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DENYING LANDLORD’S TITLE UNDER CUSTOMARY LAW WARRANTS FORFEITURE

Dictum

There is no doubt that from the pleading and the evidence the respondents have denied the title of the appellants which is an act of misconduct under customary law. It is an act of misbehaviour which attracts the penalty of forfeiture Ojomu v. Ajao (1983) 2 SCNLR 156; Josiah Aghenghen & Ors. v. Chief Maduku Waghoreghor (1974) 1 S.C.1, Ajani Taiwo & Ors. v. Adamo Akinwumi & Ors. (1975) 4 S.C. 143.

— Olatawura, JSC. Ogunola v. Eiyekole (1990) – SC.195/1987

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YORUBA CUSTOMARY LAW REQUIRES CONSENT OF FAMILY TO SELL LAND

It is a settled position of law that, by Yoruba Customary Law, a transaction for the sale and conveyance of family land requires the consent of all members of the family or substantial majority of them. See AFOLABI COKER VS MARIAMO OGUNTOLA & ORS (1985) 2 NWLR (Pt. 87); ELIAS VS OLAYEMI DISU & 3 ORS (1962) 1 ALL NLR 214; FOKO VS FOKO (1965) NMLR 3, EBOSIE VS EBOSIE (1976) 6 UILR 217.

— S.D. Bage, JSC. Onyekwuluje v Animashaun (2019) – SC.72/2006

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CUSTOM CAN BE PROVED BY A SINGLE WITNESS

In the cited case of Usiobaifo v. Usiobaifo (2005) 3 NWLR (Pt. 913) 665 Tobi JSC at pp. 683 – 684 paragraphs H D clarified the position thus – “The main crux of this appeal is whether the respondents proved the Ishan Customary Law of inheritance. The appellants submitted that they did not. The respondents submitted that they did prove the customary law. It is the argument of the appellants that a person other than the party asserting the custom should testify in proof or in support thereof. Although learned counsel cited Ozolua II v. Ekpenga and Oyediran v. Alebiosu (supra), it is my humble view that proof of customary law is not one of the areas in our adjectival law that need corroboration. While it could be desirable that a person other than the person asserting the Customary Law should testify in support of the customary law, it is not a desideratum. This is because the Evidence Act does not so provide. And here, Section 14(1) provides the anchor. The subsection merely provides that a custom ‘can be proved to exist by evidence.’ And evidence can be led on the existence of the custom by a single witness or more witnesses. It is not my understanding of the law that a village or community of witnesses must be called to satisfy the provision of Section 14(1). In the evidential scene in the context of probative value, it is not the number of witnesses that matter but the quality of the evidence given. And so, a situation may arise where a single witness gives credible evidence while a number of witnesses may not because they are a bundle of contradictions. Therefore emphasis should be on quality of the evidence given rather than the quantity.” (Underlining supplied for emphasis)

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NATIVE LAW AND CUSTOM MUST BE PLEADED

The burden of proof of customary law is on the party asserting its existence. See Usibiafo v. Usibiafo (2005) 3 NWLR (Pt.913) 665 at 684; Sokwo v. Kpongbo (supra). It has been established through plethora of cases that it is extremely important that native law and custom must be pleaded and strictly proved by credible evidence. This case is not predicated on proof by the mode of judicial notice, but by proof of evidence.

— T. Akomolafe-Wilson, JCA. Alabi v Audu (2017) – CA/A/494/2014

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WHAT JUDGE MAY DO WHEN CUSTOMARY LAW IS NOT PLEADED

When the learned trial Judge felt convinced that the fact of the customary law of Enugu-Ukwu relevant and material to the case ought to have been pleaded and proved, but was not, he could not have suggested to the respondents (plaintiffs before the court) to amend their pleadings. To have done so would have meant that he was aiding them to establish their case. But he could have advised himself that unless pleadings were duly amended, he could not raise the lack of proof of the fact, material as it was, suo motu, and proceeded to make an order of striking out on that ground. He could have properly called on counsel on both sides at the address stage of the proceedings to address him on the propriety of a non-suit as, unlike in Lagos State, for which see Anyakwo v. A.C.B. Ltd. (1976) 2 S.C. 41, pp. 55-65; Lawal v. National Electric Power Authority (1976) 3 S.C. 109, p.135, a decree of non-suit is still available in Anambra.

— Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC. Ugo v Obiekwe (1989) – SC.207/1985

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APPEAL FROM CUSTOMARY COURT OF APPEAL TO COURT OF APPEAL MUST RELATE TO CUSTOMARY QUESTION

Pam vs. Gwom (2000) FWLR 9Pt.1) 1 at 12 that: “The right of appeal from the Customary Court of Appeal to the Court of Appeal is as of right and must relate to any question of Customary Law and/or such other matters as may be prescribed by an Act of National Assembly that can extend this right by providing for such matters. Neither the Federal Military Government nor the National Assembly, made such other provision as envisaged in Section 224(1) of the 1979 Constitution. In the circumstances, for an appeal from the Customary Court of Appeal to the Court of Appeal to be competent, it must raise a question of Customary Law.”
Ayoola JSC: “The question therefore is: when is a decision in respect of a question of Customary Law? I venture to think that a decision is in respect of Customary Law when the controversy involves a determination of what the relevant Customary Law is and the application of the customary Law so ascertained to the question in controversy… When the decision of the Customary Court of Appeal turns purely on facts, or a question of procedure, such decision is not with respect to a question of Customary Law, not withstanding that the applicable law is Customary Law.”

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PATERNITY ACKNOWLEDGED CHILD WILL SHARE IN ESTATE

Alake v. Pratt (1955) 15 W.A.C.A. 20, to the effect that if paternity of children is acknowledged by a man during his lifetime they are to be regarded as legitimate and entitled to share in his estate with his children born of a marriage contracted under the Marriage Ordinance.

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