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DUTY OF PARTY CLAIMING LAND THROUGH HISTORY OF OWNERSHIP

Dictum

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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THE WAY TO TEST THE TRUTH IN TRADITIONAL HISTORY WHERE CONFLICT

The treatment of traditional evidence or history has over the years come to be regulated by what I may call the rule in Kojo II v. Bonsie (1957) 1 NMLR 1223. The proposition of law relating to traditional evidence as decided in Kojo II v. Bonsie is that where there is a conflict of traditional history, demeanour by itself, is of little guide to the truth. The best way to test the traditional history is by reference to the facts in recent years as established by evidence and by seeing which of the two competing histories is more probable.

– Aderemi JCA. Irawo v. Adedokun (2004)

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WHERE IDENTITY OF LAND NOT IN DISPUTE, DECLARATION OF TITLE MAY BE MADE WITHOUT SURVEY PLAN

The first point that must be made is the basic principle of law that in a counter-claim, just like in any other claim for declaration of title to land, the onus lies on the claimant to prove with precision and certainty and without inconsistency the identity of the land to which his claim or counter-claim relates. See Onwuka v.Ediala (1989) 1 NWLR (Pt. 96) 182; Ezeokeke v. Umunocha Uga (1962) 1 All NLR 477. (1962) 2 SCNLR 199; Olusanmi v. Oshasona (1992) 6 NWLR (Pt. 245) 22 at 36, Udeze v. Chidebe (1990) 1 NWLR (Pt. 125) 141 etc. There can be no doubt that the most common and, perhaps, the easiest way of establishing the precise area of land in dispute is by the production of a survey plan of such land. It is, however, equally clear that it is not in all cases for declaration of title to land that it is necessary to survey and/or tender the survey plan of the land in dispute. There are many cases in which no survey plans are essential for a proper determination of the issue. What the court must consider is whether, in a particular case, it is necessary for the proper trial of the action for a survey plan to be produced. Where there is no difficulty in identifying the land in dispute, a declaration of title may be made without the necessity of tying it to a survey plan.

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

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HAD TITLE TO LAND BEFORE COMING OF THE LAND USE ACT IS CONSIDERED HOLDER

A person or Community that had title to a parcel of land before the coming into force of the Land Use Act, 1978 is deemed to be a holder of a right of occupancy, statutory right of occupancy or customary right of occupancy, depending on the status of the land – whether it is in urban area or in non-urban area. See Section 34(2), (3) and (6) and Section 36(2), (3) and (4) of the Land Use Act.

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

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REGISTRABLE INSTRUMENT NOT REGISTERED CANNOT BE RELIED UPON TO PROVE TITLE

The crucial question to be answered in this appeal is what is the effect of the non-registration of Exhibits -E’ and ‘F which are registrable instruments within the provisions of section 2 of the Land Instruments Registration Law. There is a long and impressive judicial authority for the proposition that the non-registration of a registrable instrument renders such instrument inadmissible as evidence in a litigation where such instrument is relied upon as evidence of title. – See Abdallah Jammal v. Said; & Fetuga 11 NLR. 86. Elkali & anor. v. Fawaz 6 WACA. 212 at p. 214. Coker v. Ogunye (1939) 15 NLR. 57; Ogunbambi v. Abowab (1951) 13 WACA. 222. Amankra v. Zankley (1963) 1 All NLR. 364. Section 15 of the Lands Instrument Registration Law provides simply as follows – “No instrument shall be pleaded or given in evidence in any Court as affecting any land unless the same shall have been registered. Provided that a memorandum given in respect of an equitable mortgage affecting land in Eastern Nigeria executed before the 1st day of July, 1944, and not registered under this Law may be pleaded and shall not be inadmissible in evidence by reason only of not being so registered.”

— Karibe-Whyte JSC. Okoye v Dumez & Ors. (1985) – SC.89/1984

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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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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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