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BREACH OF COVENANT IS A MERE GROUND FOR FORFEITURE

Dictum

The 2nd respondent’s argument is also misplaced in another respect: It assumes that upon breach of a covenant in a lease, the forfeiture of the lease is automatic. It is, however, trite that a breach of a covenant is merely a ground for forfeiture. The lessee may, however, apply for relief.

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

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A CUSTOMARY TENANT CANNOT DISPUTE THE TITLE OF HIS TENANT

The statement that occupation by a customary tenant is no occupation by the landlord is, in my view, too wide and is certainly in disregard to the relationship between customary landlord and customary tenant. Although it has been said that a customary tenant who keeps the conditions imposed by the tenancy agreement can enjoy his tenancy in perpetuity, he is in
fact a tenant from year to year subject to the payment of rent or tribute. As in English Common Law when: a tenant cannot challenge the title of his landlord under customary law, a customary tenant cannot dispute the title of his landlord.

– Obaseki, JSC. Abioye v. Yakubu (1991) – SC.169/1987

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PLEA FOUNDED ON THE ALLEGATION OF CUSTOMARY TENANCY – LEGAL CONSEQUENCES

Now before proceeding to analyse the evidence, let me restate the legal consequences on the issue of burden of proof when a claim is founded on customary tenancy. It is settled principle of law that a claim which seeks a declaration that the Defendants are customary tenants of the plaintiff and other consequential reliefs emanating there from postulates that the Defendants are in exclusive possession of the land in dispute, and by the operation of Section 146 of the Evidence Act Cap. E14 of the Laws of the Federation, there is presumption that the Defendants in such exclusive possession are the owners of the land in dispute until the contrary is proved to rebut that presumption. The only way to rebut the presumption is by strict proof of the alleged customary tenancy. That is the danger of a plea founded on the allegation of customary tenancy.

— F.F. Tabai JSC. Tijani Dada v Jacob Bankole (2008) – S.C. 40/2003

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TENANCY IS A BILATERAL CONDUCT BETWEEN PARTIES

An act of a new tenancy is conscious and specific one which must be a subject of bilateral conduct on the part of the landlord and tenant. As a matter of law, the parties must clearly and unequivocally express their willingness to enter into the new tenancy at the termination of the old one. As a specific act emanating from the landlord and the tenant, it cannot be a subject of guess or speculation. An agreement or contract is a bilateral affair which needs the ad idem of the parties. Therefore where parties are not ad idem, the court will find as a matter of law that an agreement or contract was not duly made between the parties.

– Tobi JSC. Odutola v. Papersack (2007)

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RECOGNITION OF TWO CLASSES OF TENANTS

It is now well settled, by decided cases of this court that for the purposes of the Rent Control and Recovery of Premises, the law recognises only two classes of tenants. These are the contractual tenancies, and the statutory tenancies.

– Karibe-Whyte, JSC. Petroleum v. Owodunni (1991)

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STATUTORY TENANT & TENANT-AT-WILL

Hence when the initial occupation of premises is lawful, the occupier, even if holding over becomes a protected tenant qua the landlord. This is a status arising from a statute creating the tenancy. The difficulty arises when the contractual tenant who enters into possession lawfully continues at the expiration of the contract and against the wish of the owner of the premises without any contract. This is the situation described as tenant-at-will at common law. Under the 1976 Rent Edict, as soon as the contractual tenancy expires, the tenant, who becomes so by operation of law becomes a statutory tenant. He occupies the property as a tenant, and enjoys the restrictions against recovery imposed by the Edict. He enjoys protection and security of tenure and is at par with the contractual tenant. Although the tenant is protected from eviction except in accordance with the law, he is liable to pay for his occupation and use of the property.

– Karibe-Whyte, JSC. Petroleum v. Owodunni (1991)

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WRIT OF SUMMONS REGULARISES DEFECTIVE NOTICE TO QUIT

The ruse of faulty notice used by tenants to perpetuate possession in a house or property which the land lord had slaved to build and relies on for means of sustenance cannot be sustained in any just society under the guise of adherence to any technical rule. Equity demands that wherever and whenever there is controversy on when or how notice of forfeiture or notice to quit is disputed by the parties, or even where there is irregularity in giving notice to quit, the filing of an action by the landlord to of the property has to be sufficient notice on the tenant that he is required to yield up possession. I am not saying here that statutory and proper notice to quit should not be given. Whatever form the periodic tenancy is whether weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly etc., immediately a writ is filed to regain possession, their regularity of the notice if any is cured. Time to give notice should start to run from the date the writ is served. If for example, a yearly tenant, six months after the writ is served and so on. All the dance drama around the issue of the irregularity of the notice ends.

– Ogunwumiju JSC. Pillars v. William (2021)

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