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NO ROOT OF TITLE MAKES C of O MERE PAPER

Dictum

Daniel Igwu Uche v. Jonah Eke and 2 Ors., the Supreme Court per Belgore JSC (as he then was and now CJN) had this to say at pages 6 to 7: “Any grant of land whether private or by statutory right of occupancy evidenced by a certificate of occupancy will be mere piece of paper not worth anything if the root of title to make the conveyance is not vested in the vendor. If this is not so, all a person has to do is to go to the land office of the government and obtain a right of occupancy in respect of land of a family who may not know that their land has been given to a complete stranger.”

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R OF O HOLDS LARGER INTEREST THAN HOLDER OF LEASE

The Interest of a lessee in land is not exactly the same as that of a holder of a right of occupancy. A holder of a right of occupancy enjoys a larger interest than a holder of a lease (i.e. lease) although the two interests enjoy a common denominator which is a term of years.

— Obaseki, JSC. Foreign Finance Corp. v Lagos State Devt. & Pty. Corp. & Ors. (1991) – SC. 9/1988

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WHEN GOVERNOR CAN REVOKE A RIGHT OF OCCUPANCY

The power of the Governor to revoke a right of occupancy must be for overriding public interest and for requirement by the Federal Government, for public purposes. So that any revocation for purposes outside the ones prescribed by section 28 of the Act is against the policy and intention of the Act and can be declared invalid, null and void by a competent court.

– Katsina-Alu, JSC. Dantsoho v. Mohammed (2003)

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CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY GRANTED TO ONE WHO HAS NOT PROVED A BETTER TITLE

It must be noted that the Land Use Act never set out to abolish all existing titles and rights to possession of land. Rather, where such rights or titles relate to developed lands in urban areas, the possessor or owner of the right or title is deemed to be a statutory grantee of a right of occupancy under section 34(2) of the Act. Where it is non-urban land, the holder or owner under customary law or otherwise is deemed to be a deemed grantee of a right of occupancy by the appropriate Local Government under section 36(2). This court re-affirmed this position in the case of Dzungwe v. Gbishe & Anor. (1985) 2 N.W.L.R. (Part 8) 528 at p.540. So, in a case like the instant, the issue is often who proved a better title or right to possess the land. Where, as in this case, a certificate of occupancy has been granted to one of the claimants who has not proved a better title, then it has been granted against the letters and spirit of the Land Use Act. The courts cannot close their eyes to the weakness of his case for entitlement to it and hold that his weak title has been strengthened by the grant of the certificate of occupancy. Indeed a certificate of occupancy properly issued under section 9 of the Land Use Act ought to be a reflection and an assurance that the grantee has to be in occupation of the land. Where it is shown by evidence that another person had a better right to the grant, the court will have no alternative but to set aside the grant, if asked to do so, or otherwise to ignore it.

— Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC. Ogunleye v Oni (1990) – S.C. 193/1987

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THE WEIGHT OF A CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY

It is settled law that a certificate of occupancy is only a prima facie evidence of title or right of occupancy in favour of the person whose name is on the certificate of occupancy. Where a rebuttal is raised on that presumption, the trial court is bound to examine all the surrounding circumstances, including the nature of competing claims, why the certificate of occupancy is issued in that person’s name and any other issues of law or fact on why a rebuttal of that presumption is raised.

– Bulkachuwa, JSC. Atta v. Ezeanah (2000)

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ILLEGAL REVOCATION OF A STATUTORY RIGHT OF OCCUPANCY

See Ibrahim v. Mohammed (2003) 6 NWLR (Pt.817) 615 at 645 where Kalgo, JSC put the position of the law thus – “It is not in dispute that in the instant appeal, the respondent was not notified by the Governor of the intended revocation of his earlier grant exhibit 1 before granting exhibit A8 (AI3) to the appellant. This is in clear contravention of section 28(6) of the Act, it was also not shown by evidence that the respondent’s land was required for public purposes or interest. The respondent was not heard before the grant of his land was made to the appellant and no compensation was offered or given to the respondent as required by the Act. It is my respective view therefore, that under these circumstances the grant of the statutory right of occupancy over the same piece or parcel of land to which the respondent had earlier been granted certificate of occupancy, was invalid, null and void.”

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DEEMED HOLDER OF RIGHT OF OCCUPANCY

The land in dispute being developed land before the Land Use Act came into force, who ever had it vested in him then was deemed to have continued to hold the land after the commencement of the Act as if he was the holder of a statutory right of occupancy issued by the Governor under S.5 of the Act. It then follows that no other person can be granted a right of occupancy unless S. 28 of the Act is complied with. Any right of occupancy otherwise purportedly granted is contrary to the provisions of the Act and will be of no validity. See Teniola v. Olohunkun (1999) 5 NWLR (Pt.602) 280. It will be set aside by the court in an appropriate case, or be discountenanced when relied on as against a subsisting holder or deemed holder of a right of occupancy.

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

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