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NATIVE LAW AND CUSTOM MUST BE PLEADED

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The burden of proof of customary law is on the party asserting its existence. See Usibiafo v. Usibiafo (2005) 3 NWLR (Pt.913) 665 at 684; Sokwo v. Kpongbo (supra). It has been established through plethora of cases that it is extremely important that native law and custom must be pleaded and strictly proved by credible evidence. This case is not predicated on proof by the mode of judicial notice, but by proof of evidence.

— T. Akomolafe-Wilson, JCA. Alabi v Audu (2017) – CA/A/494/2014

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A STATUTE WILL NOT APPLY TO CUSTOMARY LAW

Distinguishing these cases from the instant case, the Court of Appeal correctly held that the marriage between P.W.1 and the appellant was shown to be under native law and custom. In further distinguishing the cases, the Court of Appeal referred to the facts. In Rimmer v. Rimmer (supra) both husband and wife were wage earners. They bought a house in the name of the husband as the matrimonial home. The wife provided the deposit for the house. The rest of the purchase money was borrowed on the security of a mortgage from a building society in the name of the husband. Part of the principal of the mortgage money was repaid out of the housekeeping money provided by the husband. The remainder was repaid by the wife out of her money at a time her husband was on war service. The wife provided all the furniture for the home out of her own resources. When subsequently, the husband left the wife and the house was sold, the proceeds was shared equally between them on a summons under section 17 of the Married Women’s Property Act 1881 (U.K.). This was because it was not possible fairly to assess the separate beneficial interests of the husband and wife by reference to their contributions to the purchase of the house. In the instant case, the Married Womens’ Property Act 1881 (U.K.) is inapplicable since the marriage is governed by customary law.

– Karibe-Whyte JSC. Amadi v. Nwosu (1992)

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APPEAL FROM CUSTOMARY COURT OF APPEAL TO COURT OF APPEAL MUST RELATE TO CUSTOMARY QUESTION

Pam vs. Gwom (2000) FWLR 9Pt.1) 1 at 12 that: “The right of appeal from the Customary Court of Appeal to the Court of Appeal is as of right and must relate to any question of Customary Law and/or such other matters as may be prescribed by an Act of National Assembly that can extend this right by providing for such matters. Neither the Federal Military Government nor the National Assembly, made such other provision as envisaged in Section 224(1) of the 1979 Constitution. In the circumstances, for an appeal from the Customary Court of Appeal to the Court of Appeal to be competent, it must raise a question of Customary Law.”
Ayoola JSC: “The question therefore is: when is a decision in respect of a question of Customary Law? I venture to think that a decision is in respect of Customary Law when the controversy involves a determination of what the relevant Customary Law is and the application of the customary Law so ascertained to the question in controversy… When the decision of the Customary Court of Appeal turns purely on facts, or a question of procedure, such decision is not with respect to a question of Customary Law, not withstanding that the applicable law is Customary Law.”

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DENYING LANDLORD’S TITLE UNDER CUSTOMARY LAW WARRANTS FORFEITURE

There is no doubt that from the pleading and the evidence the respondents have denied the title of the appellants which is an act of misconduct under customary law. It is an act of misbehaviour which attracts the penalty of forfeiture Ojomu v. Ajao (1983) 2 SCNLR 156; Josiah Aghenghen & Ors. v. Chief Maduku Waghoreghor (1974) 1 S.C.1, Ajani Taiwo & Ors. v. Adamo Akinwumi & Ors. (1975) 4 S.C. 143.

— Olatawura, JSC. Ogunola v. Eiyekole (1990) – SC.195/1987

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NATIVE LAW IS MIRROR OF USAGE

Native law and custom is, I think, a mirror of accepted usage.

— Bairamian, F.J. Owonyin v. Omotosho (1961) – F.S.C.249/1960

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CUSTOMARY LAW IS A QUESTION OF FACT TO BE PROVED

It is well settled that customary law is a question of fact to be proved by evidence. See Section 14 of Evidence Law. Hence a party who alleges the existence of a particular custom must adduce sufficient evidence in support and to establish its existence to the satisfaction of the court. See Inyang v Ita (1929) 9 NLR 84. But there comes a time when by frequent litigation in the courts, a point of customary law has been sufficiently ruled upon, the courts will no longer require proof, and would be prepared to take judicial notice of it. See Angu v Attah, PC 74, 28, 43; Buraimo v Gbamgboye (1940) 15 NLR 139; Giwa v Erimolokun (1961) 1 All NLR 294, 1 SCNLR 337. The burden is on the defendants to establish the custom they rely upon for their defence. Balogun v Labiran (1988) 3 NWLR (Part 80) 66. Indeed only a single decision, sufficiently cogent and authoritative would be sufficient – Larinde v Afiko (1940) 6 WACA 108, but see Cole v Akinyele (1960) 5 FSC 84; (1960) SCNLR 192; Folami & others v Cole & others (1990) 2 NWLR (Part 133) 445.

– Karibe-Whyte JSC. Agbai v. Okogbue (1991) – SC 104/1989

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IN CUSTOMARY LAW, PAYMENT OF PURCHASE PRICE PASSES TITLE

It is settled law that it is for a party to a contract to take all necessary precautions in order to avoid a bad bargain. See Owo v. Kasumu (1932) 11 NLR 116; the maxim is caveat emptor (let the buyer beware). It is the vendor’s duty, however, to disclose defects in his title. The law is that in a transaction of sale of land under customary law, once there is payment of the purchase price of the land to the purchaser in the presence of witnesses, title in the land passes to the purchaser. See Ogunbambi v. Abowaba 13 WACA. 222; Cole v. Folami (1956) SCNLR 180; (1956)1 FSC 66 and Ashaye v. Akerele (1968) NMLR. 190. In the instant case, no such customary sale did indeed take place and the trial court rightly so found. This is because the respondent did not pay the full price for the 4 plots of land he purported to purchase from the appellants for 950pounds with a balance of 250pounds left unpaid. The attributes of a void sale being therefore absent from the purported sale to the respondent, title thereto not having passed, the court below seriously erred when it held that under customary law the legal representatives of Jemi-Alade transferred the ownership of the land in dispute on the part-payment of the purchase price thereof.

— Onu, JSC. Odusoga v Ricketts (1997) – SC.57/1990

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