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  • Agu v. Nnadi
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  • 2003-01-27
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Agu v. Nnadi

BENNETH UDE AGU

V

MAXWELL NNADI

( Substituted for Ozo Moses Nnadi; [deceased ])

SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA

SALIHU MODIBBO ALFA BELGORE, JSC ( Presided )

ANTHONY IKECHUKWU IGUH, JSC

SAMSON ODEMWINGIE UWAIFO, JSC

AKINTOLA OLUFEMI EJIWUNMI, JSC

EMMANUEL OLAYINKA AYOOLA, JSC ( Read the Lead Judgment )

SC. 154/1998

FRIDAY, 13TH DECEMBER, 2002

APPEAL - Issue for determination - Value of - How assessed

COURT - Findings of fact - Concurrent findings of fact by the trial court and the Court of Appeal - Attitude of Supreme Court thereto

EVIDENCE - Proof of title to land - Burden on plaintiff to prove his case before the need to consider defendant’s case arises

JUDGMENT AND ORDERS - Judgment - When flawed

LAND LAW - Proof of title to land - Burden on plaintiff to prove his case before the need to consider defendant’s case arises LAND LAW - Title to land - How  to put same in issue

Issues:

1.            Whether the Court of Appeal misdirected itself by holding that the plaintiff/appellant joined claim for injunction and trespass with the declaration that he was entitled to redeem the pledged property.

2.            Whether the Court of Appeal was right to have failed to consider some of the issues for determination formulated and argued by the plaintiff/appellant, and whether such failure to consider those issues occasioned a miscarriage of justice.

3.            Whether the Court of Appeal was right in concluding that the trial Court was correct in rejecting the evidence of PW1 ( Michael Chime) on trusteeship by Ngwo Native Law and Custom.

4.            Whether the Court of Appeal was right to ignore (as the trial Judge did) the evidence of a dead witness, Ozo Jones Ozougwu in exhibit B, which (inter alia) exhaustively dealt with Trusteeship by Ngwo Native Law and Custom, and which evidence clearly supported the plaintiff/appellant’s case.

5.            Whether the Court of Appeal was right to have concluded that the plaintiff/appellant failed to prove that his grand-father’s half brother, Chime Nwagu Ude, was his trustee under Ngwo Native Law and Custom.

6.            Whether the Court of Appeal was right in concluding that the plaintiff/appellant did not prove his case.

Facts:

The plaintiff/appellant herein filed this appeal claiming declaration, order and perpetual injunction against the defendant/respondent.

The case of the appellant is that the land in dispute was pledged by his grandfather, to the father of one Michael Chime, for a gun. On the death of the pledgor and the pledgee the land passed to the pledgee’s son. One Chime Nwagu who was half-brother of the plaintiff’s grandfather and the trustee of the plaintiff by native law and custom redeemed the land with money he borrowed from the respondent and pledged the land to the respondent. By native law and custom the appellant is entitled to redeem the pledge. It was by reason of his tender age that Chime Nwagu became his trustee. Chime Nwagu died without redeeming the land and the appellant is entitled to redeem the land.  The parties to this appeal have voluntarily referred this matter to several conciliation and each of the conciliators have decided that the transaction was a pledge and that the pledge was redeemable by the appellant.  The respondent accepted these settlements.  However, sometime in 1982 the respondent started to erect a building on the land and refused the tender by the appellant of the redemption money.

The respondent’s case by his further amended statement of defence was that the land was property of Chime Nwagu Ude it being his share of Ude Agu Ude’s property by inheritance.  Chime Nwagu Ude pledged the land to Ozo Ukwuani Nwachime.  Chime Nwagu Ude redeemed the land in 1943  with money (N25) which he borrowed from the respondent and the land reverted to Chime Nwagu Ude.  A few months after the land was redeemed, Chime Nwagu Ude in the presence of his wife and son granted him half of the redeemed land. In 1946 the respondent commenced to erect a permanent building on the land, openly, and to the knowledge of Chime Nwagu Ude and several other persons.  The respondent averred that the land was his by gift from Chime Nwagu Ude.  A few years after he had erected a building on the land Chime Nwagu Ude pledged the remaining half of the redeemed land for £8 to one Ude and one Oji Agu.  At the request of Chima Nwagu Ude that pledged land was redeemed by Chime Nwagu Ude in 1975 with money provided by the respondent.  Upon redemption Chime Nwagu’s son Richard Ude took possession of the land undisturbed. While admitting that there were several efforts at settlement of the dispute, the respondent denied that the decisions of the bodies mentioned by the appellant were against him.

At the trial court, the case of the appellant was dismissed. The appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal which also dismissed his appeal contending that the appellant having failed to establish his ownership of the land in dispute, the issue of who was it that pledged the land fades into obscurity.

Dissatisfied with the judgment, the appellant appealed to the Supreme Court.