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ACCEPTED METHODS OF PROVING CUSTOMARY OWNERSHIP

Dictum

The accepted methods of proving customary ownership of land are- (1) Traditional History of ownership; (2) Where the evidence in (1) above is found to be inconclusive, then proof of acts of occupation and use of the land over a considerable long period without challenge or disturbance from any other claimant and (3) Where (2) above fails, proof of exclusive possession without permission. See – Ekpo v. Ita 11 N.L.R. 68; F.M. Alade v. Lawrence Awo (1975) 4 S.C.215.

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

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IDENTITY OF LAND

The issue of identity of the land in an action for declaration of title to land is very fundamental. The onus is on the plaintiff seeking the declaration to establish the precise identity of the land he is seeking the declaration.

– Musdapher JSC. Gbadamosi v. Dairo (2007)

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REVOLUTIONARY EFFECT OF THE LAND USE ACT

Since the promulgation of the Act by the Military Administration of General Obasanjo in 1978, the vast majority of Nigerians have been unaware of its revolutionary effect. They have been unaware that the Act swept away all the unlimited rights and interest they had in their lands and substituted them with very limited rights and rigid control of the use of their limited rights by the Military Governors and Local Governments. This appeal is probably one of the earliest of contested matters that will bring the revolutionary effect of the Act to the deep and painful awareness of many. The experience of disbelief and the ultra sensitivity to the irritating thoughts of loss of freedom to use one’s property without exploitative government control exhibited by the appellants’ counsel notwithstanding the fact remains that we must all appreciate the true legal position and bring it to the knowledge of the beneficiaries of rights and interest in land in each State of the Nigerian Federation. This will enable the steps necessary to bring the law in line with the wishes of Nigerians to be taken. Section 1 of the Act has made no secret of the intention and purpose of the law. It declared that land in each state of the Federation shall be vested in the Military Governor of each state to be held in trust for the use and common benefit of all Nigerians.

– Obaseki, JSC. Savannah v. Ajilo (1989)

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WHEN IS THERE A VALID SALE OF LAND

In law therefore, a valid sale of land is constituted where there is payment of money as consideration, acknowledgment of receipt of the purchase money and execution of deed of conveyance in favour of the purchaser by the Vendor. See Erinosho v. Owokoniran (1965) NMLR 479. See also Ogunbanbi v Abowab (1951) 13 WACA 222; Onafowokan V Oshopitan (2009) 1 WRN 142 @p. 166

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

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ALL LANDS VESTED IN MILITARY GOVERNOR

The control and management of all land in the state, apart from the land vested in the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, is therefore vested either in the Military Governor or the Local Government and while the Military Governor has power to grant statutory right of occupancy in respect of any land [see section 5(1)(a)] the Local Government has power to grant customary right of occupancy in respect of land not in an urban area [see section 6(1)(a) and (b)].

– Obaseki, JSC. Savannah v. Ajilo (1989)

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STATE LANDS ARE FOR PUBLIC PURPOSES – SUCH LANDS ARE HELD IN TRUST

Their powers under the law are limited to leasing them to diverse persons, and accepting forfeitures and surrenders of leases. There appears to be substance in this contention. State lands in Nigeria invariably originate from compulsory acquisitions of such lands from individuals or communities for public purposes. Such lands are held in trust by the acquiring government for use for the public purpose for which the land was acquired and in accordance with the public policy of the state as enshrined in the laws of the state.

– Nnaemeka-agu, JSC. Ude v. Nwara (1993)

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NOTICE OF POSSESSION OF LAND – ACTS DONE ON LAND

In Mogaji and Ors v. Cadbury Fry (Export) Ltd. (supra) at p. 88, Madarikan, JSC, delivering the judgment of the Supreme Court said: “Possession of a parcel of land means the occupation or physical control of the land either personally or through an agent. As stated by Lord Fitzgerald in Lord Advocate v. Young (1887) 12 App. Cas. 544 at p. 556, by possession is meant possession of that character of which the thing possessed is capable. Thus, if a person adduced evidence that he or his agent or servant were cultivating a farmland that would be evidence sufficient to establish that he was in possession of the land. Similarly, if a person erects on a parcel of land a signboard bearing his name, he hereby gives notice to all and sundry that he is in possession of the land.”

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