Property ‘purportedly acquired by husband’, in the name of wife: SC declares woman owner

"Judging by the posture and conduct of the Plaintiff, what is more likely is that the indenture (Exhibit A) was put in the name of 2nd Defendant because it was proof to her that her remittances were being used to acquire property for her; and Exhibit “D” was to quietly change ownership in favour of himself."

Is allowance instantly strangers applauded

The Supreme Court of Ghana has upheld the counter-claims of a woman, Janet Opoku relative to the ownership of a parcel of land situated at Kwabenya in the Greater Accra Region.

According to the court presided over by Justice Jones Dotse and in the opinion of Justice Prof. Mensa-Bonsu, the fact that the husband had put the indenture in the name of the wife was enough proof that her remittances were used to acquire the property for her.

High Court

The plaintiff, Richmond Boamah Berimah first commenced this action at the High Court in June 2008. He alleged in his Statement of Claim that he was the owner of the property, having acquired it by assignment from his childhood friend, Dr. K.K. Sarpong, then Deputy Chief Executive of the Cocoa Board, and put the indenture in his wife’s name.

He further claimed that in 1998, his wife sold her interest in the property to him under a Sale Agreement and that the purchase was done and paid for by a loan he contracted from his employer, Cocoa Board under the Staff Housing Loan Scheme.

He thus sought the following relative to the ownership of the title of the house standing in the name of his wife;

A declaration that the plaintiff is the bonafide owner of House No. KW/B/7 (House No. 6 Kwabenya)

An order terminating the purported Tenancy Agreement entered into between 1st Defendant as Attorney of 2nd Defendant and one Pastor Cato, 3rd Defendant.

An order revoking or canceling the purported registration of the alleged title of the 2nd Defendant in the Land Title Registry.

A declaration that the Tenancy Agreement between the 1st Defendant and the 3rd Defendant is null and void and of no effect whatsoever.

An order compelling the 1 [sic] and 2nd Defendants to give vacant possession of the property to the Plaintiff.

 An order compelling the 1st [sic]and 2nd Defendant to pay over to the Plaintiff all the rent paid by the 3rd Defendant in respect of his occupancy [ The Plaintiff must have meant 2 and 3 Defendants and not 1 and 2 Defendants.]

 An order for perpetual injunction restraining the 2nd Defendant her attorney, servants, assigns, and all who claim through her from dealing with or interfering with the plaintiff’s property the subject matter of the suit.

On her part, the wife claimed that while in Germany, she exchanged a car for the said land from Dr. K.K Sarpong.

Also, she noted that she sent money to the husband to build the property which was subsequently registered in her name; and that as a signatory to the conveyance as ‘witness’, the ex-husband was estopped from claiming ownership of the property.

She thus counterclaimed for a declaration of a title already standing in her name for the following;

A declaration of title to the said piece or parcel of land in dispute with building thereon consisting of all that piece of parcel of land in extent 0.10 hectare (o.24) of an acre more or less being parcel No. 21 Block 25 situate at Kwabenya in the Greater Accra Region of the Republic of Ghana after said as delineated  …

 A declaration that the 2nd Defendant herein purchased the piece or parcel of land in dispute from Kofi Kodua Sarpong for herself as a self-acquired property covered by a Deed of Assignment witnessed by the Plaintiff herein as a witness and not as a party to the sale transaction.

A declaration that the plaintiff herein is estopped per estoppel by conduct and estopped per deed from claiming an interest in the piece or parcel of land in dispute

General damages for trespass, intimidation, threats, convenience, and embarrassment

An order for a perpetual injunction to restrain the plaintiff and his agents, assigns, heirs, workers, followers, and privies from interfering with the land in dispute.

An order for interest at the prevailing bank rate up to the date of payment”

However in its decision, the High Court dismissed Plaintiff’s claims as well as the defendant’s counterclaims, leaving neither party the winner, and the landed property, therefore, “ownerless”. 

Court of Appeal

The wife thus filed an appeal against the dismissal of the counterclaim but the husband did not cross-appeal. 

The court made the finding that the property was transferred into the wife’s name only for the purpose of enabling the man to get funds to complete the property.

The Court of Appeal thus declared the man owner of the property, asserting that the wife’s contention that the property was given to her by way of advancement was “unsustainable”, and had been rebutted

Supreme Court

The ex-wife, Janet Opoku further appealed to the Supreme Court per the grounds filed at the Court of Appeal.

In making its decision, the apex court made the finding that the Court of Appeal put a lot of store on the witness statement by Dr. K.K Sarpong and noted that contrary to what the court made of this evidence, it was not of much import, and proved nothing.

It emerged that Richmond Boamah had cooked up the supposed indenture himself, in which he purported to transfer the ex-wife’s interest in the property to himself.

Also, the court established that there was a building on the land prior to 30 December 1996, and also prior to July 1998, when the man purported to sell the property to himself and that the evidence of subsequent activity in relation to the land does not settle the ownership question at all. 

The court, therefore, held that the indenture was put in the name of the woman as proof to her that her remittances were being used to acquire property for her thus allowing her appeal with the exception of grounds (d) and (f) of the counterclaim and setting aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal

Other members of the panel were; Justice S.K Marful-Sau(LATE), Justice Nene Amegatcher, and Justice Lovelace-Johnson(Ms).

Subscribe to Dennislaw to read the full ruling; Richmond Boamah Berimah v Albert Nanor, Janet Opoku, and Pastor Dan Cato.