUS IYORGYER KATSINA-ALU JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT

UMARU ATU KALGO, JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT

NIKI TOBI, JUSTICE, SUPREME COUR

TALOMA MARIAM MUKHTAR, JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT

MAHMUD MOHAMMED, JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT

WALTER SAMUEL NKANU ONNOGHEN, JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT

FRANCIS FEDODE TABAI JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT.

 

APPELLANT:

CYPRAIN PETER OBUSEZ & ANOR

 

RESPONDENTS:

MRS. SYLVIA TECKIA OBUSEZ & ANOR.

 

 

F. F. TABAI, J.S.C.: (Delivering the Judgment by the Court): The action giving rise to this appeal was filed at the Ikeja Judicial Division of the High Court of Lagos State on or about the 24/5/91. The Plaintiffs are the Respondents in this appeal and the Defendants, the Appellants herein. The reliefs endorsed in the writ of summons and repeated in the Statement of Claim are:

(i) A declaration that the 1st Plaintiff and her five children are the only persons entitled to the estate of late Cornelius Paul Obusez;

(ii) An Order that Grant of Letters of Administration in solemn form for the administration of the said estate be issue to Mrs. Silvia Teckia Obusez and Ademola Giwa Esq. The 1st Defendant/Respondent filed a 27 paragraph Statement of Defence and counter-claim.

The 1st Defendant/Respondent counter-claimed the following reliefs:

1. A declaration that the Defendants are the only person entitled to administer the Estate of the late Cornelius Paul Obusez.

2. An Order that a grant of Letters of Administration in solemn form for the Administration of the said estate be issued to the Defendants herein. Only the 1st Plaintiff/Respondent testified in support of the Plaintiffs’ case. The 1st Defendant/Appellant and two other witnesses testified in support of the Defence and counter-claim. After the address of counsel for the parties the learned trial judge R. A. Omotoso J. delivered judgment on the 17/3/93.

In the concluding paragraph of the judgment the learned trial judge held: “Under Nigeria’s Law of succession touching on Succession to the estate of Nigerians who contract marriages under the Marriage Act, the 1st Plaintiff and her children are the only persons entitled to the estate of their husband and father. The 1st Plaintiff is certainly not a chattel under that law. Further, as beneficiaries of that estate, the 1st Plaintiff and children are entitled to a grant of Letters of Administration to administer the estate but because all the children are minor it is lawful and proper that the 2nd Plaintiff be appointed a Co-Administrator with the 1st Plaintiff. Accordingly, I make a Declaration that the 1st Plaintiff and her five children are the only persons entitled to the estate of the late Cornelius Obusez. I further order that a Grant of Letters of Administration in solemn form for the administration of the said estate be issued to the 1st and 2nd Plaintiffs, Mrs. Sylvia Teckia Obusez and Ademola Giwa Esq. In the event, the counter-claim of the Defendants fails and is accordingly dismissed.”

Aggrieved by the foregoing decision, the Appellants herein appealed to the Court below. In its judgment on the 7/6/2001 the Court below dismissed the appeal. The concluding part of the judgment states, in substance, the reasons for the dismissal. The Court per Oguntade JCA ( as he then was) stated thus:

“It is not the law that the surviving widow of a deceased person is automatically entitled to the grant of Letters of Administration in respect of the estate of the interstate. See Okon Administrator Cross River State (1992) N.W.L.R. (Part 248)473. The Court has a discretion in the matter. It is a correct statement of the law that a widow who has been guilty of moral misconduct may be passed over. A widow who since her husband’s death has led an immoral life may also be passed over. Although there was evidence from the 1st Defendant that the 1st Plaintiff had conducted herself in a manner considered unacceptable, the trial court did not consider the unchallenged evidence. I have considered the evidence. At the highest, it shows the 1st Plaintiff as insensitive and may be unwilling to the rival claims of the larger family of the intestate to share in the intestate’s properties. But I do not see that the conduct or misconduct ascribed to her was sufficiently grave to lead to the conclusion that she was unfit to administer the estate of the intestate. The lower PAGE| 3 court however should have considered the evidence and make a finding of fact thereon. In the final conclusion, this appeal fails. It is dismissed. I affirm the judgment of the lower court given on the 17/3/93.”

Still dissatisfied the Appellants have come on further appeal to this Court. The parties have, through their counsel filed and exchanged their Briefs of Argument. The Appellant’s Brief dated and filed on the 1/6/04 was prepared by A.J. Owonikoko. The Respondents Brief dated the 7th of March 2006 was prepared by E.O. Akpata-Etomi (Mrs). In the Appellants’ Brief of Argument Mr. Owonikoko formulated the following three issues for the determination of this appeal.

ONE “Whether Section 36 subsections (1)(2) and (3) of the Marriage Act, and section 49(5) of the Administration of Estates Law, Laws of Lagos State which both confer a right on surviving spouse married under the Marriage Act, to one third of the Estate of the spouse who died intestate as in this case are concurrent statutory provisions on incidence of non customary or Islamic marriage.”

TWO “If yes, whether section 36 sub-sections (1)(2) and (3) of the Marriage Act falls within items 60 and 67 of the Exclusive Legislative List under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1979 as to render a similar provision under section 49(5) of the Administration of Estates Law, Laws of Lagos State inconsistent with the Marriage Act as impliedly repealed, and therefore null and void by virtue of section 4(3) and (5) of the Constitution.”

THREE “Whether the judgment of the lower court which affirmed exclusion of appellants as persons entitled to administer the estate of the deceased Cornelius Obusez occasioned a miscarriage of justice.”

In the Respondents’ Brief Mrs. Akpata-Etomi also formulated three issues which are a reproduction of the three issues of the Appellant. Both counsel argued issues one and two together. The intestate, Mr Cornelius Obusez was from Ute-Ukpo near Agbor in Delta State. His wife and widow Mrs Sylvia Teckia Obusez is from Koko, also in Delta State. They got married on the 8th of July 1972. it was a marriage under the Marriage Act. There are five children of the marriage. The first child was born on the 30/8/73 and the last on the 6/6/82. Mr. Cornelius Obusez died on the 29/5/88. At the time of his death his first child was 15 years old and the last, 6 years. The evidence shows that although, they lived together, the relationship between the couple was, sometime before and up to the 29/5/88, not quite smooth sailing. Among those who survived the intestate was the 1st Defendant/Appellant his twin brother. In his lifetime the deceased took out Life Insurance Policy with American International Insurance Company Ltd in 1977. The 1st Appellant and the only two children at that time were named the beneficiaries. Firstly, learned counsel for the Appellant invited this court to depart from the principle in Salubi v. Nwariaku (2003) 20 WRN SC 53, (2003) 4 SCM 127, submitting that the incidence of marriage under the Marriage Act on a surviving spouse upon which the decision was based is a matter which fall within items 60 and 67 of the Exclusive Legislative List in the 1979 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and in respect of which a State House of Assembly had no legislative competence. He contended that the legislative competence of the State House of Assembly was limited to matters in respect of Islamic and customary law marriages. According to counsel, the call for departure from Salubi v. Nwariaku is necessitated by the fact that the point being raised here was not canvassed before this Court in that case. It was further argued that section 49(5) of the Administration of Estates Law of Lagos State which is the equivalent of section 36 of the Marriage Act, is by virtue of the aforesaid constitutional provisions, null and void. It was contended therefore that only the customary law of Agbor that applies in the administration of the deceased’s estate and that by virtue thereof the Appellants who are the brother of the deceased ought to have priority for appointment as administrators of the estate.

Learned counsel for the Respondents on the other hand opposed the invitation for a departure from Salubi Nwariaku (supra). This, she submitted, was because the issue as to the incidence of marriage under the Marriage Act falling within the Exclusive Legislative List in Items 60 and 67 of the 1979 Constitution did not arise, the applicable law at all times material to the case being section 49(5) of the Administration of Estate Law of Lagos State. Section 49(5) of the Administration of Estate Law, it was argued, is not a nullity as it never purported to legislate in a matter beyond the legislative competence of the Lagos State House of Assembly. Learned counsel, Mrs Akpata-Etomi, further submitted that there was no basis for the application of Agbor customary law in the administration of the estate of the intestate since, at all times material to this case, the deceased was married under the Marriage Act and resident in Lagos State and the administration of whose property therefore comes within section 49(5) of the Administration of Estates Law of Lagos State. She finally submitted that since Letters of Administration were granted to the Respondents in compliance with section 49(5) of the Administration of Estates Law of Lagos State and under the Non-Contentions Probate Rules, the grant was in order. She urged in conclusion that the appeal be dismissed and the judgment of the Lower Court affirmed. Let me first of all dispose of Appellant’s request for this Court to depart from Salubi Nwariaku (supra). The Head Note of section 49 reads: “Succession to real and personal estate on intestacy” And section 49(5) states:

“Where any person who is subject to customary law contracts a marriage in accordance with the provisions of the Marriage Act and such person dies intestate after the commencement of this Law leaving a widow or husband or any issue of such marriage, any property of which the said intestate might have disposed by will shall be distributed in accordance with the provisions of this law, any customary law to the contrary not withstanding.”

Items 60 and 67 of the Exclusive Legislative List in the 1979 Constitution (which are items 61 and 68 of the 1999 Constitution) provide:- 60 “The formation, annulment and dissolution of marriages other than marriages under Islamic law and customary law including matrimonial causes relating thereto.”

67 “Any matter incidental or supplementary to any matter mentioned elsewhere in this list.”

I have examined the above provisions carefully and I am of the view that section 49(5) of the Administration of Estates Law Lagos State does not purport to legislate on matters preserved for the National Assembly in items 60 and 67 of the Exclusive Legislative List in the 1979 Constitution. Section 49(5) of the Administration of Estates Law deals specifically with “succession to real and personal estate on intestacy” as clearly shown in the caption or head note. While item 60 on the Exclusive Legislative list also speaks specifically of the formation, annulment and dissolution of marriage other than marriages under Islamic Law and/or customary law. The Constitutional provisions in item 60 of the Exclusive List, in my view, pertains and is limited to the formation, annulment and dissolution of marriages and cannot be expanded to cover cases of succession to, distribution and administration of the estate of an Intestate. Similarly I do not think that item 67 of the Exclusive Legislative List of the 1999 Constitution can be construed to include matters beyond those specifically mentioned in item 60. These specific clear and unambiguous provisions both of the Constitution and the Administration of Estate Law of Lagos must be accorded their ordinary grammatical meaning which alone speaks and discloses the intention of the law makers. See Udoh v. O.H.MB. (1993) 7 N.W.L.R. (Pt. 304) 139; 7- UP Bottling CO. LTD v. Abiola & Sons (NIG) Ltd (1995) 3 N.W.L.R. (Pt 383) 257. In my view the construction of the Constitutional and Statutory provisions does not affect the decision on Salubi & Nwariaku and there is therefore no basis for any departure there from. In paragraph 4.20 page 14 of the Appellants Brief learned counsel submitted as follows:

“The judgment of the lower court was that a wife has a right to exclude relations of his (sic) deceased spouse from being co-administrator at his estate simply as a matter of law. And that the spouse can be aided by the court in excluding his (sic) husband’s immediate relations who are willing, and bringing in complete stranger. In this case, the twin brother in whose personal house the husband was buried was held disentitled to be a co-administrator of the estate.”

He submitted that the decision of the lower court affirming that of the trial court totally ignored what constitutes a family or extended family within the Nigerian context and urged this court not to endorse it. He relied on the works of FAMILY LAW IN NIGERIA by Prof. E. I. Nwogwugwu page 1. He submitted that in view of the unchallenged evidence in support of their pleading in the Statement of Defence and counter-claim to the effect that the deceased during his life time embraced his Agbor Native Law and Custom and naming of the 1st Appellant and his 1st and 2nd children as the beneficiaries in his Life Insurance Policy, the decision of the Court below excluding the Appellants as co-administrators should be set aside. The substance of the Appellants’ argument is that the Agbor native law and custom and not the Administration of Estates Law should apply. At page 165 of the record the court below restated the purport of section 49(5) of the Administration of Estate Law when it said:

“I am satisfied that the clear intention of the law maker as manifested in the passage underline above is that customary law should be excluded in relation to the estate of persons to which the provision applies.”

The court after restating a portion of the judgment of the trial court, and Salubi Nwariaku said: “It would have sufficed to appreciate that the Bendel State Legislature meant to and did legislate to exclude the applicability of customary law on the intestacy of a person who married under the Marriage Act.”

I agree entirely with the reasoning of the court below on the non-applicability of the Agbor native law and custom in the administration of the estate of the deceased. I have earlier in this judgment restated the concluding part of the judgment of the trial court at page 61 of the record to the same effect. Although the Appellants were at the trial at pains to prove the 1st Respondent’s insensitivity to the death of her husband, they appear to have conceded her right to Letters of Administration. Their grouse mainly is the appointment of the 2nd Respondent whom they describe as a complete stranger. According to them, his appointment to their exclusion was a wrong exercise of discretion that has occasioned a miscarriage of justice. On this question of the 2nd Respondent the trial court at page 61 of the record held to the effect that the Rules do not prescribe that a person so nominated must be a relation of the deceased. In addition, at page 31 of the he cord, the 1st Appellant, testifying as DW1 said of the 2nd Respondent thus: “The said Plaintiff Ademola Giwa I know. He had been a friend of my twin brother the deceased just like any other friend. He is not related to us. He is not even from our state.” Having regard to the uncontested fact that the 2nd Respondent had been a friend of the deceased there is good cause for his appointment as the 2nd Administrator to the estate of the deceased. On the whole I do not see any strong reason for interfering with the judgment of the court below. I hold in conclusion therefore that the appeal fails and is accordingly dismissed. I make no orders as to costs.

KATSINA-ALU, J.S.C.:

I have had the advantage of reading in draft the judgment of my learned brother Tabai JSC in this appeal. I agree entirely with it and, for the reasons he has given I too, dismiss the appeal. I also abide by the order as to costs. PAGE| 9 U.A KALGO JSC: I have had the opportunity of reading before now, the judgment just delivered by my learned brother Tabai JSC in this appeal. I am of the view that he has carefully and painstakingly considered all the issues raised by the appellant and I agree with the conclusions reached therein. I therefore find no merit in the appeal. I accordingly dismiss it with costs as ordered in the said judgment.

NIKI TOBI, J.S.C.:

I have read the judgment of my learned brother Tabai, JSC and I agree with him that the appeal should be dismissed. Cornelius Paul Obusez .was assassinated on 29th May, 1988. The appellants were his full brothers. As a matter of fact, the 1st appellant was his twin brother. The 1st respondent was the wife of Obusez. She was charged along with other persons for the murder of her husband. She was discharged. Obusez died intestate leaving behind the 1st respondent, his five children and the appellants. Obusez and 1st respondent were married in accordance with the provisions of the Marriage Act, 1958 on 8th July, 1972. The 1st respondent as plaintiff filed an action for a declaration that the 1st respondent and her children are the only persons entitled to the estate of Obusez. They also asked for a grant of Letters of Administration in solemn form for the administration of the estate by the 1st respondent. In the suit, the appellants counter claimed for an order authorizing them to apply for letters of administration of the estate of their late brother to the exclusion of the 1st respondent. The learned trial Judge granted the reliefs of the respondents and refused the counter claim. An appeal to the Court of Appeal was dismissed. They have come to this court. They formulated three issues for determination. So too the respondents. The fulcrum of the case of the appellants is that section 36 of the Marriage Act, Cap.115, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1958 did not apply in the case. On the contrary, the case of the respondents is that section 36 is applicable. Both parties have argued in respect of the section as well as section 49(5) of the Administration of Estate Law of Lagos State (Cap.2) vis-a-vis the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1979.

For ease of reference and understanding, I should produce here the ipsissima verba of section 36(a) of the Marriage Act, section 49(5) of the Administration of Estate Law of Lagos State and items 60 and 67 of the Exclusive List in the 1979 Constitution. Section 36(a) provides in part;

“(1) Where any person who is .subject to customary law contract a marriage in accordance with the provisions of this Ordinance, and such person dies intestate, subsequently to the commencement of this Ordinance, leaving a widow or husband, or any issue of such marriage; and also where any person who is the issue of such marriage as aforesaid dies intestate subsequently to the commencement of this Ordinance: The personal property of such intestate and also any real property; of which the said intestate might have disposed by will, shall be distributed in accordance with the provisions of the law of England relating to the distribution of the personal estates of intestates, any customary law to the contrary notwithstanding.” Section 49(5) which is similarly worded, also provides in part: “Where any person who is subject to customary law contract a marriage in accordance with the provisions of the Marriage Ordinance and such person dies intestate after the commencement of the law leaving a widow or husband or any issue of such marriage, any property of which the intestate may have disposed by will shall be distributed in accordance with the provisions of this law, any customary law to the contrary notwithstanding.” In Salubi v. Nwariaku (2003) 20 WRN SC. 53, Ayoola, JSC succinctly brought out the difference between the two statutes:

“The only difference in the two provisions is that while section 36(1) of the Marriage Act incorporated the English law (fixed at the date of commencement 1914) into our laws of intestate succession by reference, the later statute has directly and not by reference substantially incorporated the contents of the current English law on the subject in its PAGE| 11 provisions with the consequence that it was not necessary to search for what the English law on the matter was” The portions underlined clearly show the difference as indicated by Ayoola, JSC. The two items in the Exclusive Legislative List in the 1979 Constitution read: 60. The formation, annulment and dissolution of marriages other than marriages under Islamic law and customary law including matrimonial causes relating thereto.”

67. Any matter incidental or supplementary to any matter mentioned elsewhere in this list” It is the argument of learned counsel for the appellants that as section 36 deals with a matter failing within the exclusive legislative list in the 1979 Constitution no state has the legislative competence to enact a law to the same effect. He submitted that any legislation on incidence of marriage other than marriage under Islamic or customary law falls within the matters covered by items 60 and 67 thereof. Counsel for the respondents did not see the matter in the same way. She submitted that section 49(5) provides essentially for succession to intestate property and does not purport to legislate on incidence of marriage which falls within matters covered by item 60 and 67 of the Exclusive Legislative List of the 1979 Constitution. I am with counsel for the respondents. I go along with her because the submission is clearly borne out from the provisions of the statutes vis- a- vis the Constitution. I entirely agree with learned counsel that section 49(5) does not legislate on incidence of marriage but on succession to property of a person who dies intestate. There is a world of difference between the two and they cannot be put together. The function of a court of law is to interpret the provisions of the Constitution in the clear tenor of the words contained in it. A court of law has no jurisdiction to import into the Constitution or impute into the Constitution words which are not used therein. That will not bring out the intention of the makers of the Constitution and it is the duty of the court interpret the Constitution in line with the words used and the intention of the makers of the Constitution. In the light of the foregoing, I entirely disagree with learned counsel for the appellants that by items 60 and 67 of the Exclusive Legislative List of the 1979 Constitution, the issue before the court is expressly reserved for the National Assembly to the exclusion of the State House of Assembly. I Accordingly, hold that the cases cited by counsel on pages 10 and 11 of the brief are not relevant. I should now consider whether section 36(a) anticipates the appellants. It does not. The subsection provides for the application of English law and that was the decision in Cole v. Cole (1898) 1 NLK 15 which the Court of Appeal correctly referred to. The second part is whether customary law applies in the distribution of the estate of Obusez. The answer is, No. By contracting the marriage under the Marriage Act, the deceased intended the succession to his estate under English law and not under customary law. I realise that two of the appellants claims of succession to the estate were based on the fact that the deceased was buried in the personal residence of the 1st appellant and the life policy of the deceased where he made his first and second children and the 1st appellant as beneficiaries. I know of no law, which says that succession to property is determined by the place of burial of the deceased intestate or by a life policy made inter vivos. The fact that the deceased did not make the 1st respondent a beneficiary of his life policy does not mean that she cannot benefit under section 36(a) of the Act. Conversely, the fact that 1st appellant is a beneficiary of the life policy does not ipso facto make him a beneficiary of the estate of his twin brother. I think I can stop here. It is in the light of the above and the more detailed reasons given by my learned brother, Tabai JSC that I too dismiss the appeal. I abide by the order as to costs in the judgment of my learned brother.

A. M. MUKHTAR, J.S.C.:

This is an appeal from the decision of the Court of Appeal, Lagos division, an appeal having gone there from the decision of the High Court of Lagos State, holden at Ikeja. The reliefs sought by the plaintiffs, who are the respondents in this appeal are as follows:

“(i) A declaration that the 1st plaintiff and her five children are the only persons entitled to the estate of the late Cornelius Paul Obusez and

(ii) An order that a Grant of Letters of Administration of the said, estate be issued to Mrs. Sylvia Teckla Obusez and Ademola Giwa.”

The defendants who are the appellants in this court counter-claimed as follows in their joint statement of defence:

“1. A declaration that the defendants are the only persons entitled to, administer the Estate of the late Cornelius Paul Obusez.

2. An order that a grant of Letters of Administration in solemn for, for the Administration of the said estate be issued to Defendants herein.”

The plaintiffs succeeded in their claim, but the claim of the defendants was dismissed, and they appealed and failed in the Court of Appeal, after which they have appealed to this court on eight grounds of appeal, from which the appellants distilled three issues for determination. Two of the three issues revolve around the provision of Section 36 of the Marriage Act and Section 49 (5) of the Administration of Estates Laws of Lagos State, and indeed the administration of the 1st plaintiff’s deceased husband estate was the bone of contention in the lower courts. I will illustrate this fact by reproducing the relevant paragraph of the appellants/plaintiffs Statement of Claim which reads as follows:

‘2. The intestate was survived by his widow the 1st plaintiff to whom he was married in his life time in accordance with the provisions of the Marriage Act on the 8th day of July, 1972. In addition, the intestate was also survived by five children of the said marriage

4. The plaintiffs admit that the Defendants are brothers of the intestate but deny that either of the said defendants has any interest whatsoever in his (the intestate’s) estate. Issues were joined with the averments of the 1st defendant/appellant in the Statement of Defence. The relevant averments read thus:

“2. The 1st Defendant is not in a position to deny or to admit paragraphs 2 and 3 of the Statement of Claim but puts the plaintiffs on the strictest proof of the fact averred therein.

5. The 1st Defendant admits paragraph 4 of the Statement of Claim only to the EXTENT that the 1st Defendant is a twin brother of the deceased but denies that the 1st Defendant did not have any interest whatsoever in the intestate of the deceased.

6. The 1st defendant avers that the Management administration and distribution of the estate of the deceased who died intestate are regulated and governed by Agbor Law and Custom irrespective of whether or not the intestate married under the Marriage Act.

7. The 1st Defendant avers that under the Agbor Native Law and Custom none of the plaintiffs is entitled to the benefit, enjoyment and administration of the estate of the deceased intestate.” The 1st plaintiff/respondent proved that she was married to her deceased husband under the Marriage Act, for she did produce a Certified True Copy of the Marriage certificate which was admitted in evidence as Exhibit 1. Having so proved, it became clear that her marriage was subject and governed by the provision of the Marriage Act. In the case of Salubi v. Nwariaku 2003 20 WRN SC.53 the provision of Section 36 of the Marriage Ordinance vis a vis that of Section 49 (5) of the Administration of Estate Law (Cap 2) was considered at length, and Ayoola JSC in the course of the judgment stated thus:

“It needs to be observed that by Section 36 (3) of the Marriage Ordinance the whole of Section 36 was applicable to the colony only. Besides Section 49 (5) of the Administration of Estate Law (Cap 2) provides in substantially identical terms as Section 36 (1) of the Marriage Act as follows:

“where any person who is subject to customary law contracts a Marriage in accordance with the provisions of the Marriage Ordinance and such person dies intestate after the commencement of this law leaving a widow or husband or any issue of such marriage any property of which the intestate might have disposed by will shall be distributed in accordance with the provisions of this law, any customary law to the contrary notwithstanding”.

The only difference in the two provision is that while Section 36 (1) of the Marriage Act, incorporated the English Law (fixed at the date of the enactment 1914) into our laws of intestate succession by reference, the later statute has directly and not by reference substantially incorporated the content of the then current English law on the subject in its provisions with the consequence that it was not necessary to search for what the English Law on the matter was”. The above case is the authority on the interpretation of the supra sections and the mode of the distribution of the estate of a person who is married under the marriage Act and who dies intestate, and it has remained so, and the need to depart from the authority has not arisen in this case. In this wise the appeal lacks merit and should be dismissed. The lead judgment delivered by my learned brother Tabai JSC has thoroughly dealt with the issues raised. I am in full agreement with the lead judgment, and also dismissed the appeal. I abide by the consequential order made therein.

MAHMUD MOHAMMED, J.S.C.:

This appeal is against only part of the decision of the Court of Appeal Lagos Division delivered on 7th June, 2001. The dispute between the parties relates to the estate of the deceased Cornelius Paul Obusez of No. 17 Obokun Street Ilupeju Lagos, who died intestate at Lagos on 29 May, 1988. The deceased was survived by his widow, the 1st Plaintiff/Respondent to whom the deceased was married under the Marriage Act on 8th July, 1972 and five children of the marriage. The Defendants/Appellants are brothers of the deceased. The Plaintiffs/Appellants were at the Lagos State trial High Court in their action against the Defendants/Appellants claiming – i. A declaration that the 1st Plaintiff and her five children are the only persons entitled to the estate of the late Cornelius Paul Obusez; and ii. An order that a Grant of letters of Administration in solemn form for the administration of the said estate be issued to Mrs. Silva Teckla Obusez and Ademola Giwa Esq. ..

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