⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Chief Meburami Akinnubi & Anor v. Grace Olanike Akinnubi (MRS.) & Ors (1997) – SC
⦿ LITE HOLDING
The Trial Court was right to say that the respondent could sue as “next of friend” to the children and on their behalf. Hence, she had juristic capacity to institute the action.
⦿AREA OF LAW
– Customary Law
– Letter of administration.
Chief Meburami Akinnubi
Joseph Akinnubi (Administrators of the Estate of Rufus Gbadebo Akinnubi, deceased)
Grace Olanike Akinnubi (Mrs.) (As next friend of her five children)
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
* FOR THE APPELLANT
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
⦿ FACT (as relating to the issues)
The plaintiff is the respondent herein. The Appellants were the defendants at the Trial Court.
The plaintiff sought a declaration, inter alia, that the Letters of Administration granted to the 2nd and 3rd defendants on the 11th day of July, 1986, in respect of the estate of Rufus Gbadebo Akinnubi (deceased) is null and void and of no legal effect whatsoever, because the Probate Registrar ignored a caveat which was lodged by the plaintiff against the appointment of 2nd and 3rd defendants as the only administrators to the exclusion of the plaintiff.
The defendant replied stating, that as the marriage between the plaintiff and the deceased was contracted under native law and custom, she (the plaintiff) has no right to be appointed (or joined with any member of the deceased’s family) as a co-administratrix of the estate of her deceased husband.
At the Trial Court, the Appellants filed a motion stating that the respondent has no locus standi, of standing, to institute this action, she being under customary law herself a part of her husband’s estate to be administered, and ipso facto, not in law entitled to be appointed an administratrix of her deceased husband’s estate. The Trial Court ruled that the respondent has locus standi.
The Appellants appealed to the Court of Appeal which dismissed the said appeal.
This is a further Appeal by the Appellants to this Supreme Court.
1. Whether the plaintiff/1st respondent, being a widow of a Yoruba Customary Law marriage, can maintain an action to administer, or to participate in the administration of, her deceased husband’s intestate estate?
⦿ RESOLUTION OF ISSUE(S)
1. ISSUE 1 WAS RESOLVED AGAINST THE APPELLANTS BUT IN FAVOUR OF THE RESPONDENT.
i. The Court of Appeal held that it was an error on the part of the 1st respondent to institute this action as guardian ad litem. The Court, however, referred to the case of Gbogbolulu of Vakpo v. Head Chief Hodo (1941) 7 WACA 164 and held that it was the children that were real plaintiff’s in this action and that since they could not sue under rules of court, they could only do so through or by their ’next friend’ who is their mother. The appellants’ grounds 1 and 2 in this appeal attacked this decision but when submissions were made on the issues formulated on those grounds the counsel for the appellant was too slipshod about the presentation of the argument in support of his averments in those grounds of appeal. I cannot see how the lower court could have been held to err in holding that the 1st respondent’s capacity could be amended to show that she was suing as ‘next friend’ to her-infant children but not as guardian ad litem.
⦿ SOME PROVISION(S)
⦿ RELEVANT CASE(S)
⦿ CASE(S) RELATED
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
There is no dispute over the type of marriage which was solemnized between the 1st respondent and her deceased husband. It was a marriage under native law and custom. There is no dispute either that Mr. Rufus Gbadebo Akinnubi died intestate in Lagos. Again, parties are not in dispute over the provisions of the Yoruba Native Law and custom that a widow could not inherit her deceased husband’s property nor could the woman be appointed an administratrix of her late husband’s estate – Mohammed, JSC. Akinnubi v. Akinnubi (1997)