Maxim 5: A Lesson in Equity By Jones Ayuwo

Equity, after all is said and done really is all about what seems fair when circumstances are considered.

A long time ago in England when people had grievances and could not go to the king because their issues didn’t fall under the list of things the king would handle, or if they finally got to the king, his inevitable strict adherence to the law would seem unfair to them, the Chancellors who were men of God; pastors, priests, the general clergy and so on would find alternate routes or solutions for these people which would satisfy the conscience and appear to be fair. As time darkens the skies inevitably, equity soon began to have its own strict rules, with the passage of time. These rules had certain principles behind them known as Maxims.
One of such maxims is; He who seeks equity must do equity.
The basis of this Maxim is that if the plaintiff seeks an equitable remedy or wishes to obtain any equitable relief, he must act fairly towards the defendant. In plain terms, if you want fair treatment on a matter, you should also be fair to the other party. The application of this maxim can be exemplified by the case of LAG GUY v OTHER LAG GUY and ORS.
This maxim is illustrated as follows;
A) DOCTRINE OF ELECTION: the rationale of election is that no person shall be allowed to claim a benefit under an arrangement but repudiate an obligation imposed by the same arrangement. This means that in a situation where one is supposed to benefit from something but is also expected to do something else in return, that person cannot ‘elect’ to enjoy that benefit without fulfilling the obligation.
For example, if there is an arrangement conferring on O the benefit of free movies and incessant installments of chicken and chips, cold stone ice cream, domino’s pizza et cetera from X but on the condition that upon X’s furnishing of such sufficient consideration, O would perform her end by conferring on X certain ostentatious gratification. O will not be able to claim the whole benefits from X unless she allows the gratification to X to take effect. He who seeks equity must do equity. Word to all the insatiable cravings and endless menstrual cycles of the Nigerian female.

Where for instance, a lady mortgages herself and her relationship status to a bloke but after a while another fellow with much more financial elbow room comes along and she wishes to redeem herself so that the initial bloke is left with the less profitable mortgage of just having her relationship status but not having her herself, notwithstanding his level or degree of skreppiness, the bloke has the right to refuse to allow that mortgage to be redeemed unless both are redeemed. In other words, equity will not allow her to be dating richer men while the young man is there answering the title of ‘boyfriend’. She who seeks equity must do equity.

A lien is a right over property. It does not follow that any expense incurred in respect of another person’s property necessarily gives rise to a Lien. So if A spends money on K’s property, he normally has no Lien on that property. However, a Lien can exist under some situations, such as where they have a contract to that effect, or a trust situation or under subrogation, and also where A believes that the property is his own and K knowing himself to be the true owner of the property and knowing also of K’s mistake nonetheless stood by and allowed A to develop the property. In other words, if a guy is toasting and spending money on your babe and you keep silent about it, knowing that she is truly your babe and also knowing that the guy earnestly thinks she’s falling for him, soon equity will naturally grant him certain Lien over what was originally yours and you’ll be surprised when your babe will start saying to herself “it’s not fair to the poor boy” and then… she’ll do equity! Equity after all is what seems fair when circumstances are considered.
See MARRIERE v MAKAMA BIDA All Unilag Law Reports

Jones Ayuwo

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