Be the First to Know: Legal Effect of an Unregistered Document Affecting Land

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TOPIC: Legal Effect of an Unregistered Document Affecting Land

CASE TITLE: ONWUSOR v. MAINA & ORS (2021) LPELR-53368(CA)

JUDGMENT DATE: 17TH MARCH, 2021

PRACTICE AREA: LAND LAW

LEAD JUDGMENT: JUMMAI HANNATU SANKEY, J.C.A.

 SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT:

INTRODUCTION

This appeal borders on Land Law.

FACTS

This Appeal is against the Judgment of the High Court of Justice, Borno State in Suit No. BOHC/MG/CV/10/2019, delivered on January 13, 2020, by B.A. Waziri, J.

Essentially, the Appellant claims that she bought the land in dispute (whose identity is not in dispute) from one Ibrahim Yau Gareka for the sum of N270,000.00 on March 7, 2005. In proof of this sale/purchase, Exhibit RO1, a sale agreement, was tendered in evidence as a receipt of purchase. Upon payment, the said vendor gave the Appellant a Grant of a Right of Occupancy No. BO/5203 in the name of Mohammed D. Nangare. Thereafter, the Appellant took possession of the land, employed a security guard, CW1, to watch over it, commenced development on a portion while farming on another portion. Sometime after that, some two persons, namely: Alhaji Maina Ramdan and Nasiru Surundi, appeared on the land claiming that the same vendor, Ibrahim Yau Gareka, had sold the same plot of land to them. This resulted in the Appellant filing an action against Ibrahim Yau Gareka before the High Court of Justice, Borno State. The High Court tried the matter and found in favour of the Appellant and against Ibrahim Yau Gareka.

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It was sequel to this, that the Appellant alleged that the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Respondents had trespassed into the land. She contends that she has paid ground rent on the land in the name of Mohammed D. Nangare and a receipt in that regard has been issued to her. In an apparent attempt to protect her ownership rights over the land, she laid a complaint to the Police who investigated the matter. Their report was however not favourable to her and so she filed this action seeking reliefs against all four Respondents.

By a specially endorsed Writ of Summons, the Appellant claimed as follows against the Respondents –

a) “A declaration that the claimant is the lawful and legal owner of Plot No:56 covered by a right of occupancy No. 5203 measuring about 2500 square meter lying and situate at Pompomari Layout as specified BOTP/73.

b) That act of the 1st 2nd & 3rd defendants amounted to as trespassed (sic)

c) A perpetual injunction restoring the 1st, 2nd & 3rd defendants by themselves (sic), agents, servants, privies and whosoever from further tempering (sic) with the said land.

d) Cost of the suit.”

The 2nd Respondent counter-claimed from the Appellant as follows:

  1. “A DECLARATION that the 2nd defendant/counter-claimant is the legal and lawful titleholder of Plot No. 56 on BOTP/73 North Medium Density Layout, Maiduguri, Borno State with an area of about 2500 square metres covered by Right of Occupancy No. BO/5203.
  1. AN ORDER OF PERPETUAL INJUNCTION restraining the claimant, his agents, heirs/successors, privies, servants or workmen or howsoever described from trespassing into the said land in dispute.
  1. Cost of the suit.”
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After pleadings were duly exchanged, the hearing commenced with the Appellant, as claimant, adducing evidence through four witnesses and two exhibits. The 1st, 2nd and 4th Respondents/Defendants and four other witnesses testified for the defence and in proof of the counter-claim, while a total of five documents were tendered. Judgment was thereafter delivered on January 13, 2020, wherein the trial Court dismissed the Appellant’s claim and granted the 2nd Respondent’s counter-claim.

Dissatisfied, the Appellant filed an Appeal in the Court of Appeal.

ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION

The Court determined the appeal based on the following issues for determination:

  1. Whether the Appellant has proved her case with cogent and credible evidence to be entitled to the reliefs sought in her claim?
  2. Whether the trial Court was right when it held that the counter-claim had been proved?

DECISION/HELD

In the final analysis, the Court of Appeal held that the appeal succeeded in part.

RATIOS:

  • CONVEYANCY LAW – POWER OF ATTORNEY: Principles of law with respect to the status of a power of attorney and what it entails.
  • LAND LAW – DOCUMENT OF TITLE: Principles governing proof of title to land by the production of title documents. 
  • LAND LAW – GOVERNORS CONSENT: Effect of failure to obtain the consent of Governor before alienation of land and who has the duty to obtain the Governors consent. 
  • EVIDENCE – ADMISSIBILITY OF UNREGISTERED REGISTRABLE INSTRUMENT: The legal effect with regard to an unregistered document affecting land.

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