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PROVISION ON COMPULSORY ACQUISITION OF A PERSON’S LAND MUST BE CONSTRUED STRICTLY

Dictum

Any provision of the law which gives or governs compulsory acquisition of a person’s property must be construed by the court fortissimo contra preferentes. Such a statute should be construed by the court strictly against the acquiring authority and sympathetically in favour of the complainant or the owner or possessor of the property against any irregularity in the procedure for acquisition as laid down by the enabling statute. See Peenock Investments Ltd. v. Hotel Presidential Ltd. (1983) 4 NCLR 122 at 115; Alhaji Bello v. Diocesan Synod of Lagos (1973) 1 All NLR (Pt. 1) 247 at 268; Nigerian Telecommunications Ltd. v. Chief Ogunbiyi (1992) 7 NWLR (Pt 255) 543; Osho v. Foreign Finance Corporation (1991) 4 NWLR (Pt. 184) 157.

— Niki Tobi, JSC. C.S.S. Bookshops v. Muslim Community & Ors. (2006) – SC.307/2001

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REVOCATION MUST BE FOR OVERRIDING PUBLIC INTEREST; HOLDER MUST BE NOTIFIED

Furthermore, the Act itself provides some checks and balances which must be observed before making any grant, the conditions under which such grants can be revoked and what follows after such revocation. It provides under S. 28 that the Governor can only revoke a right of occupancy for overriding public interest’ which has been defined both in respect of statutory and customary rights of occupancy. If such powers of revocation are to be exercised, the holder of the right of occupancy must be notified in advance. Revocation of a right of occupancy for public purpose or in the public interest does not include the revocation of the right of a grantee for the purpose of vesting it in another. Therefore, since revocation of the grant involves the deprivation of the proprietary rights and obligations of a grantee, all the terms and conditions laid down by the Act must be strictly adhered to and complied with. And so for a revocation of a right of occupancy to be valid in Nigeria, it must be made strictly in compliance with S. 28 of the Land Use Act.

— Mohammed, JSC. C.S.S. Bookshops v. Muslim Community & Ors. (2006) – SC.307/2001

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REVOCATION BY GOVERNOR MUST BE FOR OVERRIDING PUBLIC PURPOSE

By the provisions of Section 28(1) of the Land Use Act, 1978, it shall be lawful for the Governor to revoke a right of occupancy for overriding public interest. At no time was the appellant’s validly subsisting right of occupancy over the land in dispute revoked by the Borno State Governor nor even was notice of such revocation served on the appellant or on his predecessors in title. It is also not in dispute that no compensation in respect of the land was ever paid to the appellant. It ought also to be borne in mind that the purported grant made by the State Government to the 1st respondent was not for any overriding public interest but for his personal use for farming purposes. In these circumstances, it seems to me that Exhibit B is equally tainted with illegality and is as incurably defective as Exhibit A.

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

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REASON FOR REVOCATION OF A PERSON’S LAND MUST BE SPELT IN THE REVOCATION NOTICE

Where right of occupancy is stated to be revoked for public purpose, there is the need to spell out the public purpose in the notice of revocation. See Osho v. Foreign Finance Corporation, supra; Ereku v. Military Governor of Midwestern State (1974) 10 SC 59; Adukwu v. Commissioner for Works, Lands and Transport, Enugu State (1997) 2 NWLR (Pt. 489) 588. The reason for revoking a person’s right of occupancy must be stated in the notice of revocation notwithstanding that the Act did not expressly state that the specific ground of the revocation must be stated in the notice. See Adukwu v. Commissioner for Works, Lands and Transport, Enugu State, supra; Nigeria Engineering Works Ltd. v. Denap Limited (1997) 10 NWLR (Pt. 525) 481.

— Niki Tobi, JSC. C.S.S. Bookshops v. Muslim Community & Ors. (2006) – SC.307/2001

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VESTED RIGHT IN A LAND MUST BE REVOKED IN ACCORDANCE WITH SECTION 28 LAND USE ACT

It is not in doubt that S.1 of the Land Use Act vests in the Governor of a State the land in that State to be held in trust and administered accordingly. All lands in urban areas are under his control and management. All other lands are under the control and management of the respective Local Governments subject to certain aspects of intervention and determination of the Governor. It is also not in doubt that under S.5(1)(a) of the Act, it shall be lawful for the Governor to grant statutory rights of occupancy to any persons in respect of land, whether or not in an urban area. Under S.5(2), when such a grant is made, all existing rights to the use and occupation of the land which is the subject of the statutory right of occupancy shall be extinguished. But these provisions so far referred to are certainly not to be applied to defeat vested rights recognised under the Act itself. They may admittedly, defeat “existing rights to the use and occupation of the land” but not vested rights unless such vested rights are first revoked under S.28 of the Act as appropriate. This may be (a) for overriding public interest, (b) by notice on behalf of the President for public purposes, (c) for breach of the provisions imposed by S.10 of the Act, (d) for breach of any term envisaged by S.8 of the Act, (e) for refusal or neglect to comply with the requirement specified as per S.9(3) of the Act. In all these cases, the revocation shall be signified by notice duly issued and shall become valid when received by the person with such vested right: See S.28(6) and (7) of the Act. It is an accepted legal principle that vested rights are not lightly taken away. Under the Land Use Act it must be in accordance with S.28 and in addition compensation is payable by virtue of S.29. A person granted a right of occupancy acquires a vested right. So also is a person deemed to have been granted a right of occupancy under the relevant provisions of S.34 of the Act.

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

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POWER TO REVOKE BY GOVERNOR IS DERIVED FROM THE LAND USE ACT, AND NOT THE LAND TENURE LAW

In other words, the provisions of Land Tenure Law is to be followed in the administration of land under the control and management of the Military Governor under the Land Use Act. Further, the provisions of the Land Tenure Law applicable for the purpose are to be modified so as to bring the law into conformity with the Act or its general intendment. It is not the Land Tenure Law that is in operation but the Land Use Act. The provisions of the Land Tenure Law has therefore been incorporated into the Decree for the purpose of administering the lands under the control and management of the Military Governor. Since the Land Use Act came into force in March, 1978, the power a Governor/Military Governor has to grant a statutory right of occupancy and to revoke the statutory right of occupancy is derived from the Land Use Act and NOT the Land Tenure Law or State Land Law. It is a gross misconception of the true state of the law to think or hold the view that because the Land Use Act orders the administration of lands under the control of the Military Governor to be in accordance with the provisions of the Land Tenure Law in the Northern States that the powers exercised are powers under the Land Tenure Law. Both the plaintiff and the 3rd defendant/applicant could only have obtained their grant of statutory right of occupancy under the Land Use Act. The revocation of the right of occupancy could equally only have been exercised under the Land Use Act although in compliance with the procedure prescribed by the Land Tenure Law. The reference to the Land Tenure Law in the Deed of Revocation was a mistake occasioned by a misreading of section 4(a) of the Land Use Act.

— Obaseki, JSC. Saude v. Abdullahi (1989) – SC.197/1987

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NOTICE OF REVOCATION MUST BE SERVED ON OCCUPIER OF LAND

A person who is not the proven owner or occupier of land in respect of which notice of acquisition or revocation is issued has no locus standi in law to seek nullification of the acquisition. Elegushi v. Oseni (2005) 14 NWLR (Pt.945) pg.348. It would amount to sufficient service of a notice of acquisition of a piece of land or of revocation of grant in respect of the land if service of the notice is effected on the occupier of the land. Elegushi v. Oseni (2005) 14 NWLR (pt.945) pg.348. Obikoya & Sons Ltd. v. Gov. Lagos State (1987) 1 NWLR (pt.50) pg.385.

— O.O. Adekeye, JSC. Goldmark & Ors. v. Ibafon Co. & Ors. (2012) – SC.421/2001

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