02 Jul Can a husband evict his wife from joint property in Nigeria?
I bought a piece of land in me and my husband’s name (Mr&Mrs *his names*). He left me and our children, moved out over 5 years ago, and has not contributed a kobo for our upkeep. For the past 5 years I have been living in fear that he will come back and collect the house from us because of threats he has made in this respect. My question is, how can I legally get the documents for the house in my name?
With respect to your legal issue. We believe that there are 3 issues at stake.
- The status of your existing marriage with your husband
- Your current possession of the property
- The ownership of the sole legal rights to the property.
On the first issue, as your husband has left you for 5 years, this constitutes grounds under the Marriage laws in Nigeria (5 years away from the matrimonial home is on the face of it- ‘desertion’), for you to file for dissolution of the marriage. You may therefore contact a lawyer, and ask the court to grant you a divorce.
On the second issue, your husband cannot legally forcibly evict you and your children from the property. From what you have described, it would seem that you both have joint-ownership of the property (by virtue of the fact that the property is in both your names), and therefore equal rights to it. If he was to attempt to remove you from the property, you may call the police.
However, a possible strategy is that you may engage a lawyer to bring an action for the protection of your rights (if you feel threatened by the statements he has made). The court may then order an injunction preventing him from attempting to remove you from the property.
On the final issue, unfortunately as you both have joint ownership to the property, it would appear that in order for you to be able to get sole rights to the property, you would either need to acquire your husband’s rights to the property i.e. buy his own share and have him assign all his rights in the property to you; or seek for a dissolution of the marriage and ask the court for an order which grants you the property upon dissolution.
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