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CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY ONLY GIVES RIGHT TO USE & OCCUPY

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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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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OF OCCUPANCY ACQUIRED OVER A PARCEL OF LAND WHEN THERE IS IN EXISTENCE ANOTHER CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY, WHICH HAS NOT BEEN REVOKED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of occupancy acquired over a parcel of land when there is in existence another certificate of occupancy, which has not been revoked in accordance with the law, the latter title cannot be valid in law.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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PRESUMPTION RAISED BY CERTIFICATES OF OCCUPANCY

“Being certificates of occupancy, they raise presumption that the person named therein is the holder of title thereof. See Mani Vs Shanono (2007) ALL FWLR (PT. 724) P. 305 @ 318.” — I.S. Bdliya, JCA. Umar Ibrahim v Nasiru Danladi Mu’azu & 2 Ors. (2022) – CA/G/317/2019

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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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CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY GRANTED TO ONE WHO HAS NOT PROVED A BETTER TITLE

It must be noted that the Land Use Act never set out to abolish all existing titles and rights to possession of land. Rather, where such rights or titles relate to developed lands in urban areas, the possessor or owner of the right or title is deemed to be a statutory grantee of a right of occupancy under section 34(2) of the Act. Where it is non-urban land, the holder or owner under customary law or otherwise is deemed to be a deemed grantee of a right of occupancy by the appropriate Local Government under section 36(2). This court re-affirmed this position in the case of Dzungwe v. Gbishe & Anor. (1985) 2 N.W.L.R. (Part 8) 528 at p.540. So, in a case like the instant, the issue is often who proved a better title or right to possess the land. 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. The courts cannot close their eyes to the weakness of his case for entitlement to it and hold that his weak title has been strengthened by the grant of the certificate of occupancy. Indeed a certificate of occupancy properly issued under section 9 of the Land Use Act ought to be a reflection and an assurance that the grantee has to be in occupation of the land. Where it is shown by evidence that another person had a better right to the grant, the court will have no alternative but to set aside the grant, if asked to do so, or otherwise to ignore it.

— Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC. Ogunleye v Oni (1990) – S.C. 193/1987

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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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CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY IS A PRESUMPTION OF TITLE – BETTER TITLE REBUTS IT

In other words, a certificate of occupancy properly issued by a competent authority raises the presumption that the holder is the owner in exclusive possession of the land in respect thereof. Such a certificate also raises the presumption that at the time it was issued there was not in existence a customary owner whose title has not been revoked. The presumption is however rebuttable because if it is proved by evidence that another person had better title to the land before the issuance of the certificate of occupancy then the court can revoke it. See Osazuwa v. Oji (1999) 13 NWLR (Pt. 634) 286. See also Atta vs. Ezeanah (2001) FWLR (Pt. 49) 1489, (2000) 11 NWLR (Pt. 678) 363; Shogo vs. Adebayo (2000) 14 NWLR (Pt. 686) 121.

— N. Tobi, JSC. Ezennah v Atta (2004) – SC.226/2000

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