• Francis Obonyo
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First purchase in time takes precedence says the Hon Justice Batema

In the case of Naomi Juma & Philimon Ochanda (Administrators of the estate of the late Hellen Okiri Ochanda) V Nantume Ruth & Obambo Joram Civil Suit No.363 of 2010
Judgment delivered by Hon. Mr. Justice Batema on 13th March 2020

The Plaintiffs brought this case against the Defendants praying for declaratory orders, vacant possession, permanent injunction, Mesne profits, damages, and costs. The Plaintiffs are the administrators of the estate of the late Hellen Okiri Ochanda. The deceased bought a plot and houses on it from one Boaz Membo in 1976. Boaz Membo had earlier bought the plot from one Nalukenge and that the same plot was vacant. The 1st Defendant asserts that she bought the suit property from Nalongo Nalukenge on 18th August 2003 and even threatened the plaintiffs with eviction. That she constructed 25 tenements, remained in possession of the suit land and the houses until 2008 when Nalukenge died. The 2nd Defendant did not enter defense, so the matter proceeded exparte against him.
The issues for resolution were:

  1. Whether the Plaintiffs have a right of claim in the suit property?
  2. Whether the Defendants have a right of claim in the suit property?
  3. Whether the Plaintiffs are entitled to the remedies sought?

It is settled law that, in civil cases, each party has to prove their case to the satisfaction of Court. Section 101 of the Evidence Act is to the effect that he who alleges must prove.
The Plaintiffs exhibited a transfer form sale agreement upon which the deceased Hellena Mugadi/Hellena Ochiri Ochanda purchased the suit land and houses thereon from Boaz Membo dated 8th September 1976. The Plaintiffs proved that upon purchase and subsequent transfer, the deceased Hellen Ochiri took possession and continued to even pay property rates tax in respect of the suit property. In her defense, the 1st Defendant Nantume Ruth told Court that she bought the disputed land in 2003, from Nalongo Nalukenge. She said that the suit land is registered land, although she did not know the plot number or block number that the suit land had a certificate of title, which, too, she failed to produce in Court. She further told Court that transfer forms were signed in her favor, but she equally failed to produce the same. The Court, therefore, found that the first purchase in time takes precedence. The Plaintiffs’ equity was created first in time in 1976, and so must prevail over the one created in 2003.
It was also submitted by the 1st Defendant that she constructed the houses on the disputed land but did not produce any architectural plans approved by Kampala City Council neither did she have receipts of the building materials. None of the builders was called as a witness. It is impossible to believe that she owned this land in KCC and built on it in 2003 without approved building plans.
It is trite law that the value of land as valuable property calls for thorough investigations before purchase. Call it due diligence. The buyer who fails to carry out due diligence and buys from fraudsters gets no legal title. Land are not vegetables that are bought from unknown sellers. Land are valuable properties, and buyers are expected to make thorough investigations, not only of the land but also the sellers before purchase. It is evident on record that the 1st Defendant, in this case, did not do her due diligence to establish the status of the land she was buying, including the people who were in occupation and the plot number.
Judgment was entered in favor of the plaintiffs.