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CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY GRANTED TO ONE WHO HAS NO BETTER TITLE CONTRADICTS THE LAND USE ACT

Dictum

As the position was explained by this court in Ogunleye v. Oni (1990) 2 NWLR (Pt.135) 745 at 752,774 – 786: “This is the weakness of a certificate of occupancy issued in such a case. It is never associated with title. Thus, where as in this case, a certificate of occupancy has been granted to one of the claimants who has not proved a better title then it has been granted against the letters and spirit of the Land Use Act.”

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CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY IS ONLY EVIDENCE OF TITLE

It is also trite that a Certificate of Occupancy is only prima facie evidence of title or possession, but it is not conclusive proof of title to the land to which it relates. See: Registered Trustees Mission vs Olowoleni (1990) 6 NWLR (Pt. 158) 514: Otukpo Vs John (Supra): Adole Vs Gwar (2008) 11 NWLR (Pt. 1099) 562: (2008) LPELR-189 (SC) @ 17 D-E.

— K.M.O. Kekere-Ekun, JSC. Reg. Trustees Apostolic Church v. Reg. Trustees of Grace Church (2021) – SC.270/2011

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PARTY WITH A BETTER TITLE WILL DEFEAT PARTY WHO HAS A CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY

Where a certificate of occupancy has been granted to one of two claimants who has not proved a better title, it must be deemed to be defective and to have been granted or issued erroneously and against the spirit of the Land Use Act and the holder of such a certificate would have no legal basis for a valid claim over the land in issue. So, too, where it is shown by evidence that another person other than the grantee of a certificate of occupancy had a better right to the grant, the court may have no option but to set aside the grant or otherwise discountenance it as invalid, defective and/or spurious as the case may be. See Joshua Ogunleye v. Oni (supra), Dzungwe v. Gbishe and Another (1985) 2 NWLR (Pt.8) 528 at 540. For a certificate of occupancy under the Land Use Act, 1978 to be therefore valid, there must not be in existence at the time the certificate was issued, a statutory or customary owner of the land in issue who was not divested of his legal interest to the land prior to the grant.

— Iguh, JSC. Olohunde v. Adeyoju (2000) – SC.15/1995

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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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CUSTOMARY RIGHT OF OCCUPANCY PREDATES THE LAND USE ACT AND LINKED WITH THE CUSTOM

A person with a customary right of occupancy is entitled to use the land in accordance with customary law. A customary right of occupancy pre-dates the Land Use Act and is intimately linked with the custom of the people of the area. It is a creation of customary law and the fact that it can now be granted by the local government has not taken it out of the realm of customary law. The total quantum of interest contained in the right of occupancy has to be determined by the customary law of the area. Its creation does not extinguish the rights of other persons in the land.

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

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STATUS OF A RIGHT OF OCCUPANCY ACQUIRED OVER A PARCEL OF LAND WHEN THERE IS IN EXISTENCE ANOTHER CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY, WHICH HAS NOT BEEN REVOKED

“Where two or more persons claim title to land by virtue a certificate of occupancy, the first in time takes precedence over and above the former. Furthermore, the law is trite, any title or right of occupancy acquired over a parcel of land when there is in existence another certificate of occupancy, which has not been revoked in accordance with the law, the latter title cannot be valid in law. See Adole v. Gwar (2008) 11 NWLR (Pt. 1099) P. 562; Salami v. Oke (1987) 4 NWLR (Pt. 63 P. 1; Ajilo v. SBN Ltd (1989) 1 NWLR (Pt. 97) P. 555 and Ogunleye v. Oni (1995) 2 NWLR (Pt. 135) P. 745.” — I.S. Bdliya, JCA. Umar Ibrahim v Nasiru Danladi Mu’azu & 2 Ors. (2022) – CA/G/317/2019

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POSITION OF THE LAW WHERE TWO OR MORE PERSONS CLAIM A RIGHT OF OCCUPANCY OVER THE SAME LAND

“The law has been settled for long that where two or more persons claim title to land or a right of occupancy over the same land, the first in time takes priority as it is stronger in law. The latter grantee is deemed not to have been granted any title or right of occupancy. A grantor of title or right of occupancy cannot give title or right of occupancy to two persons, one must be valid, the other invalid. The law is trite one cannot grant title over a parcel of land and still be in legal position to grant such title to another. He would have no such title to grant to the latter grantee under the doctrine of “nemo dat quad non habet”. See FBB Ind. Ltd. v. Mutunci Co. (Nig.) Ltd. (2012) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1297) P. 487 @ 524; Omiyale v. Macaulay (2007) 7 NWLR (Pt. 1141) P. 597; Ibrahim v. Osunde (2009) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1137) P. 382; Ashiru v. Olukoya (2006) 11 NWLR (Pt. 990) P. 1 and Dantsoho v. Mohammed (2003) 6 NWLR (Pt. 817) P. 457.”

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

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