Hence when the initial occupation of premises is lawful, the occupier, even if holding over becomes a protected tenant qua the landlord. This is a status arising from a statute creating the tenancy. The difficulty arises when the contractual tenant who enters into possession lawfully continues at the expiration of the contract and against the wish of the owner of the premises without any contract. This is the situation described as tenant-at-will at common law. Under the 1976 Rent Edict, as soon as the contractual tenancy expires, the tenant, who becomes so by operation of law becomes a statutory tenant. He occupies the property as a tenant, and enjoys the restrictions against recovery imposed by the Edict. He enjoys protection and security of tenure and is at par with the contractual tenant. Although the tenant is protected from eviction except in accordance with the law, he is liable to pay for his occupation and use of the property.

– Karibe-Whyte, JSC. Petroleum v. Owodunni (1991)

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The ruse of faulty notice used by tenants to perpetuate possession in a house or property which the land lord had slaved to build and relies on for means of sustenance cannot be sustained in any just society under the guise of adherence to any technical rule. Equity demands that wherever and whenever there is controversy on when or how notice of forfeiture or notice to quit is disputed by the parties, or even where there is irregularity in giving notice to quit, the filing of an action by the landlord to of the property has to be sufficient notice on the tenant that he is required to yield up possession. I am not saying here that statutory and proper notice to quit should not be given. Whatever form the periodic tenancy is whether weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly etc., immediately a writ is filed to regain possession, their regularity of the notice if any is cured. Time to give notice should start to run from the date the writ is served. If for example, a yearly tenant, six months after the writ is served and so on. All the dance drama around the issue of the irregularity of the notice ends.

– Ogunwumiju JSC. Pillars v. William (2021)

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Cases of tenancy at will are common where a tenant for a fixed term holds over the property with consent of the landlord while negotiations for further lease are going on. The general rule is that if a tenant pays rent during this period, he becomes a periodic tenant, e.g. if he pays a year’s rent, then he is a yearly tenant.

– AMINA ADAMU AUGIE, JCA. Bocas v. Wemabod (2016)

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Wheeler v. Mercer (1956) 3 All ER 631, Lord Simonds said at page 634: “A tenancy at will though called a tenancy is unlike any other tenancy except a tenancy at sufferance to which it is next of kin. It has been properly described as a personal relation between the landlord and his tenant; it is determined by the death of either of them or by one of a variety of acts, even by an involuntary alienation, which would not affect the subsistence of any other tenancy.”

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Now, a tenancy at sufferance is one in which the original grant by the landlord to the tenant has expired, usually by effluxion of time, but the tenant holds over the premises. In such a case the tenant’s right to occupation of the premises to which he had come in upon a lawful title by grant is at an end but, although he has no more title as such, he continues in possession of the land or premises without any further grant or agreement by the landlord on whom the right to the reversion resides. One necessary pre-condition of such a tenancy is that the tenant must have come upon the land or premises lawfully. Though he no longer, strictly, has an estate, the law will deem his right to possession to have continued on the same terms and conditions as the original grant till possession has been duly and properly wrested from him by the landlord or reversioner. It is a form of tenancy which, as it were, depends upon the law and not the agreement of the parties and can only be determined either by the landlord’s lawful act of forcible entry, where it is still possible, or by a proper action for ejectment after due notices as prescribed by law.

– Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC. Petroleum v. Owodunni (1991)

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A customary tenancy involves the transfer of an interest in land from the customary landlord or overlord to the customary tenant and which interest entitles the customary tenant to exclusive possession of the land and which interest, subject to good behaviour, he holds in perpetuity. Unless it is otherwise excluded, the main feature of a customary tenancy is the payment of tributes by the customary tenant to the overlord. And the status of his exclusive possession is such that it is enforceable against the world at large including even the customary landlord or those claiming through him.

— F. Tabai, JSC. Dashi v Satlong (2009) – SC.303/2002

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A very important factor is that the grantor of the land, once it has been given to the grantees as customary tenants, cannot thereafter grant it or any part of it to a third party without the consent or approval of the customary tenants. The grantor is not allowed to derogate from his grant.

– T.O. Elias, CJN. Aghenghen v. Waghoreghor (1974)

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