It has become a trending phenomenon mostly among men to demand for the return of valuable properties given to their women as gifts. It’s a phenomenon because, sometimes, it is difficult to reckon with the reason such a thing would be happening even among men of means and maturity.

Legal Status of a Gift

The law recognizes that a person might be moved to give a gift of property to someone else for several reasons. The person giving the property is called a donor and the recipient, a donee. Ordinarily, the law expects that if you must have anything, you should equally part with something of value in exchange. This is legally known as consideration. It could be in the form of money, service, or other tangible item. This idea underscores the whole concept of contract.

A gift does not require consideration to be legally valid. Once given, it is absolute. We must note that sometimes, when a person makes a gift and places a condition, the condition has to be met before you can have the gift. But it is not in every situation that the law is interested in certain facts surrounding promise of gift. For instance, if a man promises to gift you iPhone 13 if you sleep with him, you may not have a legal right to press him to fulfill the promise if you did put your back to the ground. It might be argued that there was no intention to create legal relations at the time the immoral arrangement was entered into. This also applies, conversely.

Nonetheless, a gift retains its legal status and does not lose such status in the case of man and woman in a relationship. This means that if a man gifts a lady anything, she has the right to keep it even if the relationship goes south. However, a lot depends on other underlying facts and circumstances. If a man parts with property to his woman but does not intend it to be a gift, it is incumbent on the man to expressly state so. Otherwise, the presumption would be that he intended it to be a gift.

How to eliminate controversy

In order to eliminate controversies, ladies should endeavour to reduce the conversations leading to the gift in writing via some exchange of correspondence by email or chats on social media. It might be awkward to ask your man to make a Deed of Gift but it is not totally out of place. The only time a proper Deed of Gift is legally required is in cases of land. If your man desires to gift you real property, you must ensure he executes a Deed of Gift. In the case of a car, ensure he buys the car in your name or that he signs a document evidencing change of ownership and that you proceed to the appropriate authority to register the vehicle.

Right to Revoke

The law recognizes the right of your man to revoke a gift given to you. To be valid, such right must be expressly reserved in the instrument by which the gift was given. Otherwise, in the absence of any evidence that the right to revoke was reserved, you are entitled to keep the gift forever.

In the case of Imah v. Okogbe (1993) LPELR-1497(SC) (cited by Onyekachi Umah),  the Supreme Court held that:

Unless a donor reserves the right to revoke, once a gift has been validly executed, it cannot be revoked in the absence of fraud, mistake, misrepresentation or other invalidating cause.

From the above, we could see that where there is evidence of fraud, mistake or misrepresentation, the gift would be invalid. But let us consider other factual situations in the case of people in a relationship. It is usual for some men to feel used or deceived by some ladies. Can the man reasonably rely on an allegation of fraud to ask for a return of the gift? A lot will depend on strict proof of the particular circumstances justifying the allegation. It is not enough to allege fraud merely because a lady flashed her love and withdrew it like the services of Nigerian telecommunications companies.


Where the oil that lubricates the engine of your love dries up and a man desires the return of his gifts, rest, assured that he is not legally entitled to it. But you may consider other issues in deciding on whether or not to hold on to the gift. If your life is at risk, you may give it up. Before you do, ensure you have evidence that you did, so as to eliminate the possibility of any future blackmail by way of punishment. If you desire to call his bluff by keeping the gifts, you may consider involving the police if you have proof of threat to your life or reasonable basis to believe your life is in danger. Above all, consider safety first. There are many ways to “kill a rat” without trace. Choose your battles wisely.

Stephen Azubuike
Author: Stephen Azubuike
Stephen is a lawyer with expertise in Commercial Dispute Resolution and Technology Law practice. He is a Partner at Infusion Lawyers. He has successfully argued cases from the High Courts of various jurisdictions to the Appellate Courts on behalf of financial institutions, other corporate bodies and multinationals. He has worked with a number of startup tech companies. He tweets @siazubuike.