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PARTY WITH A BETTER TITLE WILL DEFEAT PARTY WHO HAS A CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY

Dictum

Where a certificate of occupancy has been granted to one of two claimants who has not proved a better title, it must be deemed to be defective and to have been granted or issued erroneously and against the spirit of the Land Use Act and the holder of such a certificate would have no legal basis for a valid claim over the land in issue. So, too, where it is shown by evidence that another person other than the grantee of a certificate of occupancy had a better right to the grant, the court may have no option but to set aside the grant or otherwise discountenance it as invalid, defective and/or spurious as the case may be. See Joshua Ogunleye v. Oni (supra), Dzungwe v. Gbishe and Another (1985) 2 NWLR (Pt.8) 528 at 540. For a certificate of occupancy under the Land Use Act, 1978 to be therefore valid, there must not be in existence at the time the certificate was issued, a statutory or customary owner of the land in issue who was not divested of his legal interest to the land prior to the grant.

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

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CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY IS NOT CONCLUSIVE PROOF OF RIGHT OF OCCUPANCY

I think the point must be stressed that a certificate of statutory or customary right of occupancy issued under the Land Use Act, 1978 cannot be said to be conclusive evidence of any right, interest or valid title to land in favour of the grantee. It is, at best, only a prima facie evidence of such right, interest or title without more and may in appropriate cases be effectively challenged and rendered invalid and null and void. See Lababedi v. Lagos Metal Industries (Nig.) Ltd. (1973) NSCC 1 at 6.

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

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NO ROOT OF TITLE MAKES C of O MERE PAPER

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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CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY IS A PRESUMPTION OF EXCLUSIVE POSSESSION

It is settled law that a Certificate of Occupancy regularity issued by competent authority raises the presumption that the holder is the owner in exclusive possession of the land in respect thereof. The presumption is however rebuttable. But there is no evidence from the Appellant to rebut the presumption. As a matter of fact, the Appellants did not attack the Certificate of Occupancy.

— F.F. Tabai, JSC. Agboola v UBA (2011) – SC.86/2003

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NEW CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY CANNOT BE AWARDED WITHOUT THE EARLY ONE REVOKED

All the documents that the Appellant is referring to as root of his title cannot support his case even if it was accepted as the root of title because the law does not permit any authority to allocation the same land that has earlier been allocated to another person. Without a proper revocation of a certificate of Occupancy, no authority has power to allocate the same land to another. See Na’adade Petroleum Ltd v. FCT Minister & Ors (2022) LPELR-57127 (CA).

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CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY GRANTED TO ONE WHO HAS NO BETTER TITLE CONTRADICTS THE LAND USE ACT

As the position was explained by this court in Ogunleye v. Oni (1990) 2 NWLR (Pt.135) 745 at 752,774 – 786: “This is the weakness of a certificate of occupancy issued in such a case. It is never associated with title. Thus, 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.”

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WHERE TWO CERTIFICATES OF OCCUPANCY ARE ISSUED OVER THE SAME LAND

“The certificate of occupancy issued in 2008 supersedes and takes priority over the one issued in 2011. Where two persons trace their root of title to the same source, the earlier in time prevails. See Ejuetam v. Olaiya (2001) RSCNl P. 140 @ 168.”

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

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