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FAILURE OF APPELLANT TO SIGN – EQUITY SEES AS DONE WHICH OUGHT TO BE DONE

Dictum

Though not mutually executed Exhibit A was regarded by the parties as their binding contract. Equity acts in personam and therefore takes as done that which ought to be done, if from the conduct of the parties such inference can be drawn. In the instant case, such facts abound on which the two Courts below concurrently found that the parties intended to be bound by Exhibit A and that Exhibit A would be the basis of their mutual transaction, whether or not the document was formally executed. Again, Equity acting in personam would look at the intent of the parties and the substance and not at the form. In the instant case, insistence on compliance with all formalities of executing a written agreement will be oppressive to the Respondent. The Appellant, in the Court of Justice, will not be allowed to take advantage of the Respondent on his own iniquity by his ingenious booby trap by which he deliberately withheld his signature while at the same time it made the Respondent go with the impression that the relationship is governed or regulated by Exhibit A. Section 169 of the Evidence Act, 2011, which codified the principle of estoppel by conduct, will not countenance the present posture of the Appellant and allow it resile out of Exhibit A.

— E. Eko, JSC. MTN v. Corporate (2019) – SC.674/2014

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PARTY CANNOT TAKE ADVANTAGE OF AN ILLEGALITY HE KNOWS

A party cannot resile from his obligation under a contract because he never followed what the law required; in essence he cannot take refuge from his contractual obligations on the pre of his own illegality in so far as the other party was not aware of the illegality at the time of the transaction.

– Belgore, J.S.C. Pinder v. North (2004)

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QUI PRIOR EST TEMPORE POTIOR EST JURE – EARLIER IN TIME IS STRONGEST IN LAW

So, then at law as in equity the basic rule is that estates and interest order of primary rank in the creation, Qui prior est tempore potior est jure,. he who is earlier in time is stronger in law. Thus where there are two competing equitable interests, the general rule of equity is that the person whose equity attached to the property first will be entitled to priority over the other. Where therefore, the equities are equal and neither claimant has the legal estate, the first in time prevails as in the instant appeal, the equitable interest of the 1st Respondent being prior in time to the equitable interest of the 1st Appellant, the law is that it is the 1st Respondent’s equitable interest in the land in dispute being first in time that would prevail over the equitable interest of the 1st 48 Respondent since the equities are equal.

— B.A. Georgewill, JCA. Anyi & Ors. v. Akande & Ors. (2017) – CA/L/334/2014

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JUSTICE CANNOT BE METED TO SOMEONE WHO HAS HIS HANDS SOILED

This court being a court of justice is a temple of justice adhering to the symbol of a blindfolded woman with a scale on one hand and a sword on the other to render “justice” (not injustice), to all manner of people. Indeed the beauty and greatness nay the purity of justice, in all its consuming allure and essence is to ferret out from the mass of facts and law before it, relevant points in order to give remedy to anyone who comes for that. It is not justice meted to someone who does not deserve it when that person craving for it has his hand soiled, blemished, and besmirched. It is my view that the appellants cannot eat their cake and have it. I believe that it is not only the litigants in this case but millions of our country men with an abiding faith in the nature of our jurisprudence as practised in our courts’ who have access to the courts to seek justice not adulterated justice, or justice shrouded in clouds of euphemisms or where the court would wring its hands and declare that the case does follow a regular or laid down pattern that would benefit from justice founded on law and ethics.

– Pats-Acholonu, J.S.C. Pinder v. North (2004)

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WHERE EQUITABLE INTEREST WILL OVERRIDE LEGAL INTEREST

Jared v. Clements 1903 (Supra), a decision of a strong court, Collins M.R. Romer & Cozens-Hardy L.JJ.-Romer L.J. made the following observation: “A person contracts to purchase certain property. Before completion he is told of an equitable mortgage created some time before by his vendor. What is the position of the completing purchaser when he knows of this? He knows he cannot get title from his vendor unless that outstanding equitable interest is got in or destroyed; and if he completes without that equitable interest being got in or destroyed, he can only take the property subject to that outstanding interest being got in or destroyed. In order to get a good title, it is for him to see that the outstanding interest is got in or destroyed – the purchaser might have asked that the equitable mortgagee should join in the conveyance. He might have gone himself to the equitable mortgagee and asked how matters stood; or he might have done what in fact he did, and asked the vendor to get in the equitable interest …”

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WHERE TWO EQUITIES ARE EQUAL, FIRST IN TIME PREVAILS

The maxim is where two equities are equal the first in time prevails. Where the 2nd respondent and the 4th appellant both traced the ownership of the land to Oluwa family the question arises as to who first acquired the property. The Deed of lease of the 2nd respondent was in January 1976 whereas the 4th appellant purchased the land in August 1976. The two lower courts rightly decided that the right and proper persons to be served with the notice of acquisition was the 2nd respondent. Where a person pays for land, obtains receipts of payment, followed by his going into possession and remaining in possession equitable interest is created for him in the land. The equitable interest can only be defeated by a purchaser of the land for value without notice of the prior equity. Nsiegbe v. Mgbemena (2007) 10 NWLR (Pt.1042) pg.364. Kachalla v. Banki (2006) 8 NWLR (Pt.982) pg.364. Ogunbambi v. Abowaba (1951) 13 WACA pg. 222.

— O.O. Adekeye, JSC. Goldmark & Ors. v. Ibafon Co. & Ors. (2012) – SC.421/2001

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EQUITY AIDS THE VIGILANT

Whoever seeks equitable remedy like specific performance must show that he is vigilant and does all that was required of him to have clear hand to enforce the contract. Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt.

– Belgore, JSC. Nlewedim v. Uduma (1995)

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