Know the law and your rights, through our law reports made simple for lawyers and non-lawyers
MR. GORDON AGADAMA
CHIEF TENE OMADIDE
(Representing the Uwhe Family of Effurun)
Mr. Gordon Agadama was a member of the Uhwe Family of Effurun, Delta State. The family had a piece of land with existing structures made of stones that were used as rooms by family members. The family members however moved out later and Gordon Agadama renovated the structures with blocks and converted them to stores. When questioned by the family, Gordon Agadama said he was only maintaining same. Without the consent or permission of other family members and the family head, Gordon Agadama collected rent on the structure as his personal property and did not render account to the family.
The Uwhe family decided to build an Uwhe ancestral hall to replace the stores, and as a result, the head of the family; High Chief J. O. Alamudo Adajaroh called a meeting where it was decided that Gordon Agadama relocates to another Uweh family land at Erere along P. T. I. road, to build his personal house. This decision was accepted by Gordon.
However, despite the above development and protests from the family, Gordon Agadama continued the construction of more stores on the family land.
The family, therefore, filed an action at the High Court of Delta State and sought the following reliefs against Gordon Agadama:
i. A declaration that the construction of stores on the family land without the consent and/or approval of the family members is illegal.
ii. The sum of N10,000,000 (Ten Million Naira) for trespass and illegal acts.
iii. An order of Court directing Gordon Agadama to vacate forthwith the unauthorized and illegal structure and stores erected on the family land.
The trial Court after consideration of the case entered judgment for the Uwhe family and ordered Gordon Agadama to vacate the structures/stores erected by him on the Family compound.
Aggrieved by the decision of the High Court, Godwin Agadama Appealed to the Court of Appeal
What is the status of any structure erected by a family member on family land where the land has not been allocated to him by the family?
The Court of Appeal stated that the head of the family decides the administration of the properties together with all members of the family. Godwin Agadama, a maternal member of the family, had carried on as a one-man member of the family and had tampered with the family property without the consent of others who had equal rights to the property. Anything to be done by him or any other member must be done with the consent and approval of all members of the family under the headship of the family head.
The Court further stated that all members of a family have equal rights to family land, but in every case, the family head has charge of the land and in loose terms is sometimes called the owner. The family head holds the land in trust for the use of the family, such that anyone who wants a portion of it to cultivate or build goes to him for it. But the land so given remains the property of the family Land.
The land in dispute is the family property of the Uwhe family and had not been partitioned. Though Gordon is a member of the family, he erected stores on the land or converted existing structures to stores without the permission of the family. The result is that the stores belong to the family based on the principle that whatever is built on land belongs to the owner of the land. Since the head of the Uwhe family and other members thereof decided that the Godwin Agadama should relocate to another family land, the High Court was justified in entering judgment in favour of the Uwhe family.
In conclusion, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal and upheld the decision of the High Court.