The Nigerian Legal Position on “My Next of Kin”

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by Chinecherem Ubaka

It is very usual for forms and bio-data to ask for your next of kin especially for formal reasons. Generally, a person’s next of kin is his/her closest blood relative who is alive.

It is advised that your “Next of Kin” should be someone who has the power or legal right to make decisions on your behalf. For instance, if you are involved in an accident, your next of kin can decide that a surgical procedure be carried out on you where he or she is convinced that it is a necessary step to take. Therefore, he signs the consent form on your behalf.

It follows then the major reason for the concept of next of kin is for contact purposes especially in emergency cases. It has nothing to do with succession.

I repeat, the concept of “next of kin” does not relate or apply to the principles of succession and inheritance.

In Nigeria, our legal system is pluralistic in nature and succession is governed by three different systems of law; the common law, statutory law, customary law.

Furthermore, where there is a will, the Wills Act of 1837 and the Wills Amendment Act of 1852 is applicable in the Eastern and Northern parts of Nigeria. The Western part of Nigeria is governed by the Wills Law of Western Nigeria, 1959. Each state also have their various Administration of Estate Laws.

The Nigerian Constitution particularly, sec 42(2) is usually invoked to help resolve issues relating to gender and legitimacy in the area of succession in Nigeria.

One thing is common amongst these various laws I have listed. It is the fact that none of these systems grants the “next of kin” inheritance rights to a person’s movable and immovable properties. Infact, the forgoing position was reinforced by the court in Abiodun Joseph v. Fajemilehim and Another(2012) LPELR-9849 (CA) per Fasanmi, JCA

“A person so named as your next of kin does not necessarily possess a right of inheritance over your property upon your demise”. This is the Nigerian legal position on the concept of “next of kin”.

The farthest a next of kin can go when it comes to sucession and inheritance is hat he can go ahead and apply for letters of administration where the deceased failed or refused to make a will.

Keywords: Next of kin, Inheritance rights, succession, Will, Nigeria

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