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

Dictum

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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DUTY OF PARTY CLAIMING LAND THROUGH HISTORY OF OWNERSHIP

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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IN A CLAIM FOR DECLARATION TO TITLE TO LAND, THE PLAINTIFF MUST SUCCEED ON THE STRENGTH OF HIS CASE

It is now well settled that in a claim for declaration of title to land, a plaintiff has the burden of proving his case on his own evidence and cannot rely on the weakness of the defendant’s case. If that burden is not discharged, the weakness of the defendant’s case will not help him and proper judgment will be for the defendant. See Kodilinye v. Odu (1935) 2 WACA 336 at 337; Odusanya v. Ewedemi (1962) 2 SCNLR 23, 1 All NLR 320; Atuanya v. Onyejekwe (1975) 3 SC. 161; Bashua v. Maja 11 SC. 143. However a plaintiff can take advantage of and rely upon evidence By the defence which supports his case. See Akinola v. Oluwa 1 SCNLR 352, (1962) WNLR 133. Realizing this principle of law, the learned counsel for the Appellants submitted in his brief that since both parties to the case agreed that the land in dispute was intimately connected with the Edo goddess, and the Chief Priest of Edo goddess had always come from the Appellant’s family, it necessarily followed that there had been a succession of Chief Priests who held the land in trust for the Appellants’ family which proved the root of their title. I do not think that this submission holds any water here. In the first place, the Appellants, apart from mentioning the names of Chief Priests who held that office in their family over the years, did not prove their ownership of the land or that they lived there without any interference, and in the second place, except the admission in the pleadings that the family of the Appellants produced the Chief Priests, no other evidence was given proving any title or ownership by the respondents at the trial. It is an after thought to bring it at this stage and cannot in my view be accepted to prove any root of title by the Appellants. Therefore the Akintola v. Oluwo case (supra) is not relevant here.

— U.A. Kalgo, JSC. Dike & Ors. V. Francis Okoloedo & Ors. (SC.116/1993, 15 Jul 1999)

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REQUIREMENTS BEFORE DOCUMENT OF TITLE IS ADMITTED AS SUFFICIENT PROOF

Mere production of a deed of conveyance or document of title does not automatically entitle a party to a claim in declaration, before the production of document of title is admitted as sufficient proof of ownership, the court must satisfy itself that:- (a) The document is genuine or valid (b) It has been duly executed, stamped and registered. (c) The grantor has the authority and capacity to make the grant. (d) That the grantor has in fact what he proposes to grant. (e) That the grant has the effect claimed by the holder of the instrument. Ayorinde v. Kuforiji (2007) 4 NWLR, Pt.1024, Pg. 341, Dosunmu v. Dada (2002) 13 NWLR Pt. 783, Pg. 1 Romaine v. Romaine (1992), 4 NWLR Pt. 238 Pg. 650, Kyri v Alkali (2001) FWLR, Pt 60, Pg. 1481 Dabor v. Abdullahi (2005) 29 WRM 11 SC 7 NWLR Pt. 923, Pg. 181.

— O.O. Adekeye, JSC. Agboola v UBA (2011) – SC.86/2003

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THE ADVANTAGES OF THE REGISTRATION OF TITLE

The advantage of registered title is that the purchaser can discover from the mere inspection of the register whether the vendor has power to sell the land and what the more important incumbrances are except in the case of what may be classified as overriding interest, as contained in s.52 of the Registration of Titles Law, which bind the proprietor of registered land even though he has no knowledge of them and no reference is made to them in the register. Otherwise, a registered owner of land is not affected by notice of any unregistered estate, interest or claim affecting the estate of any previous registered owner, nor is he concerned to inquire whether the terms of any caution or restriction existing before he was registered as owner of such land have been complied with see s.54. Short of rectification of the register carried out in pursuance of s.61, a registered owner’s title is indefeasible. It has been said that a register of title is an authoritative record, kept in a public office, of the rights to clearly defined units of land as vested for the time being in some particular person or body, and of the limitations, if any, to which these rights are subject. With certain exceptions known as ‘overriding interests’, all the material particulars affecting the title to the land are fully revealed merely by a perusal of the register which is maintained and warranted by the State. The register is at all times the final authority and the State accepts responsibility for the validity of transactions, which are effected by making an entry in the register.

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

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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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WAYS TO PROVE OWNERSHIP OF LAND

In a civil claim of title to or ownership of land, for a party to succeed, he must prove his title in one of the five ways laid down in this court’s decision of Idundun vs. Okumagba (1976) 9-10 SC 227 followed by a long line of other decided authorities to the following effect: Proof by traditional evidence Proof by production of documents of title duly authenticated to prove title. Proof by acts of ownership extending over a sufficient length of time, numerous and positive as to warrant the inference that the person is the true owner. Vide Ekpo vs. Ita 11 NLR 68. Proof by acts of long possession and Proof of possession of connected or adjacent land in circumstances probable that the owner of such connected or adjacent land would in addition be the owner of the land in dispute.

— Onu, JSC. Ezennah v Atta (2004) – SC.226/2000

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