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CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY IS NOT CONCLUSIVE PROOF OF RIGHT OF OCCUPANCY

Dictum

I think the point must be stressed that a certificate of statutory or customary right of occupancy issued under the Land Use Act, 1978 cannot be said to be conclusive evidence of any right, interest or valid title to land in favour of the grantee. It is, at best, only a prima facie evidence of such right, interest or title without more and may in appropriate cases be effectively challenged and rendered invalid and null and void. See Lababedi v. Lagos Metal Industries (Nig.) Ltd. (1973) NSCC 1 at 6.

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

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MILITARY GOVERNOR CAN ONLY GRANT RIGHTS OF OCCUPANCY

Having removed the radical title from Nigerians, it has vested the control and management of the land in each state in the Military Governor in the case of land in the urban areas (see section 2(1)(a) and in the Local Government in the case of non-urban areas (see section 2(1)(b). The only interests in land the Military Governor and the Local Government can lawfully grant are rights of occupancy. (See sections 5 and 6). These rights of occupancy fall into two categories, namely (a) statutory right of occupancy. (See sections 5(1) and (2), customary right of occupancy (see section 6(1)(a & b). They cannot grant absolute interests or fee simple absolute to any person.

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

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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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GOVERNOR HAS NO RIGHT TO REVOKE R OF O FOR ANOTHER PRIVATE PERSON

The evidence shows that the right of the plaintiff was revoked on the pretext of overriding public interest but in reality the land was thereafter granted to the 3rd defendant, a private person, for its private business. With the exception of revocation on ground of alienation under section 28(2) (a) or of the requirement of the land for mining purpose or oil pipelines under section 28(2)(c), the Governor has no right to revoke the statutory right of an occupier and grant the same to a private person for any other purpose than those specified by section 28(2) of the Act.

— Bello, CJN. Foreign Finance Corp. v Lagos State Devt. & Pty. Corp. & Ors. (1991) – SC. 9/1988

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

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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R OF O HOLDS LARGER INTEREST THAN HOLDER OF LEASE

The Interest of a lessee in land is not exactly the same as that of a holder of a right of occupancy. A holder of a right of occupancy enjoys a larger interest than a holder of a lease (i.e. lease) although the two interests enjoy a common denominator which is a term of years.

— Obaseki, JSC. Foreign Finance Corp. v Lagos State Devt. & Pty. Corp. & Ors. (1991) – SC. 9/1988

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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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