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FIVE METHODS BY WHICH TITLE TO LAND MAY BE PROVED

Dictum

In this regard, it is long settled that there are five methods by which ownership of land may be proved by a claimant. These are as follows: (i) By traditional evidence; (ii) By production of document of title which must be duly authenticated; (iii) By the exercise of numerous and positive acts of ownership over a sufficient length of time to warrant the inference that the person is the true owner of the land; (iv) By acts of long possession and enjoyment of the land; and (v) By 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. See Idundun & Ors v. Okumagba and Others (1976) N.S.C.C. 445, (1976) 9-10 SC 227 AT 249 or (1976) 1 NMLR 200.

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

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PURCHASER OF REGISTERED LAND IS NOT AFFECTED BY NOTICE

Thus a purchaser of registered land is not affected with notice either actual or constructive, of any unregistered estate, interest or claim which affects the estate of his vendor. The estate of a first registered owner for value is free from unregistered estate, interest or claim affecting the land. It is not limited by any interest adverse to or in derogation of his title subsisting or capable of arising at the time of first registration. The plaintiff having tendered the documents enumerated above ought to have been declared owner of the parcel of land and if the courts below had appreciated the basic idea behind registration of title under cap, 166, Laws of Lagos State, 1994 and its incidents, their decisions would have been different. There is no way the defendants can successfully challenge the title of the plaintiff short of the rectification of the register in accordance with sections 60 and 61 of the law, Since that was not the case, the title of the plaintiff in respect of plots 89, 91 and 93 remains indefeasible.

— Ogwuegbu, JSC. Onagoruwa & Ors. v. Akinremi (2001) – SC.191/1997

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WHEN ROOT OF TITLE NEEDS TO BE PROVED

Uche v. Eke (1998) 9 NWLR (Pt. 564) 24 at 35, this court, per Iguh, JSC observed: “In the first place, it has been stressed times without number that it would be wrong to assume that all a person who resorts to a grant as a method of proving his title to land needs do is simply to produce his deed of title and rest his case thereon. Without doubt, the mere tendering of such document of title may be sufficient to prove such grant where the title of the grantor to such land is either admitted or not in dispute. Where, however, as in the present case, an issue has been seriously raised as to the title of such a grantor to the land in dispute, the origin or root of title of such a grantor must not only be clearly averred in the pleadings, it must also be proved by evidence.”

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WHEN THERE ARE EQUAL EQUITIES IN A CLAIM FOR TITLE TO LAND

“The Appellant and the 3rd Respondent in this appeal were all claiming title to the subject property to wit: Right of Occupancy No. GM/14660 on plot E-43 on GDP/4 Layout situate at the City Center behind Federal Medical Center, Gombe. Both parties were claiming title to the land in dispute relying on the allocation made to them by the 1st and 2nd Respondents. Their title is therefore from the same source. The law in such a situation is settled, which is that, when the equities are equal the first in time will prevail and consequently be awarded title to the land. See Achilihu vs Anyatonwu (2013) 12 NWLR (pt 1368) 256.”

— E. Tobi, JCA. Umar Ibrahim v Nasiru Danladi Mu’azu & 2 Ors. (2022) – CA/G/317/2019

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PAYMENT OF PURCHASE PRICE DOES NOT VEST EQUITABLE TITLE

As stated earlier, payment of purchase price alone does not vest equitable title of property and the best that the payment of purchase price can do is to entitle the purchaser to a claim for specific performance of the contract of sale.

– Abiru, JCA. Okoli v. Gaya (2014)

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IMPROPER SALE DOES NOT VITIATE TITLE OF SUBSEQUENT PURCHASER

I need to stress here that a mortgagee’s power of sale becomes exercisable if it has arisen and once it has so arisen, the title of the subsequent purchaser will not be affected by its improper or irregular exercise and the sale will be regarded valid. See MAJEKODUNMI & ORS V. CO-OP BANK LTD (1997) 10 NWLR (prt. 524) 198. But, in exercising the power of sale, a mortgagee is under duty to take reasonable care to obtain the true value of the property. See TEMCO ENG. & CO LTD V. S.B.N. LTD (1995) 5 NWLR (prt. 397) 607. However, a mortgagee will not be restrained on the exercise of his power of sale merely because the mortgagor objects to the manner in which the sale is being arranged or because the mortgagor has commenced a redemption action in Court, but he (mortgagee) will be restrained if the mortgagor pays the amount claimed by the mortgagee into Court.

— M.L. Shuaibu, JCA. FBN v Benlion (2021) – CA/C/31/2016

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FIVE METHODS OF PROVING TITLE TO LAND

It is now well settled law that in a claim for declaration of title to land, a party claiming title to land must do so by proving with credible evidence one or more of the five methods of proving title to land, namely: A. Evidence of traditional history of title; B. Production of genuine and valid documents of title; C. Acts of Ownership numerous enough; D. Acts of possession over a long period of time and E. Act of possession of adjacent land long enough to make it probable that the owner of the adjacent land is also the owner of the land in dispute. The 1st Appellant and the 1st Respondent, thus had open to them one or more of the above five methods to prove their title to the land in dispute and the law is that proof of any of these methods by credible evidence would be sufficient to ground an action for declaration of title to land.

— B.A. Georgewill, JCA. Anyi & Ors. v. Akande & Ors. (2017) – CA/L/334/2014

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