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LAND USE ACT DID NOT CONVERT A TENANT INTO AN OWNER

Dictum

It was not the aim of the Land Use Act to convert a tenant into an owner merely by the fact that such tenant was in occupation of his landlord’s land before the inception of the Act.

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

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WHEN IDENTITY OF LAND BECOMES AN ISSUE IN LAND MATTERS

It is also now settled law that requires no citation of any authority, that the identity of land in a land dispute will only be in issue if and only if the defendant in his statement of defence makes it one. If he disputes specifically either the area or the location or the features shown in the plaintiff’s plan, then the identity of the land becomes an issue to be tried. In my view both the trial court and the Court of Appeal were right in their decision that the identity of the land in dispute was not an issue joined in the pleadings to be tried.

– Musdapher JSC. Gbadamosi v. Dairo (2007)

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PLAINTIFF SHOULD ESTABLISH CLEARLY THE AREA OF LAND WHICH HIS CLAIM RELATES

I think it is an elementary requirement of our land law that the first duty of any plaintiff claiming from the court a declaration of title to land is to show clearly the area of land to which his claim relates:- Akinola Baruwa v. Ogunshola (1938) 4 W.A.C.A. 195. This duty a plaintiff can discharge, either by describing the land with such particularity that a surveyor can from his description produce an accurate plan of the land:- Kwadzo v. Adjei (1944) 10 W.A.C.A. 274 or, by himself producing an accurate plan of the land showing precise boundaries. If the plan is inaccurate in the sense that the boundaries are imprecise or that the oral evidence does not tally with the details appearing on the plan, then the trial court will be justified in regarding such a plan as vague and unsatisfactory and again justified in refusing to find a declaration of title on such a plan: Udekwe Amata v. Udogu Modekwe and Ors. (1954) 14 W.A.C.A. 580. The reason for insisting on accurate plans is simply to enable the parties and other persons claiming through them to know precisely the area of land to which the judgment and orders relate:- Maberi v. Alade (1987) 2 N.W.L.R. (Part 55) 101 at p.106. Enforcement of a judgment and order of injunction based on an inaccurate plan will create difficulties, untold difficulties. Where parties own land abutting a common boundary that common boundary will be shown with particularity and precision: Okorie and Ors. v. Udom and Ors. (1960) 5 F.S.C. 162 at p.166; Udofia & anor. v. Afia and ors. Andy v. Akpabio and ors. (1940) 6 W.A.C.A. 216. Another feature of our land law which has to be kept in view while considering Issue No. 1 above is that where a party claims a specific area of land and can only prove title to a part of that area of land or where the defendant concedes part of the land claimed, the court can grant the plaintiff title to the area proved or conceded but if; and only if, that area is definite and can be easily hatched out of and excised from the total area claimed, see Abudu Karimu v. Daniel Fajube (1968) N.M.L.R. 151 and Anukwua and ors. v. Ohia and ors. (1986) 5 N.W.L.R. (Pt. 40) 150 at p.161. Otherwise the declaration may be rightly refused.

– Oputa JSC. OLUFOSOYE v. OLORUNFEMI (1989)

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LAND AND THE QUIC QUID PLANTATUR SOLO SOLO CEDIT

Let me add to the vexed definitions of land the Roman maxim which found its way into the English common Law quic quid plantatur solo, solo cedit (whatever is affixed to the soil, belongs to the soil) while the judicial and academic conflict of opinion rages whether that maxim of English Common law is also a rule of Nigerian customary law. While that debate subsists, the better view on the authorities of Santeng v. Darkwa 6 WACA 52 and Moore v. Jones 7 NLR 84 appears that it is not. Be that as it may, it must be borne in mind that this maxim is not an immutable rule of law because a lot depends on the fixture attached to the ground or building. See Adeniji v. Ogunbiyi 1965 NMLR 395. The above definitions of land, including the maxim in respect thereto, show the increasing difficulty in determining the legal conception of land, and the final word in this regard. No doubt, even to the laymen today, land no longer means the ordinary ground with its subsoil, but surely includes buildings and trees growing thereon. for the court in any circumstance, therefore, to exclude the structures and objects, like buildings and trees standing on the ground in the connotation of the term “land” it must be shown to be clearly discernible from the content of the executed or written document.

— Achike, JSC. Unilife v. Adeshigbin (2001) 4 NWLR (Pt.704) 609

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STATE LANDS ARE FOR PUBLIC PURPOSES – SUCH LANDS ARE HELD IN TRUST

Their powers under the law are limited to leasing them to diverse persons, and accepting forfeitures and surrenders of leases. There appears to be substance in this contention. State lands in Nigeria invariably originate from compulsory acquisitions of such lands from individuals or communities for public purposes. Such lands are held in trust by the acquiring government for use for the public purpose for which the land was acquired and in accordance with the public policy of the state as enshrined in the laws of the state.

– Nnaemeka-agu, JSC. Ude v. Nwara (1993)

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REVOLUTIONARY EFFECT OF THE LAND USE ACT

Since the promulgation of the Act by the Military Administration of General Obasanjo in 1978, the vast majority of Nigerians have been unaware of its revolutionary effect. They have been unaware that the Act swept away all the unlimited rights and interest they had in their lands and substituted them with very limited rights and rigid control of the use of their limited rights by the Military Governors and Local Governments. This appeal is probably one of the earliest of contested matters that will bring the revolutionary effect of the Act to the deep and painful awareness of many. The experience of disbelief and the ultra sensitivity to the irritating thoughts of loss of freedom to use one’s property without exploitative government control exhibited by the appellants’ counsel notwithstanding the fact remains that we must all appreciate the true legal position and bring it to the knowledge of the beneficiaries of rights and interest in land in each State of the Nigerian Federation. This will enable the steps necessary to bring the law in line with the wishes of Nigerians to be taken. Section 1 of the Act has made no secret of the intention and purpose of the law. It declared that land in each state of the Federation shall be vested in the Military Governor of each state to be held in trust for the use and common benefit of all Nigerians.

– Obaseki, JSC. Savannah v. Ajilo (1989)

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DAMAGE TO CROP GROWING ON LAND

It is a misconception to regard damage for crops growing on land as not belonging to a claim for trespass to land. Quic quid plantatur solo, solo cedit.

– Obaseki, JSC. Ekpan v. Agunu (1986)

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