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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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COURT JURISDICTION IN CUSTOMARY RIGHT OF OCCUPANCY GRANTED BY LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Olaleye-Ote & Anor v. Babalola (2012) LPELR-9275(SC), where it was stated that, “The Land Use Act vested jurisdiction in proceedings relating to Customary Right of Occupancy granted by a Local Government on: ‘An Area Court or Customary Court or other Court of equivalent jurisdiction in a State without classification. The State Law imposed classification with jurisdiction of each grade of Court based on the value or annual rental value of the land, this modifying the jurisdiction conferred by the Federal Law.’ In my humble view, the Federal Legislature effectively covered the field in relation to the jurisdiction of the relevant Courts over proceedings in matters of customary right of occupancy granted by a Local Government. The State Law conferring jurisdiction according to Grade and value of the land in litigation is in conflict with S.41 of the Land Use Act, a Federal legislation.”

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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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LAND USE FOR MARKET DOES NOT NECESSARILY MEAN IT IS A COMMUNAL LAND

The fact that land is used as a market does not necessarily mean that it is communal land. A market is no doubt a public place which may be an open space or a building where people go to buy and sell goods. But it does not follow from the fact that it is a public place that the market belongs to the community and not to an individual or a group of individuals. Even if the market is communally owned evidence as to the community which owns it must be forthcoming before one can come to the conclusion that it belongs to that community.

— Agbaje, JSC. Ogunleye v Oni (1990) – S.C. 193/1987

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PART PERFORMANCE REQUIRES POSSESSION INTO LAND

Therefore, for the plaintiff to be able to rely on part performance, he must be the person who has been let into possession of land and allowed to alter his position for the worse by carrying out acts in performance of the contract. Equity then come to his aid arising from the changed position in which he finds himself.

– Uwaifo JSC. Ekpanya v. Akpan (1988)

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ONUS ON CLAIMANT TO ESTABLISH PRECISE BOUNDARY OF LAND

The Plaintiffs/Appellants in this case claimed a declaration, damages for trespass and an injunction. Such a claim should be tied on to a definite and specific area of land so that any enuring judgment for the plaintiffs may inform the defendants what the opinion of the court is as to the limits of their rights and not expose them in the exercise of such rights to the consequences of violating an injunction based on a plan like Ex. A which not containing precise boundaries leaves the land in dispute vague and imprecise. It is not for the Defendant/Respondent to find out what portions of Ex.A belongs to the Plaintiffs/Appellants and what portions do not. That is the first hurdle a claimant to land will clear i.e. to establish the precise area he is claiming.

– Oputa JSC. OLUFOSOYE v. OLORUNFEMI (1989)

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OWNER OF LAND UNDER CUSTOMARY LAW REQUIRES CONSENT OF GOVERNOR TO ALIENATE

Land is still held under customary tenure even though dominium is in the Governor. The most pervasive effect of the Land use Act is the diminution of the plenitude of the powers of the holders of land. The character in which they hold remain substantially the same. Thus an owner at customary law remains owners all the same even though he no longer is the ultimate owner. The owner of land, now requires the consent of the Governor to alienate interests which hitherto he could do without such consent.

— Karibe-Whyte, JSC. Ogunola v. Eiyekole (1990) – SC.195/1987

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