Macauley v. Keita (CC48/06 2006 M. NO 5)  SLHC 11 (26 February 2007);
CC48/06 2006 M. NO 5
IN THE HIGH COURT OF SIERRA LEONE BETWEEN:
ERNESTINE MACAULEY PLAINTIFF
ABU KEITA DEFENDANT
Elvis Kargbo Esq, for the Plaintiff
No representation by the Defendant
JUDGMENT DELIVERED ON26 th FEBRUARY 2007
MRS. S. BASH-TAQI:- J.A.
The Plaintiff in this action seeks a Declaration that she is entitled to the piece or parcel of land situate lying and being at Peninsular Road Adonkia measuring 0. 2705 Acres, and delineated on Survey Plan L.S. 492/84; damages for trespass; recovery of Possession of the said piece of land; an Injunction restraining the Defendant, his servants, workmen, agents, or privies and any other person from entering or remaining upon such land, or otherwise from doing any act on the said land which is inconsistent with the plaintiff's right; Delivery up and cancellation of any conflicting Deeds, instruments, plans, and other documents; Rectification of all appropriate Registers; Such further or other relief as may be just and Cost of the action.
The Writ of Summons instituting the action was dated 13th January 2006 and was served on the Defendant on 25 January 2006. On the 26th January 2006, the Defendant entered an Appearance by his Solicitors, Brewah & Co. No further action was taken by or on the Defendant's behalf.
On 13 July 2006, the Plaintiff, by Notice of Motion dated 6th July 2006, applied to the Court on a Motion for Judgment against the Defendant in view of the default of defence, pursuant to Order 23 Rule 11 of the High Court Rules 1960. The application having been granted, the matter was set down for assessment of damages on 20 November 2006.This is the brief background of the case.
As the Plaintiff claims possession, and by the oral evidence led, the Plaintiff deposed that the Defendant is presently in physical possession of the land and has refused to give up possession, the ordinary law applies that a Plaintiff must succeed on the strength of his title and not oh the weakness of the Defendant's title. To establish her title, the Plaintiff
in her evidence sought to prove that she bought the property from one Annie Elizabeth King who had executed a Conveyance in her favour on 19th July 1984. She further identified a Conveyance dated 13th April 1981 evidencing the purchase of the said property by her vendor, Annie Elizabeth King from one Judith Ann Barlatt. Both Conveyances, she said were registered in the Administrator & Registrar-General's Office in Freetown. Having thus purchased the Property, the Plaintiff said that she caused the same to be surveyed and beaconed to demarcate her boundaries. She said she also put up sign posts bearing her name and in addition, she planted economic trees on the land. She employed the services of a Caretaker called Monrovia Mandewa to look after the land and the cultivate economic trees. She remained in undisturbed possession of the land until April 2005, when her Caretaker gave her some information relating to the land and the Defendant. As a result of this information, she visited the land and found the Defendant, together with one Samuel Sesay and a third man, on her land. In the presence of the Defendant and his men, her Caretaker told her that the Defendant and his men had cut down the economic trees on the land and had uprooted her beacons and sign posts. The Plaintiff said she asked the Defendant if what her Caretaker has said was true and he confirmed this, but stated that he had done so because the land was his. The Plaintiff reasserted her claim to the land. She then went round the land to assess the damage that had been done. Consequently, she said, the Defendant confronted her, and ordered her to leave the land, and further threatened that if the Plaintiff did not leave, he (the defendant) would do something to her that she would never forget. Following this threat, the Plaintiff said she left the scene and went to report the matter at Goderich police station. She said she was frightened because the Defendant, is a Soldier, and was in Military uniform on that day. At the Police Station, the Plaintiff said she made a statement about the incident, and accompanied by some Police Officers, one of who was a Police Photograph, they went back to the land; the Police photographer took pictures of the land showing the damage that had been done. The defendant was subsequently charged with malicious damage in the Magistrates' Court. The Plaintiff said she consulted her Solicitors who wrote to the Defendant to warn him to desist from continuing his acts of trespass on her land. The letter, dated 21st October 2005, written by Betts & Berewa, Solicitors, to the Defendant, was tendered as Exhibit "C". The Plaintiff further testified that she asked her husband to take photographs of the property to show its state. She then identified these photographs, and prayed the Court to grant her the reliefs claimed in her Writ.
The plaintiff's second witness was Monrovia Mandewa, the Caretaker. He confirmed the plaintiff's evidence and said that he was present on the day the Defendant and his two friends entered the land. He said one of them held a power saw. In his presence the Defendant instructed the two men to start cutting down the trees and they proceeded to cut down three mango trees; at that stage he asked them who had given them permission to cut down the trees. He said the Defendant said he had authorised this, as the land is his. The witness said that he disputed the claim and told the Defendant that he had been a Caretaker of that piece of land for many years and had never known the Defendant to be the owner. He said he told the Defendant that he would report the matter to the police and to the Plaintiff. He then left the Defendant and his men cutting down trees and went to Adonkia Police Station, but he found no Police man on duty. He returned to the land and discovered that the Defendant and his men had cut down three more mango trees; two lemon trees and two orange trees. The witness said that while the men were busy cutting down the trees, four other men joined them. They were Melvin Sesay, Abdul Kaloko, Abandawi and James Brown. The witness said that these men uprooted the plaintiff's beacon and sign posts bearing the plaintiff's namo Ho said he then decided to inform the Plaintiff. The witness' wife volunteered to take the two sign posts to the Police Station. At that point the men attacked his wife, causing her injuries. He said he went to the Police Station and reported the assault on his wife and later reported the incident to the Plaintiff. He said the Plaintiff went to the land the next day and found the Defendant and the five men on the land. He said when the men saw the Plaintiff, they crowded around her; the Defendant, Samuel Sesay and Melvin Sesay held sticks while the other two picked up stones. In their presence, the witness said that the Plaintiff asked him who had damaged her economic trees and he, the witness, identified the Defendant and the other men as having done so. He confirmed that the Defendant threatened the Plaintiff if she was to set foot on the land in future. Eventually, the Plaintiff went to make a report at the Police station; she came back with some Policemen and a Police photographer who took pictures of the land. The witness confirmed that the Defendant is now building a structure on the land.
The third witness for the Plaintiff was Ekundayo Pratt a clerk attached to the Office of the Administrator & Registrar-General whose duties included custody of all registered documents, deeds and instruments kept in the Administrator & Registrar-General's Office. The witness tendered in evidence as exhibit "A" a Deed of Conveyance dated 19th July 1984 expressed to be made between Annie Elizabeth King of the one part and the Plaintiff of the other part, which deed is registered as No. 1074/84 at page 56 in Vol. 366 of the Books of Conveyances kept in the Administrator & Registrar-General's office. The witness further tendered in evidence as Exhibit "B" a Deed of Conveyance dated 13the April 1981 expressed to be made between Julliet Ann Barlatt of the one part and Annie Elizabeth King, the plaintiff's Vendor, of the other part, registered as No. 422/81 at page 143 in Vol. 327 of the Record Books of Conveyances kept in the Administrator & Regisrar-General's Office. He then tendered certified true copies of exhibits "A" and "B" as exhibits "A1" and "B1" respectively, and requested the release of the original copies Exhibits "A" and "B".
The plaintiff's fourth witness was Ivory Mae Macauley a building contractor and the plaintiff's husband. He testified that on the instructions of the Plaintiff he went to the land on the 24th November 2006 and took photographs of the land. He further stated that at the time he went to take the pictures there was already a building being constructed on the land. He tendered the negatives of the photographs as "C" 1-7". He said he developed the negatives into photographs and tendered the photographs as Exhibit "D13-7".
The next witness for the Plaintiff was Mr. Eric Christian Forster, a licensed Surveyor and Civil Engineer. He testified that the Plaintiff engaged his services to investigate an alleged encroachment on her land situate along the Main Motor Road Adonkia, opposite the cemetery. After his investigation he reduced his findings in writing in the form of a report. He tendered in evidence this report as Exhibit "E". The witness further testified that from his findings, the Defendant, Abu Keita; had trespass oh the plaintiff's entire land, measuring 0.2705 Acres. He said that the Defendant had employed a team of aggressive youths that are living in "pan body" structures to intimidate the Plaintiff and any one who wanted to enter the land. So that that when he went to conduct his investigation, he had to be accompanied by security personnel. He said the youths led by the Defendant drove him and the security men from the land. And there was pandemonium every where, as a result one Inspector Johnson had to come to the scene with reinforcements. The witness said that while on the land, he observed that a building was being constructed thereon, the ground floor of which had been completed and progress was under way towards the construction of the second floor. He also observed a "pan body" structure at the arrear used as a store and dwelling unit. Referring to his Report, the witness said that these developments are shown on the second to last page. He also noted "X" marks in Red paint on the structures, which is an indication that the structures were unauthorised and were built on land belonging to someone else other than their occupier.
This was the plaintiff's case.
The conclusions which I have come to, on the facts, are that the property is the property of the Plaintiff; that she bought the land from Annie Elizabeth King in 1984 as evidenced by Exhibit "A1".; and that she continued to exercise all rights as owner froml9th July 1984 to the present time. In the absence of any competing claims, I am satisfied that in extent and otherwise the land described in the Conveyance to dated 19th July 1984 and delineated on Plan L.S. 492/84 referred to in the Statement of Claim herein and forming part of the pleadings herein is the property of the plaintiff, she having proved her title thereto. I believe the evidence of the Plaintiff and her witnesses, together with the documents tendered to support her title to the land, more particularly, the evidence of the plaintiff's Surveyor, and Exhibit "D", that the Defendant had in deed trespassed into the whole of the plaintiff's land and placed material objects and a structure on the land of the Plaintiff without justification.
The Plaintiff did not lead evidence as to the cost of the economic trees, the beacons or the sign posts that were destroyed by the Defendant as there is no claim for special damages in the pleadings. I will therefore make no award in respect of this loss.
I am satisfied that from the evidence before me the Plaintiff has proved her title to the land. In consequence of the foregoing, I find for the Plaintiff and I order judgement as follows:
1 A declaration that the Plaintiff is the fee simple owner and entitled to possession of the claimed by her in this action which is situate lying and being along the Main Motor Road Adonkia, more particularly delineated in Survey Plan L.S.492/84 dated 3rd April 1984 attached to the Deed of Conveyance dated 19th July 1984 and registered as No. 1071/84 in Vol. 366 at page 56 of
the Record Books of Conveyances kept in the Office of the Registrar General for Sierra Leone Freetown.
2. That the Defendant removes from the plaintiff's land all objects and materials as he by himself or his agents may have placed or built on the said land; and that the Plaintiff recovers immediate possession of the said piece or parcel of land from the Defendant;
3. Damages for Trespass assessed at Le 5000,000
4. An injunction restraining the Defendant, by himself, his servants or agents, privies from entering on, interfering with the plaintiff's said land and from continuing to build the structure on the plaintiff's said land, except for the purpose of removing therefrom the material or objects as he by him self or his agents may have placed thereon
5. I further order that any Deed of Conveyance registered in the Record Books of Conveyances kept in the Office of the Registrar-General and executed in favour of the Defendant in respect of the said piece or parcel of land, be cancelled by the Registrar-General and the same be expunged from Record Books of Conveyances;
6. The Plaintiff shall have the cost of this action, such cost to be taxed.
S.BASH -TAQI, J.A.
12th February 2007
CERTIFIED TRUE COPY
MASTER & REGISTRAR