Why Titilola Afolabi should sue for Trespass to Land

Why Titilola Afolabi should sue for Trespass to Land

Titilola Afolabi is the only child of her parents, Mr. & Mrs. Tolulope Afolabi. She celebrated her 21st birthday on the 3rd day of October, 2015 but before this date, her father had promised to surprise her beyond her imagination on this special days of hers. Titilola kept wondering what this surprise could be and not even her guesses appeared convincing to her instinct.
On this special day, one would think a public holiday had been declared to celebrate Titilola on her birthday. Funny enough, everything that pre-occupied her mind were the thoughts of what the surprise could be. “Or is it that Nonso was going to propose and he had connived with Dad or something?”, she thought.
At exactly 5pm in the evening, Mr. Afolabi approached the garden in the compound where Titilola was having fun with her friends. Yes! She was very much convinced and relieved that the cat would finally be let out of the bag and the eagerness was written all over her face.
“My dear daughter and queen” Mr. Afolabi started “I’ve never been oblivious of how much you’ve been making your mother and I proud. This token is for you” {Handing her a brown envelope}. All her friends were very sure the envelope housed a fantastic sum of money. Surprisingly, they were all wrong.
Titilola opened the envelope and discovered it contained some papers. One of her friends, Pelumi Livingstone muttered “Mscteeww! What’s special about paper now? We have enough of it to buy as lecture materials in school”. Hardly had she completed her statement than Titilola screamed, “Jesus Christ! I’m I dreaming? Four (4) plots of land at Lekki? For only me?”
Titilola ran inside, knelt down and appreciated her father while shedding tears of joy. Her friends were very amazed upon hearing that their friend now has a land at Lekki as they never expected it. Titilola became the subject of every student’s discussion in the school the following week.
On the 16th November, 2015, Titilola participated in an International Debate Competition organized by Toslac Productions Limited for future leaders. Titilola came 1st at the Debate Competition which held at the King’s College, London and was offered a masters scholarship to Cambridge University as well as the sum of £5,000.
Barely two weeks after Titilola returned from the Competition, Mrs. Afolabi heard that Mr. Kunnuho, the owner of the land bordering gifted her daughter was willing to sell his two (2) plots and, on the advice of her mother, Titilola invested N5million in the said land to make her land a full acre. She got all the related title documents and signed the necessary papers.
On the 15th day of December, 2015, Titilola discovered Mr. Kunnuho subsequently sold the land to another person who had commenced the erection of a fence on it. Titilola informed her father, Mr. Afolabi who immediately got policemen to arrest the innocent purchaser of the land as Mr. Kunnuho could not be traced.
The policemen released the innocent purchaser without contacting Titilola and her father. Mr. Afolabi later learnt that the DPO had collected money from the innocent purchaser claiming the highest bidder have their backing. Titilola and her father, Mr. Afolabi are seeking a way out.

Points to Note:
1. Trespass to land, called “trespass” simply means the interference with the possession of land without lawful justification.
2. A person who directly enters upon another’s land without permission, or remains upon the land, or places or projects any object upon the land may be liable for trespass to land.
3. Trespass to land is committed where the defendant, without lawful justification:
(i)Enters upon the land in the plaintiff’s possession.
(ii)Remains upon such land.
(iii)Directly places or projects a material object upon such land.
4. The tort trespass seeks to protect a person’s possession of land, and so only a person who has exclusive possession of land may sue. For instance, a tenant may sue a landlord who enters the leased land without his permission.
5. Trespass may occur in any of the following ways:
(i) Entering upon land.
(ii) Trespass ab initio (Where a person lawfully enters a land but subsequently abuses the privilege of that law by committing some wrongful acts).
(ii) Trespass to the airspace.
(iii) Trespass to the ground beneath the surface.
6. A trespass may be a “continuing trespass” where there is a failure to remove an object (or the defendant in person) unlawfully placed on land. Note that this will lead to a new cause of action each day for as long as it continues.
7. Trespass to land is an intentional tort. Note, however, that the intention to do the act is required, not an intention to trespass. Consequently, deliberate entry is required and lack of knowledge as to trespass will not be a defence.
8. Involuntary entry such as where a person is forced to enter the land does not amount to trespass.
9. Licence (express or implied) and right of entry are defences to an action for trespass to land.
10. Damages, injunction and legal action for the recovery of land are all remedies to trespass to land.
11. The Nigerian Police Force is generally not responsible for deciding land matters such as ownership of land, whether there has been trespass etc An exception to this is where a crime has been committed while persons are dealing with land.
Based on the foregoing laws, the innocent purchaser is trespassing on Titilola Afolabi’s land. Therefore, she is advised to get her lawyer to write the trespasser a letter issuing them warning to stop further acts of trespass on the said land. Where the trespass persists, she may have to seek redress in court or by alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.
Joseph Jagunmolu Ogunmodede

2 thoughts on “Why Titilola Afolabi should sue for Trespass to Land

  1. The fact that she got all necessary titled documents and signed necessary papers can be taken to mean that she has a better title to the land in question and the mere fact that the ‘innocent buyer’ has gone to erect fence will not prevent her from recovering the land. She will also have a stronger case against Mr. Innocent buyer if she has registered the land according to relevant Land Registration Law of the jurisdiction where this land is situated. The registration of land has been held in several cases to be a constructive notice to a diligent buyer. For even equity will never aid the indolent.

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