Family Land Holding in Nigeria: The Maku family owned a large parcel of land at Gbogboelamase Town which they inherited from their Late father who gave birth to 4 children; Sola, Tunde, Lekan, Iwalewa.
The Head of the family, Chief Sola Maku sold the parcel of Land to Madam Anunla in 2001 after a family meeting with Mr. Tunde Maku and Mrs. Iwalewa Ogun (Nee Maku) where they agreed to sell the Land. Madam Anunla went ahead to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) from the government in respect of the said Land in 2002.
Mr. Lekan Maku was intentionally absent at the meeting claiming that he wasn’t in agreement with the sale of the land and will reserve his comment for the main time. Mr. Lekan Maku later went ahead to sell the same parcel of land to Mr. Mike Zuru in 2004 claiming that he was the only one that has a right to sell the land because he is their father’s favourite.
Mr. Mike Zuru immediately obtained a Certificate of Occupancy in respect of the same parcel of land and started building a mansion on it. On getting to know of Mr. Mike Zuru’s building on the said Land, Madam Anunla remembered her boyfriend then, Mr. Ndubuisi who read Law while they were in the University told her the owner of the land owns everything affixed to the land and decided she was going to wait till the completion of the mansion before she claims the Land.
Mr. Mike Zuru completed the mansion in January, 2017 and Madam Anunla has gotten a lawyer to claim the said land arguing that she is the original owner of the land. Mr. Mike Zuru ran to my Chamber seeking my Legal advice while swimming in the fear of losing his investment.
Points To Note:
1. A Family Land is a land that is owned jointly by the members of a family; there is corporate ownership of such land.
See This is why you should document your contract!
2. A Family Land can only be validly sold by the Family Head with the consent of the principal members of the family. In family Land Holding in Nigeria, the practice is that the sale is valid where the Family Head sells the land with the consent of a majority of the principal members of the family.
3. If the Family Head sells the Family Land without the consent the principal members of the family, such sale is voidable; it will be valid only if the principal members of the family subsequently agrees to the sale.
4. If a family member sells the Family Land without the consent of the Family Head and other principal members of the society, such sale is totally invalid.
5. The Certificate of Occupancy is does not guarantee automatic title. The Law is that the Land belong to the par that can show a superior, better or paramount title to the Land.
6. Whatever is affixed to the land belongs to the Land/owner- (quic quid plantatur solo solo cedit). In essense, even if you build one billion Naira house on another man’s land, the general law is that the owner of the land is the owner of such house. Awoof? Yes! Awoof…
7. You cannot give what you don’t have. (nemo dat quod non habet). If you don’t have title or interest in a land, then you don’t have a valid title to transfer to any other person. In essence, anybody that buys a land from someone who has no right to sell it has bought nothing. In short, make your finding well before you buy any landed property.
8. If you delay in claiming your right, the law will not help you. Delay defeats equity. NOTE: Don’t sleep on your right. The maximum period for claiming your right on a land is 12years after which the Limitation Law will bar you from bringing an action to enforce your right.
Also, where you see someone trespassing on your Land and you don’t take legal steps immediately but standby while watching, it will be taken that you have agreed that the person on the Land should be using the said Land and you are a father Christmas in any month you do that. For short, it will be taken that the trespasser has clicked “Get Help” and you’ve clicked “Provide Help”.
9. The Limitation period starts counting from the moment the Land owner comes to the knowledge of the trespass or encroachment on his land. ACT PROMPTLY!!! The moment you see anybody trespassing on your land get a lawyer to help you write to such trespasser as well as to place CAUTION/CAVEAT on the said Land.
10. Long possession of a land is regards generally as evidence of ownership until it is proved otherwise. If you delay in bringing an action, you will be unable to get a chance to prove that you’re the rightful owner and the trespasser that has been in possession for a long time will continue to dwell there. Painful? Yes! But that’s the position of the Law.
However, possession, no matter how long, does not amount to ownership. Did I hear somebody saying he will go and do jazz against him? Well, the law does not recognize jazz.
In view of the above laws on family land holding in Nigeria, I suppose you should have gotten an understanding of the legal rights of the parties.
Chief Sola Maku, the Family Head, rightfully sold the Family land to Madam Anunla because he sold it with the consent of the Majority of the principal members of family. Therefore, Madam Anunla has a valid title.
Mr. Lekan Maku’s sale of the family Land to Mr. Mike Zuru without the consent of the Family Head and other principal members of the family is invalid. This is because Mr. Lekan cannot give what he doesn’t have which means Mr. Mike Zuru bought nothing.
Originally, the Mansion Mr. Mike Zuru built on the said Land should belong to Madam Anunla because whatever is affixed to the Land belongs to the Land/Owner. Madam Anunla owns the land and should be the owner of the structure built on it.
However, Madam Anunla went ahead to buy a Mouka Foam and slept on her right. In other word, she delayed in claiming her interest in the Land and, apart from the fact the period has exceeded 12years stipulated by the Limitation Law, seeing the trespasser building on her land and saying nothing is taken as acquiescence under the Law.
Ultimately, although the Land rightfully belongs to Madam Anunla but since she’s barred by the Limitation Law from suing, the whole situation is in favour of Mr. Mike Zuru who is allowed to remain in possession of the Land.
MY LEGAL DIARY
Joseph Jagunmolu Ogunmodede
Joseph Jagunmolu Ogunmodede is the Founder/CEO of THE LEGAL DIARY.
He is a Double First Class lawyer from the prestigious University of Ibadan and the Nigerian Law School. Joseph is an Attorney at Udo-Udoma and Belo-Osagie with interest in Corporate Law, Energy Law, Real Estate Law and Commercial Litigation.