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CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY ONLY GIVES RIGHT TO USE & OCCUPY

Dictum

On the other hand, a certificate of occupancy only gives the right to use and occupy land. It neither confers nor is it necessarily an evidence of title. — Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC. Ogunleye v Oni (1990) – S.C. 193/1987

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NO ROOT OF TITLE MAKES C of O MERE PAPER

Daniel Igwu Uche v. Jonah Eke and 2 Ors., the Supreme Court per Belgore JSC (as he then was and now CJN) had this to say at pages 6 to 7: “Any grant of land whether private or by statutory right of occupancy evidenced by a certificate of occupancy will be mere piece of paper not worth anything if the root of title to make the conveyance is not vested in the vendor. If this is not so, all a person has to do is to go to the land office of the government and obtain a right of occupancy in respect of land of a family who may not know that their land has been given to a complete stranger.”

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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The evidence shows that the right of the plaintiff was revoked on the pretext of overriding public interest but in reality the land was thereafter granted to the 3rd defendant, a private person, for its private business.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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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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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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CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY IS ONLY PRIMA FACIE EVIDENCE OF TITLE

It must however be stressed that this does not and cannot, mean that once instrument of title to land, such as a Deed of Conveyance or a Certificate of Statutory or Customary right of occupancy is tendered in court, this automatically proves that the land therein purportedly conveyed, granted or transferred by that instrument becomes the property of the grantee. See Prince Ngene v. Chike Igbo and Another (2000) 4 NWLR (Pt. 651) 131. The existence of a certificate of occupancy is merely a prima facie evidence of title to the land it covers and no more. Nor does mere registration validate spurious or fraudulent instrument of title or a transfer or grant which in law is patently invalid or ineffective. See Lababedi and Another v. Lagos Metal Industries Ltd. and Another (1973) 8 N.S.C.C. 1. (1973) 1 SC. 1.

— Iguh, JSC. Kyari v Alkali (2001) – SC.224/1993

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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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