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REVOLUTIONARY EFFECT OF THE LAND USE ACT

Dictum

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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RENT INCLUDE THE IMPROVEMENTS MADE ON THE PREMISES

✓ Ponsford v. H.M.S. Aerosols (supra). Here there was lease dated August 19, 1968 of factory premises in Barking for 21 years and the revision of rent was to be referred to a surveyor under an arbitration clause where the parties disagree on the revised rent. In 1969, the premises were burnt down and rebuilt out of the proceeds of insurance. The licence for the improvements which were in fact made was contained in a document dated November 14, 1969, where in clause 1 it provided: “The landlords hereby grant unto the tenants licence to execute in and upon the demised premises the several alterations and works indicated in the plan annexed …. It is hereby agreed and declared that all the lessee’s covenants and conditions contained in the lease which are now applicable to the premises demised thereby shall continue to be applicable to the same when and as altered and shall extend to all additions which may be made thereto in the course of such alterations.” The lease of August 19, 1968 indicated, inter alia, that the rent would be assessed “as reasonable rent for the demised premises”. The trial judge. held that a reasonable rent for the premises should be assessed without taking account of the improvements made by the defendants. The plaintiffs appealed on the ground that the judge was wrong in his construction of the rent review clause. On appeal, the Court of Appeal, by a majority of 2:1, reversed the judgment of the trial court and held that the revised rent would include the improvements made on the demised premises.

✓ Cuff v. J. & F. Stone Proper Ltd. (supra) provided that improvement on the land should not be wholly disregarded. Cuffs case is different from the case before us in the sense that the improvements on the land had been made prior to the execution of the lease. Accordingly the improvement, unless expressly excluded, must be taken into account in computing the revised rent. In the instant case there was not improvement on the bare land at the time of the lease, and the subsequent improvement did not form part of the demised premises. Without doubt, the improvements in the Cuff case formed part of the demised premises.

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WHEN TWO COMPETING HISTORIES ARE CONTRADICTORY IN LAND MATTERS

In Kojo II v. Bonsie (1957) 1 W.L.R. 1223 it was held that- “Where there is a conflict of traditional history which had been handed down by words of mouth one side or the other must be mistaken, yet both may be honest in their belief. In such a case, the demeanour of witnesses is of little guide to the truth. The best way is to test the traditional history by reference to facts in recent years as established by evidence and by seeing which of the two competing histories is more probable.”

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INTERPRETATION OF S.22 LAND USE ACT

Firstly, the position of section 22 of the Act, is undoubtedly, that a holder of a right of occupancy, may enter into an agreement or contract, with a view to alienating his said right of occupancy. In entering into such an agreement or contract, he does not need the consent of the Governor. He merely operates within the first leg/stage of a “transfer on sale of an estate in land” which leg/stage ends with the formation of a binding contract for a sale constituting an estate contract at best. However, when he comes to embark on the next leg/stage of alienating or transferring his right of occupancy which is done or effected, by a conveyance or deed, which culminates in the vesting of the said right in the particular “purchaser”, he must obtain the consent of the Governor in order to make the transaction valid. If he fails to do so, then the transaction, is null and void under Section 22 of the Act.

– Ogbuagu, JSC. Brossette v. Ilemobola (2007)

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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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PROOF NOT NECESSARY WHERE IDENTITY OF LAND NOT IN DISPUTE

It is the general principle of law that a plaintiff who claims title to land must prove the identity of the land in dispute. This is to enable the court know the exact area or acreage of the land in dispute to give him judgment if he is able to prove title. However, where the identity of the land is not in dispute or where there is enough evidence for the court to infer the identity of the land, proof is not necessary. In such a situation, the plaintiff has no burden to prove the identity of the land. Of the two ways, the easier one is when the parties agree as to the identity of the land or they do not put the identity of the land in issue.

– Niki Tobi JSC. Gbadamosi v. Dairo (2007)

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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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