Drama of a BONAFIDE LAND BUYER

(Mr. Mellow enters Ojulari’s Chambers hurriedly and enters his office with a Document in his hand. The profuse sweat that is coming out of his face is shoeing that he is in trouble. The desperation mood he has is more than that of a Final year student that is being delayed to graduate from a Nigerian University due to ASUU strike. Barrister Ojulari pleas to the Client that sits before him to excuse him and wait at the Reception Office. The Client affirmed and Mr. Mellow sits on a chair)

MR. MELLOW: Ah! These people are in trouble! They must feel the heat. I just want to teach them a lesson. They must know that I have competent lawyer to fight for my right!

BARR. OJULARI: What is the matter with you?

MR. MELLOW: I am very angry. I must punish those people. Do not attempt to placate me because I won’t accept.

BARR. OJULARI: Calm down! What is the matter?

MR. MELLOW: Help me to check this Document before I say anything.

(Mr. Mellow gives the document in his hand to Barrister Ojulari)

BARR. OJULARI: This Document is a DEED OF ASSIGNMENT. What is wrong with it?

MR. MELLOW: I hope you see the signature of one Lawyer on it..

BARR. OJULARI: Yes, I can even see his Lawyer’s seal too . This Document is legally competent , it is valid! Why are you worried?

MR. MELLOW: The Lawyer that drafted this Document for me was working for a man that Sold a Land to me and there is a building on that land.

BARR. OJULARI: Huh! Since you have bought the land, you have become the owner of the house that is on it. “Quicquid platantur solo solo cedit”, whoever owns the land is the owner of whatever that is on it.

MR. MELLOW: That Lawyer told me that if I want to buy a landed property, I must put it into writing so that I can make it to be legal.

BARR. OJULARI: Yes! It is a must, if you want to buy a LANDED PROPERTY, your agreement must be made in a written document [1].

MR. MELLOW: He also told me that the Document must be a DEED. And that only a lawyer can prepare a Deed document.

BARR. OJULARI: Yes, that lawyer was not lying to you. A Deed Document must be prepared by a lawyer, the lawyer will sign on it and paste his lawyer’s seal on it too, after then it has become a legal document.

MR. MELLOW: When I went to inspect that Land and the house that is on it, I found that “ This house belongs to Mr. Onile” was written on the wall of that house. I knew that the name of the VENDOR was not Mr. Onile and I asked the VENDOR and that Lawyer about it.

BARR. OJULARI: What did they say?

MR. MELLOW: The Seller said that, though he has sold that land to Mr. Onile, but he was not serious. He did not allow him to prepare a DEED OF ASSIGNMENT document for him after he paid him, all what he collected from him was a receipt of purchase of Land, and he has not gotten back onto the property to develop it since then. He even told me that it has reached six years since he sold the land to Mr. Onile.

BARR. OJULARI: Then, what did that lawyer said?

MR. MELLOW: That Lawyer said that the Mr. Online whose name was written on that property is not a LEGAL OWNER of that property because he does not have LEGAL INTEREST in that property

BARR. OJULARI: Huh! Really?

MR. MELLOW: He said that because Mr. Onile has not done a DEED document, the property does not legally belong to him. That if I buy that property and provided necessary things to do my Deed document, I will become the Legal Owner of that property.

BARR. OJULARI: And as a person who likes to do something in a legal way, you quickly agreed and did the needful.

MR. MELLOW: Yes!

BARR. OJULARI: Good! Fantabulous! What now happened after then?

MR. MELLOW: I went onto the Land this morning with my Civil Engineer to construct a Hostel on the land, what I found there was worrisome. Mr. Onile that is not a Legal Owner has started building a Gas Station on that land. I showed him my own Deed of Assignment document to let him know that I am the legal owner of that property but he insisted. He resorted to insult me. I was so much embarrassed.

BARR. OJULARI: What do you want now?

MR. MELLOW: I want to claim my land and sue that Mr. Onile to Court for trespassing on my land. This will serve as a punishment to him for his laxity.

BARR. OJULARI: Everything that that lawyer told you was true, but he should have told you one more thing, and that thing that he did not tell is what will cause problem now.

MR. MELLOW: What is it? Is it money? I will reimburse you with any amount, I must fight and win this case!

BARR. OJULARI: Prof., there is something we call ACTUAL NOTICE in law! It is any sign or notice that a buyer sees on the property that he wants to buy which should raise reasonable suspicion in the mind of that buyer!

MR. MELLOW: Actual Notice! Ah! Are you talking about what I said that I saw on the wall of the building that was on that land?

BARR. OJULARI: Yes! After you have seen that notice, you should not have bought that property anymore. It should have served as a notice for you to run away!

MR. MELLOW: But there was a lawyer there who told me that Mr. Onile is not a legal owner because he does not have a Deed Document!

BARR. OJULARI: He was right, Because there was no Deed or any registered instrument executed for that person when he was buying that land, it will not give him LEGAL INTEREST on that land, he may not be the legal owner, but it will give him EQUITABLE INTEREST. [2].

MR. MELLOW: He also told me that no one can claim that property from me after I have made the Deed Document.

BARR. OJULARI: This could have been correct if you did not know that Mr. Onile as firstly bought that land. What you saw on that wall has served as notice for you to be aware that Mr Onile has interest in that property, though it may be Equitable interest and not Legal interest.

MR. MELLOW: Ah! That lawyer did not tell me this.

BARR. OJULARI: Please hear this, the principle of law is that, “When there are equal equities, the law shall prevail”, Normally you should be the Bona fide owner of that property now, but if a person with a Legal interest was aware that another person has Equitable interest at the time he was buying a particular landed property, that equitable interest shall prevail while that legal interest shall be EXTINGUISHED.

MR. MELLOW: This mean that, my right over that property is now extinguished because I had a notice of Mr. Onile who has Equitable interest by the time I was buying that property ?

BARR. OJULARI: Yes! You don’t have any right over that property anymore. Your legal right on tge party has been defeated.

MR. MELLOW: If not because of that Lawyer, I won’t have bought that house.

BARR. OJULARI: That lawyer that you are talking about, when he was telling you this, did you consult me for confirmation? Did you hire that lawyer to protect your interest for you? Was it not the VENDOR that he was working for? Do you think he will say something that will not favour his Client even though he may know it? Did you do you due diligence before before you paid him the money?

MR. MELLOW: So all what that lawyer was saying is true, but he was saying it to favour his Client?

BARR. OJULARI: Yes, there was something that he should tell you more, but he did not. Had it been that you have consulted your own personal lawyer he would have guided you properly.

MR. MELLOW: I want to go to Court to Claim the ownership of that property and collect compensation (Damages) from that stupid Mr. Onile for trespassing on to my land!

BARR. OJULARI: Okay! Let me advise you, you still have a good case if you want to go to Court, but not because of that property, you don’t have any right over it. You can only sue the VENDOR that fraudulently collected money from you in pretense of selling the property to you.

MR. MELLOW: How can we go about it now, because I must not suffer in vain. I bought that property when it was 7 million naira, it has appreciated in value now to 30 million naira. Imagine how much I will have to loose if I sleep on my right!

BARR. OJULARI: No problem, you still have a good ground to sue, but you will have to excuse me now so that I can completely attend to the Client that I was attending to before you enter.

(Mr. Mellow moves to the Reception with deep sadness and a ray of hope that shows on his face)

FOOTNOTES :
DEED OF ASSIGNMENT: A Deed of Assignment is an important legal land document that records a sale of land and transfers interest and title in real property from one party to another starting from the commencement date stipulated in the document.

LANDED PROPERTY: landed property means a property, a parcel of land, an improvement of land, a building, any land ancillary to a building, a site comprising any building(s) ancillary to it.

VENDOR: the seller in a sale, especially of property.

LEGAL INTEREST : An interest in a property that gives the owner a right of control over the property after a Deed has been executed.

EQUITABLE INTEREST: An equitable interest arises where there is an interest in the property, but no legal title exists. However, this title is not “true ownership”, and ordinarily, this type of interest can be overridden by legal ownership

EXTINGUISH: To destroy or put an end to something.

REFERENCES :

[1] Section 4 of the Statute of Fraud Act, 1677

[2] Mojekwu V. Mojekwu (1997) 7 NWLR (Pt.512) 283

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ABDULRAUF Abdullahi Adebayo, is a Law student, a Certified Teacher and a Writer. He can be reached via the following platforms;

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