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FIVE METHODS OF PROVING TITLE TO LAND

Dictum

It is now well settled law that in a claim for declaration of title to land, a party claiming title to land must do so by proving with credible evidence one or more of the five methods of proving title to land, namely: A. Evidence of traditional history of title; B. Production of genuine and valid documents of title; C. Acts of Ownership numerous enough; D. Acts of possession over a long period of time and E. Act of possession of adjacent land long enough to make it probable that the owner of the adjacent land is also the owner of the land in dispute. The 1st Appellant and the 1st Respondent, thus had open to them one or more of the above five methods to prove their title to the land in dispute and the law is that proof of any of these methods by credible evidence would be sufficient to ground an action for declaration of title to land.

— B.A. Georgewill, JCA. Anyi & Ors. v. Akande & Ors. (2017) – CA/L/334/2014

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WHEN THERE ARE EQUAL EQUITIES IN A CLAIM FOR TITLE TO LAND

“The Appellant and the 3rd Respondent in this appeal were all claiming title to the subject property to wit: Right of Occupancy No. GM/14660 on plot E-43 on GDP/4 Layout situate at the City Center behind Federal Medical Center, Gombe. Both parties were claiming title to the land in dispute relying on the allocation made to them by the 1st and 2nd Respondents. Their title is therefore from the same source. The law in such a situation is settled, which is that, when the equities are equal the first in time will prevail and consequently be awarded title to the land. See Achilihu vs Anyatonwu (2013) 12 NWLR (pt 1368) 256.”

— E. Tobi, JCA. Umar Ibrahim v Nasiru Danladi Mu’azu & 2 Ors. (2022) – CA/G/317/2019

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HAD TITLE TO LAND BEFORE COMING OF THE LAND USE ACT IS CONSIDERED HOLDER

A person or Community that had title to a parcel of land before the coming into force of the Land Use Act, 1978 is deemed to be a holder of a right of occupancy, statutory right of occupancy or customary right of occupancy, depending on the status of the land – whether it is in urban area or in non-urban area. See Section 34(2), (3) and (6) and Section 36(2), (3) and (4) of the Land Use Act.

— Wali JSC. Onwuka & Ors. V. Ediala & Anor. (SC.18/1987, 20 January 1989)

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CANNOT SET UP A ROOT OF TITLE DIFFERENT FROM VENDOR

The court below was therefore right, in my view, in holding that this could not be so in that 2nd Respondent who derived his title from the Respondent cannot set up a root of title different from that of his Vendor. He must either sink or swim with him, it being that a Vendor can only pass to the purchasers whatever title he has. See Fasoro v. Beyioku (1988) 2 NWLR (Pt. 76) 263.

— Dike & Ors. V. Francis Okoloedo & Ors. (SC.116/1993, 15 Jul 1999)

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THE ADVANTAGES OF THE REGISTRATION OF TITLE

The advantage of registered title is that the purchaser can discover from the mere inspection of the register whether the vendor has power to sell the land and what the more important incumbrances are except in the case of what may be classified as overriding interest, as contained in s.52 of the Registration of Titles Law, which bind the proprietor of registered land even though he has no knowledge of them and no reference is made to them in the register. Otherwise, a registered owner of land is not affected by notice of any unregistered estate, interest or claim affecting the estate of any previous registered owner, nor is he concerned to inquire whether the terms of any caution or restriction existing before he was registered as owner of such land have been complied with see s.54. Short of rectification of the register carried out in pursuance of s.61, a registered owner’s title is indefeasible. It has been said that a register of title is an authoritative record, kept in a public office, of the rights to clearly defined units of land as vested for the time being in some particular person or body, and of the limitations, if any, to which these rights are subject. With certain exceptions known as ‘overriding interests’, all the material particulars affecting the title to the land are fully revealed merely by a perusal of the register which is maintained and warranted by the State. The register is at all times the final authority and the State accepts responsibility for the validity of transactions, which are effected by making an entry in the register.

— Uwais, JSC. Onagoruwa & Ors. v. Akinremi (2001) – SC.191/1997

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PARTY MUST AS WELL ESTABLISH THE TITLE OF WHO HE TRACES TO

It is well settled that once a party pleads and traces his root of title in an action involving title to land to a particular person or source, and this averment, as in the present case, is disputed or challenged, that party, to succeed, as a plaintiff in the suit must not only establish his own title to such land, he must also satisfy the court on the validity of the title of that particular person or source from whom he claims to have derived his title. See Mogaji v. Cadbury Nigeria Ltd. (1985) 7 SC 59, (1985) 2 NWLR (pt.7) 393 at 431; Elias v. Omo-Bare (1982) 5 SC 25 at 37 – 38.

— Iguh, JSC. Olohunde v. Adeyoju (2000) – SC.15/1995

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REQUIRED EVIDENCE TO PROVE TRADITIONAL HISTORY

What are the averments which a party relying on traditional histories or evidence must incorporate into their pleadings? The Supreme Court in Lebile v. The Registered Trustees of Cherubium and Seraphim Church of Zion of Nigeria, Ugbonla and Ors. (2003) 2 NWLR (Pt.804) 399 per the judgment of Uwaifo, J.S.C. provided the answer at pages 418/419 thus: “It cannot be too often said that a party who relies on traditional history (which a claim to the finding of a village or town implies) would need to plead the names of his ancestors to narrate a continuous claim of devolution, not allowing there to be any gap or leading to a prima facie collapse of the traditional history. The history must show how the land by a system of devolution eventually came to be owned by the plaintiff.”

– Aderemi JCA. Irawo v. Adedokun (2004)

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