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CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY IS ONLY EVIDENCE OF TITLE

Dictum

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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NEW CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY CANNOT BE AWARDED WITHOUT THE EARLY ONE REVOKED

All the documents that the Appellant is referring to as root of his title cannot support his case even if it was accepted as the root of title because the law does not permit any authority to allocation the same land that has earlier been allocated to another person. Without a proper revocation of a certificate of Occupancy, no authority has power to allocate the same land to another. See Na’adade Petroleum Ltd v. FCT Minister & Ors (2022) LPELR-57127 (CA).

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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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DEEMED HOLDER OF RIGHT OF OCCUPANCY

The land in dispute being developed land before the Land Use Act came into force, who ever had it vested in him then was deemed to have continued to hold the land after the commencement of the Act as if he was the holder of a statutory right of occupancy issued by the Governor under S.5 of the Act. It then follows that no other person can be granted a right of occupancy unless S. 28 of the Act is complied with. Any right of occupancy otherwise purportedly granted is contrary to the provisions of the Act and will be of no validity. See Teniola v. Olohunkun (1999) 5 NWLR (Pt.602) 280. It will be set aside by the court in an appropriate case, or be discountenanced when relied on as against a subsisting holder or deemed holder of a right of occupancy.

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

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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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THE WEIGHT OF A CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY

It is settled law that a certificate of occupancy is only a prima facie evidence of title or right of occupancy in favour of the person whose name is on the certificate of occupancy. Where a rebuttal is raised on that presumption, the trial court is bound to examine all the surrounding circumstances, including the nature of competing claims, why the certificate of occupancy is issued in that person’s name and any other issues of law or fact on why a rebuttal of that presumption is raised.

– Bulkachuwa, JSC. Atta v. Ezeanah (2000)

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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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