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DUTY OF PARTY CLAIMING LAND THROUGH HISTORY OF OWNERSHIP

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The law is clear that it is not enough for a plaintiff seeking a declaration of title to land to lead evidence to trace his title to a particular person. He must go beyond that to establish by credible evidence the root of that person’s title otherwise title will not be declared in him: See Mogaji v. Cadbury Nigeria Ltd. (1985) 2 NWLR (Pt.7) 393; (1985) 7 SC 59; Ogunleye v. Oni (1990) 2 NWLR (Pt.135) 745; Uche v. Eke (1992) 2 NWLR (pt.224) 433.

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

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WHETHER ACTS OF LONG POSSESSION OF LAND IS SOLELY SUFFICIENT TO PROVE TITLE TO LAND

“Finally, on the issue of long possession, the law is settled that long possession alone cannot imbue title on a claimant where he is unable to prove his root of title and more so, in the face of a person who is in possession and asserts ownership of the land.”

— J.H. Sankey, JCA. Ibrahim Muli v Sali Akwai (2021) – CA/G/423/2019

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ESSENCE OF REGISTRATION OF TITLE – ACQUIRING INDEFEASIBLE RIGHT

As observed by the Privy Council in Gibbs v. Messer (1891) A.C. 248 at 254, per Lord Watson delivering the judgment of the Board in regard to a similar law as to registration of title: “The object is to save persons dealing with registered proprietors from the trouble and expense of going behind the register, in order to investigate the history of their author’s [i.e. vendor’s] title, and to satisfy themselves of its validity. That end is accomplished by providing that everyone who purchases in bona fide and for value, from a registered proprietor, and enters his deed of transfer or mortgage on the register, shall thereby acquire an indefeasible right, notwithstanding the infirmity of his author’s title.”

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FIVE WAYS TITLE TO LAND COULD BE PROVED

Idundun v. Okumagba (1976) 9-10 SC 227; (1976) 1 NMLR 200, this court enumerated five ways in which title or ownership of land could be proved. These are: (1) By traditional evidence. (2) By production of documents of title duly authenticated and executed. (3) By acts of ownership extending over a sufficient length of time numerous and positive enough to warrant the inference of true ownership. (4) By acts of long possession and enjoyment, and (5) Proof of possession of connected or adjacent land in circumstances rendering it probable that the owner of such connected or adjacent land would, in addition, be the owner of the land in dispute.

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PARTY MUST AS WELL ESTABLISH THE TITLE OF WHO HE TRACES TO

It is well settled that once a party pleads and traces his root of title in an action involving title to land to a particular person or source, and this averment, as in the present case, is disputed or challenged, that party, to succeed, as a plaintiff in the suit must not only establish his own title to such land, he must also satisfy the court on the validity of the title of that particular person or source from whom he claims to have derived his title. See Mogaji v. Cadbury Nigeria Ltd. (1985) 7 SC 59, (1985) 2 NWLR (pt.7) 393 at 431; Elias v. Omo-Bare (1982) 5 SC 25 at 37 – 38.

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

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PAYMENT OF PURCHASE PRICE GIVES THE PURCHASER AN EQUITABLE TITLE

Viewed even from the standpoint of the common law, payment of purchase price coupled with possession gives the purchaser an equitable title and he is entitled to seek an order of specific performance to compel the vendor to convey legal title to him. But where the purchaser price is not fully paid, the purchaser will have no right to enforce specific performance – see Hewe v. Smith (1884) 27 Ch D 89, a case relied on by the learned trial judge.

— M.E. Ogundare, JSC. Odusoga v Ricketts (1997) – SC.57/1990

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WAYS OF PROVING OWNERSHIP OF AND TITLE TO A PIECE OF LAND

“The law is trite that in claims for declaration of title to land, there are five recognised ways of proving ownership of and title to a piece of land; and they are: (a) by traditional history of the land which includes modes of acquisition of same by deforestation of the virgin forest by the first settler, conquest of the original owners through acts of war, gifts, etc; (b) by production of documents of title to the land; (c) acts of possession; (d) acts of selling or leasing portions of the land; and proof of possession of connected or adjacent land – Odunze V Nwosu (2007) LPELR-2252(SC) 67, C-F, per Onnoghen, JSC; Idundun V Okumagba (1976) 9-10 SC 227; Omoregie V Idugiemwanye (1985) 2 NWLR (Pt. 5) 41; Duru V Nwosu (1989) LPELR-968(SC) 33.”

— J.H. Sankey, JCA. Ibrahim Muli v Sali Akwai (2021) – CA/G/423/2019

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