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CUSTOMARY TENANT AND LAND USE ACT

Dictum

It was the appellants’ contention that the claims of the parties were based on the Land Use Act. 1975. That was not disputed as the suit was filed in the trial High Court in 1981. On that date the Land Use Act had become applicable to all land in Imo State of Nigeria and by virtue of section 1 of the Act, same has been vested in the Governor of that State on that date. This provision takes away the freehold title vested in individuals or communities but not the customary right of use and control of the land. Section 36(1) does not enlarge the right of a customary tenant to any piece of land in non-urban area which was, at the commencement of the Act in his possession and occupation. A customary tenant remains so and is subject to the conditions attached to the customary tenancy.

— Wali JSC. Onwuka & Ors. V. Ediala & Anor. (SC.18/1987, 20 January 1989)

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LANDLORD CAN BE LIABLE IN TRESPASS TO A TENANT OR LICENSEE

Trespass, of course, is a wrong against possession of land. It is not in dispute that by virtue of his employment the plaintiff was let into possession of the premises situate at 4 Benue Road in the defendant Company’s estate at Ogunu and was paying rent to the Company. Under the contract by which he held the premises he was to quit the premises within one month of his ceasing to remain in the employ of the Company. When plaintiff’s employment was terminated on 18th August 1981, he was given notice by the Company to quit the premises by 18th September 1981. If he remained in possession after that date, he would become a trespasser. But this fact did not give the defendant company right to forcibly evict him. If it did so, it would be liable to the plaintiff in trespass. It is immaterial, in my respectful view, that he was a tenant or a licensee.

– Ogundare, JSC. Chukwumah v. SPDC (1993)

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COVENANT TO PAY RENT IS INDEPENDENT OF LANDLORD’S DUTY TO REPAIR

Oke v. Salako (1972) 11 CCHCJ 88, wherein Kassim, J., held – “…A tenant’s covenant to pay rent is independent of the landlord’s covenant to repair the premises; the tenant is not discharged from his obligation to pay rent merely because his landlord is unwilling to fulfill his obligation.”

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CONDUCT OF PARTIES MAY DECIDE IF A TENANCY HAS BEEN CREATED

Isaac v. Hotel de Paris Limited (1960) 1 ALL E.R. 348, it was held that the intention of the parties and the conduct of the parties must be the deciding factor whether a tenancy has been created or the relationship was merely that of a licensor and licensee even though there was exclusive possession by the appellant and the acceptance of the amount of the rent by the respondent company.

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WHEN RENT IS DUE FOR PAYMENT

Rent is paid as an acknowledgment of tenancy, and it shall be paid to the landlord or his agent in person or otherwise as directed by the landlord, when due depending on the terms of the tenancy, which in this case is monthly. By virtue of section 77(1) – Landlord and Tenants Law rent becomes due in the morning of the day appointed by the parties to a tenancy for payment thereof, if no specific day is appointed, rent becomes due on the last day of the period for which it is payable, so that annual rent payable annually becomes due on the last day of the year in respect of which it is payable, rent payable monthly becomes due on the last day of the month and so on.

– ADEKEYE JCA. Anyafulu v. Agazie (2005)

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CUSTOMARY TENANT CANNOT BE IN POSSESSION WHERE LANDLORD NOT IN POSSESSION

A customary tenant is a tenant from year to year liable under Customary Law to pay rents or tribute to the landlord for the use of the land and barred from alienating the land or disputing the title of the landlord without consent. He cannot be in possession if his landlord is out of possession as the possession he enjoys is that given by the landlord. The landlord is the
holder under the Land Use Act and the tenant does not come within the definition of holder. Where there is a holder, the tenant although an occupier, is not entitled to a customary right of occupancy.

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

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TENANCY AT WILL COMMENCES AFTER YEARLY TENANCY IF NO RENEWAL

I hold the considered view that from the moment a year’s rent became due and payable by the respondent but remained unpaid, the yearly tenancy, if any, created by the conduct of the parties thereto came to an end by effluxion of time and the respondent thereby became a tenant at will of the 1st appellant by continuing in possession of the property. In law we describe the respondent at that stage as holding over the property and in that capacity it became a tenant at will.

– Onnoghen JSC. Odutola v. Papersack (2007)

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