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Sanni v. Ademiluyi

SULE SANNI

V

DUROJAIYE ADEMILUYI

SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA

MICHAEL E. OGUNDARE, JSC ( Presided and Read the Lead Judgment )

UTHMAN MOHAMMED, JSC

SYLVESTER UMARU ONU, JSC

ALOYSIUS IYORGYER KATSINA-ALU, JSC

NIKI TOBI, JSC

SC.15/1997

FRIDAY, 17TH JANUARY, 2003

APPEAL  - Preliminary objection - When raised - Need to be properly headed

COURT - Court of Appeal -Incompetence of to ascribe credibility to witnesses it did not see or hear testify

COURT - Duty of to find on issues pleaded and raised before it

COURT - High Court - Jurisdiction of to deal with land in urban  and nonurban areas - Adisa vs.Oyinwola (2000) FWLR (Pt. 8) 1349, 1389 applied

COURT - Trial court - Duty of to ascribe credibility to witnesses it sees or hears testify

EVIDENCE - Witnesses - Credibility of  - Duty of trial court to ascribe credibility to witnesses it sees or hears

JUDGMENT AND ORDERS - Decisions of court - When overruled - Effect

JUDGMENT AND ORDERS - Decisions of court - When overruled Submissions of counsel based on overruled decisions - When will avail party so making

LAND LAW - Land law in urban and non-urban areas - Jurisdiction of High Court to deal with - Adisa vs.Oyinwola (2000) FWLR (Pt. 8)

1349 , 1389 applied

LAND LAW - Stool land and communal land - Difference between

PRACTICE  AND PROCEDURE  - Preliminary objection - When raised -

Need to be properly headed

WORDS AND PHRASES - ‘Communal land’ - Meaning of

WORDS AND PHRASES - ‘Stool land’ - Meaning of

Issues:

1.            Whether the High Court has jurisdiction to entertain a suit on a land situate in Idi-Ogun, a village (twenty-two miles from Ife) when there is a customary court in the area.

2.            Whether the plaintiff was able to prove by credible evidence the averment that all land by Ife custom belong to the crown ( King) and that ownership by settlement is alien to Ife custom and in essence that the land was a grant made to his family by the Ooni of Ife.

3.            Whether the plaintiff was ever in possession of the land in dispute as against the defendant.

Facts:

The respondent (plaintiff in the court of trial) claimed against the appellant (defendant in the court of trial) a declaration that he is “entitled to occupation or possession of the farmland situate at  Idi-Ogun village, Ife in accordance with native law and custom of Ife having been in lawful occupation or possession of the said land long before the Land Use Act.” The plaintiff claimed injunction order “from further entry or trespass on the said farmland.” The plaintiff formulated his case on the following facts: The plaintiff is the son of one Okero Ademuluyi who died some years ago leaving behind a piece of land now in dispute. Plaintiff is representing the family of the said Okero Ademiluyi in these proceedings. The land in dispute is situate at Idi-Ogun village in Ife District.

Okero Ademiluyi was the son of Oba Ajagun Ademiluyi the Ooni of Ife who reigned from 1910-1930. According to the plaintiff, by the customary law of Ife, all land in the Kingdom belongs to the Ooni of Ife who has dominion over it. Okero Ademiluyi was a hunter and a farmer. His father Ooni Ademiluyi granted the land in dispute to him about 70 years before the institution of this action in 1986. Following the grant of the land to him Okero Ademiluyi took possession and did hunting and farming on the land until his death on or about 1981. He planted cocoa, kola, palm trees etc. on the land and had several servants working for him. The plaintiff was placed on the land by Okero his father as an overseer. Okero also granted part of the land to other people to do farming. One Jimoh Ajani was one of the servants who worked on the land.

The case for the defendant was quite different. It is his own case that every family in Ile-Ife has its farmland and that the farmland in dispute belongs to the family of Sanni Fogbonja. Sanni Fogbonja was the father of the defendant. Warobi, the great grand father of the defendant and a hunter and farmer in his day, was the first to settle on the said farmland about 100 years before the filing of this suit. Warobi died and was succeeded on the land by Fogbonja his son who continued to practise hunting and farming on the land as Warobi did in his day. After the death of Fogbonja his son Sanni succeeded  him on the land. This Sanni was the father of the defendant and he farmed and did hunting on the land. Both the defendant and his father farmed on the land and did hunting. Sanni died in December 1982 and it was after his death that the plaintiff started harassing the defendant and his late father’s tenants on the land. According to the defendant the plaintiff’s family land is at Elegberun village in Ife.

The parties filed their pleading and the matter went to trial. The trial court ground plaintiff’s claim not proved and dismissed same with costs. Being dissatisfied with the decision, the plaintiff appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and entered judgment in favour of the plaintiff as per his claim. The Court of Appeal further declared the plaintiff as “entitled to occupation or possession of the farmland” in dispute. The defendant appealed to the Supreme Court.