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AFTER LAND USE ACT, SHALL CONTINUE TO HOLD AS IF HE HAS CUSTOMARY RIGHT OF OCCUPANCY

Dictum

Where developed land is not in urban area, the law is that the person in whom such land was vested before the Act came into commencement shall continue to have it vested in him as if he was a holder of a customary right of occupancy granted by a local government. It could therefore be seen that the Land use Act is not a magic wand it is being portrayed to be or a destructive monster that at once swallowed all rights on land and that the Governor or local government with mere issuance of a piece of paper, could divest families of their homes and agricultural lands overnight with a rich holder of certificate of occupancy driving them out with bulldozers and cranes. The law as it is that in areas not declared urban by a state government everybody remains where he has always been as if the new Act has vested in him a customary right of occupancy.

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

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WHERE TWO CERTIFICATES OF OCCUPANCY ARE ISSUED OVER THE SAME LAND

“The certificate of occupancy issued in 2008 supersedes and takes priority over the one issued in 2011. Where two persons trace their root of title to the same source, the earlier in time prevails. See Ejuetam v. Olaiya (2001) RSCNl P. 140 @ 168.”

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

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CIRCUMSTANCE WHERE A CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY IS LIABLE TO BE DECLARED INVALID

“A certificate of occupancy or any other document of title is prima facie evidence of title, but will give way to a better title. A person in whose name a certificate of occupancy has been issued can only validly hold on to it if he can show that he legitimately acquired the land. He should be able to show that the certificate was issued in his favour after he had properly acquired the land. Thus, where it is proved that another right of occupancy resides in another person, and such right has not been extinguished, the certificate of occupancy is liable to be declared invalid. See also the following cases: Ilona Vs Idakwo (2003) 11 NWLR (Pt. 830) P. 53; Eso Vs Adeyemi; Azi Vs Reg. Trustees Of The Evan. Church Of West Africa (1991) NWLR (Pt. 155) P. 113; and Reg. Trustees, Apostolic Church Vs Olowoleni (1995) 6 NWLR (Pt. 158) P. 514.”

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

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ILLEGAL REVOCATION OF A STATUTORY RIGHT OF OCCUPANCY

See Ibrahim v. Mohammed (2003) 6 NWLR (Pt.817) 615 at 645 where Kalgo, JSC put the position of the law thus – “It is not in dispute that in the instant appeal, the respondent was not notified by the Governor of the intended revocation of his earlier grant exhibit 1 before granting exhibit A8 (AI3) to the appellant. This is in clear contravention of section 28(6) of the Act, it was also not shown by evidence that the respondent’s land was required for public purposes or interest. The respondent was not heard before the grant of his land was made to the appellant and no compensation was offered or given to the respondent as required by the Act. It is my respective view therefore, that under these circumstances the grant of the statutory right of occupancy over the same piece or parcel of land to which the respondent had earlier been granted certificate of occupancy, was invalid, null and void.”

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CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY IS A PRESUMPTION OF EXCLUSIVE POSSESSION

It is settled law that a Certificate of Occupancy regularity issued by competent authority raises the presumption that the holder is the owner in exclusive possession of the land in respect thereof. The presumption is however rebuttable. But there is no evidence from the Appellant to rebut the presumption. As a matter of fact, the Appellants did not attack the Certificate of Occupancy.

— F.F. Tabai, JSC. Agboola v UBA (2011) – SC.86/2003

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CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY IS IN SUBSTANCE A TERM OF YEARS MAKING IT A LEASE

What is the legal basis of a certificate of occupancy? A holder of a certificate of occupancy holds the title to the property and subject only to the conditions stipulated in the Land Use Act. A certificate of occupancy creates a term of years absolute or a lease for a number of years stated therein. See Chiroma vs. Suwa (1986) 1 NWLR (pt. 19) 751. The greatest legal estate that can now subsist under the Land Use Act is a term of years. The grant of a term of years under a certificate of occupancy is in substance a lease. See Dr Otti vs. Attorney-General of Plateau State (1985) HCNLR 787.

— N. Tobi, JSC. Ezennah v Atta (2004) – SC.226/2000

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CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY IS PRIMA FACIE EVIDENCE OF R of O

Wakama v. Kalio (supra), Musdapher JCA (as he then was) had this to say on pages 130/131: “The mere fact that a certificate of occupancy is issued by the Governor does not automatically vest the leasehold thereby created in favour of the person named. A certificate is only a prima facie evidence of the right of occupancy in favour of the person named as allottee. Thus any person without title to a parcel of land in respect of which a certificate of occupancy is issued acquired no right or interest.”

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