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PROJECT TOPIC- HOW THE DOCTRINE OF CONSTRUCTIVE TRUST CAN BE EMPLOYED AS A LEGAL MECHANISM FOR SANITIZING NIGERIAN PUBLIC OFFICE

PROJECT TOPIC- HOW THE DOCTRINE OF CONSTRUCTIVE TRUST CAN BE EMPLOYED AS A LEGAL MECHANISM FOR SANITIZING NIGERIAN PUBLIC OFFICE

CHAPTER ONE

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

1.1     Background of the Study

Constructive trust is one of the various classifications of the law of trust. The doctrine of constructive trust is of English common law origin which Nigeria inherited through the received English laws which came into effect on the 1st of January, 1900. The doctrine of constructive trust arises by operation of law, rather than as a result of the parties’ intention. This was the position of the court in the case of Beatty V. Cupperhin Exploration company[1] also in Kotoge V. Saraki [2].

The Blacks Law Dictionary [3] defines constructive trust as “an equitable remedy that a court imposes against one who has obtained property by wrong doing. A constructive trust imposed to prevent unjust enrichment, creates no judiciary relationship. As it is imposed by law two questions must be addressed: when will it be imposed and why?. As to the first, there is no general agreement on this point. In particular, there appears to be difference of approach between English practices on the one hand and America and common wealth practice on the other.

The American view has been that the constructive trust is a remedy  to be imposed whenever the defendant’s conduct is unconscionable, for instance when he would be unjustly enriched a similar approached has been taken in New Zealand where for instance in Brown V Poural[4] secret trusts have been upheld as an example of the remedial constructive trust. The traditional view in England has been to view it as a substantive institution like any other trusts, arising, therefore, only in certain situations.

In the recent past, however attempts were made to expand the constructive trust. The constructive trust of the new model was championed by Lord Denning in Huddey v. Palmer, [5] where he allied constructive and resulting trusts and said: “the two run together, it is a trust imposed wherever justice and good conscience require it. However, according to Keeton and Sheridan, “a constructive trust is a relationship created by equity in the interest of good conscience to compel a person who has the title to the property to transfer it to or hold it for another person who ought to have it with or without reference to express or implied intention of the parties”[6],

Accordingly, the supreme court in a unanimous decision in A.G of the Federation V. A.G. of Abia State & Ors[7] held that a federation account into which certain revenue of the federal Republic of Nigeria is paid and shared among the federal government and the governments is held on constructive trusts by the federal government. In conclusion, the doctrine of construction trust as was stated by Cardozo J. in the case of Beatty V. Cupperhein Exploration Co[8] “is the formular through which the conscience of equity finds expression.

When property has been acquired in such circumstance that the holder of the legal title may not in good conscience retain the beneficial interest, equity converts him into a trustee. For there to exist a constructive trust, there must be a fudiciary relationship that exists between the constructive trustee and the claimant and that the relationship has property from the claimant in an unconscionable way.

PROJECT TOPIC- HOW THE DOCTRINE OF CONSTRUCTIVE TRUST CAN BE EMPLOYED AS A LEGAL MECHANISM FOR SANITIZING NIGERIAN PUBLIC OFFICE

1.2     Statement of the Problem

Following the background of the study of this research work, it has been revealed that the doctrine of constructive is an equitable remedy imposed by the court to prevent unjust enrichment. There is need for good anti-corruption policies and procedures to be put in place due to the problems of corruption and low trust. One visible indication of the increasing global awareness about corruption as an administrative political and economic problem is because of the threat to humanity[9].

Furthermore, corruption is no doubt on the increase. One person in four worldwide has paid a bribe during the past year according to transparency international survey, in the survey breakdown, sub-Sahara Africa region has the highest number of represented bribery incidence with more than one person in two saying they made such payments to public officials[10]. World Bank describes corruption as the single greatest economic obstacle to economic and social development[11] besides denying a nation growth in socio-economic sectors, corruption equally scares off foreign investors and new investments.

In the case of AG for Hong Kong V. Reid where it was held that when a fiduciary accepted a bribe as an inducement to betray his trust he held the bribe in trust for the person to whom he owed the duty as fiduciary; and, if property representing the bribe increased in value, the fiduciary was not entitled to retain any surplus in excess of the initial value of the bribe because he was not allowed by any means to make a profit out of a breach of duty.

In response to this problem of corruption in Nigerian Public office, this research work proposes to undertake the investigation and analysis of how the doctrine of constructive trust being an equitable remedy could be used to sanitize Nigerian Public Offices and curtail public officers from leaving the government treasury empty to their own selfish interest.

1.3     Research Questions

          Having carefully and comprehensively diagnosed the background and the statement of problem of this research work, it is desirously deemed pertinent to aver that this research work seeks to proffer an understandable and crystal-clear answer to the following questions.

  1. What is fiduciary relationship
  2. Who are persons in fiduciary positions
  3. What are judiciary situations
  4. Scope of judiciary duties
  5. What is unjust enrichment
  6. What is breach of judiciary duty
  7. What are the remedies for breach of judiciary duties

1.4     Objectives of the Study

          The general objectives of the research work are to critically appraise how the doctrine of constructive trust can be employed as a legal mechanism for sanitizing Nigerian public office.

          In the course of this research, it is aimed at applying the equitable doctrine of construction trust to prevent unjust enrichment of pubic officers and also to recover whatever has been misappropriated by the public servantts in the course of their holding such office.  

1.5     Research Methodology

          In order to substantially achieve the objective of this research work, serious attention shall be paid to primary and secondary sources. Recourse shall also be given to internent sources.

          By adoption of primary and secondary sources, we will be making use of text books by renowned authors (both foreign and Nigerian books), law books, law journals, news papers, law reports, dictionaries and articles.

1.6     Scope of the Study

          As the heading connotes, this research work shall be looking at constructive trust which is an equitable doctrine and how the doctrine can be applied to sanitize Nigerian public office.

          Again this work only covers constructive trust.

1.7     Limitation of the Study

          This research work has been limited by lack of adequate time, inadequacy of finance and inadequacy of all the required materials.

PROJECT TOPIC- HOW THE DOCTRINE OF CONSTRUCTIVE TRUST CAN BE EMPLOYED AS A LEGAL MECHANISM FOR SANITIZING NIGERIAN PUBLIC OFFICE

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