BY Chikodi Mirian Dozie and Carryington B. Omozuawo.

The conventional ownership of property is usually one that is owned by an individual. Individual ownership of property has become more acceptable due to the complex nature of joint ownership, which most often leaves party contending whose right precedes another. But that cannot take away the fact that joint ownership of properties still exists today, either by parties expressly intending to purchase properties in their own name or arising from resulting trust; where one-party purchases property in the name of another person.

The most common joint ownership is usually seen in marriages, where husband and wife jointly own property and then subsequently divorce, the major question that normally arises will be; who is the ultimate owner of the property. Whatever the case may be, our intention is to examine some salient point regarding joint ownership of property under our Nigerian legal system.

The acquisition of a property by more than one person is referred to as joint ownership. Joint ownership may also occur where a person gifts his property to two or more persons.

Thus, it is safe to say that inheritance, marriage and business partnership are the main reasons for joint-ownership. Where joint ownership exists, parties are said to have equal proprietary right on the property irrespective of the amount contributed by each party.

In Sunday Obasohan v Thomas Omorodion & Anor[1] the Supreme Court held that the plaintiff and defendants having succeeded their respective fathers following the customs of Bini people, were joint owners of all the properties situate at Akpakparia street, Benin city.

Under the Nigerian legal system, there are four ways by which more than one person may jointly own a property, namely: joint tenancy, tenancy in common, tenancy by entirety and family ownership. However, only two are commonly used. They are: joint tenancy and tenancy in common. Joint tenancy occurs when two or more persons own one asset altogether. here, each owner is equally entitled to the whole of the property. An important distinction of a joint tenancy is the right of survivorship. This right implies that on the death of one joint tenant, the surviving joint tenant automatically becomes the sole owner of the property. Thus, a joint tenant cannot leave share of the property to his heir, on demise, it simply passes to the surviving joint tenant.

While under tenancy in common, the co-owners own the property jointly however maintains a distinct share in the property. The tenants collectively share a single right to possession of the entire interest and can alienate their interest through sale, gift or encumbrances.

Legal Implication of a Joint ownership of property

For a better understanding, it is perhaps apt to examine some of the legal implications regarding joint ownerships, so as to ease our conversation.

  1. OFirst and foremost is the issue of equal utility purposes; under joint ownership, parties own equal rights to use the property without restrictions from the other party. Here, there is utility in possession, title and interest in the property. As a result of this none of the joint owners can lay claim on a particular portion of property or the property in its entirety to the exclusion of the other.
  2. Another point worth mentioning is that no sale can occur on such property without the consent of the other party. Any sale thereafter will be void in its entirety.
  3. Also, in joint ownership, where there is demise of one of the owners, the property is not vested on the surviving owners. The legal implication of this is that the right of survivorship does not apply in joint ownership. in the case of Osuji V Ekeocha[2]  the Supreme Court reviewed the conclusions of the trial court and held that where joint ownership exists, each party has a proprietary right on the property. The court further held that joint ownership of land presupposes ownership of such land by two or more individuals. It was also held that sale of land jointly owned requires the consent of co-owners in other to validate such sale. Similar decision was upheld in Olagunju V Yahaya[3]


Joint ownership poses some challenges in ownership of property, especially when owners are joint tenants. This is why the joint tenancy is no longer the presumptive form of joint ownership of property. As courts now tilts toward tenancy in common when it has to determine the type of ownership in a dispute in the absence of an express agreement to that effect. Although, people enter into joint ownership as a way to afford a property they could not otherwise afford. Still, it is important to understand the type of joint ownership to choose and advisable for parties to enter into simple agreement stating their rights and quantum of interest over the property. Who gets the right to the property when one of the owners dies will be easily ascertained.         


1. Ikechukwu Nwakanma

(Senior Partner)

2. Chikodi Mirian Dozie

(NYSC Associate)

3. Carryington B. Omozuawo.





DISCLAIMER: This article is only intended to provide general information on the subject matter and does not by itself create a client/attorney relationship between readers and our Law Firm or serve as legal advice. We are available to provide specialist legal services on specific circumstances.

[1] (2001) 10 SC 85; LPELR-2154.

[2] (2009) 6-7 SC (PTI)91 LPELR-2816.

[3] (2002) 12 NWLR (PT 781) 159 

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