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  • 2003-09-08
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Nangibo vs. Okafor

GOLDEN VICTOR NANGIBO

V

UCHE OKAFOR

OBI EZE

OKEKE OZOEMENE

OKONKWO NZEDINMA

V

THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL OF RIVERS STATE

SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA

MICHAEL EKUNDAYO OGUNDARE, JSC ( Presided )

UTHMAN MOHAMMED, JSC

SYLVESTER UMARU ONU, JSC ( Read the Lead Judgment )

UMARU ATU KALGO, JSC

AKINTOLA OLUFEMI EJIWUNMI, JSC

SC.139/1999

FRIDAY, 27TH JUNE, 2003

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW - Constitution, 1979, section 6(6)(d)  - Whether ousts the jurisdiction of the court to pronounce on the validity of a decree or an edict made between 1966 and 1979

CONTRACT - Non-party to a contract - Whether can seek cancellation thereof

INTERPRETATION OF STATUTE - Statutes which purport to deprive citizens of their proprietary interest as well as acquired rights - How interpreted

LAND LAW - State lands in Nigeria - Sale thereof - Public policy on

STATUTE - Constitution (Suspension and Modification) Decree, 1966 Effect thereon the acquisition of land in Nigeria

STATUTE - Edict No. 15 of 1972 of Rivers State - Effect of the inconsistency thereof with section 31 of 1963 Constitution of Nigeria

STATUTE - Section 6(6)(d) of 1979 Constitution - Whether ousts the jurisdiction of the court to pronounce on the validity of a decree or an edict made between 1966 and 1979

WORDS AND PHRASES - Fortissime contra proferentes rule - Purport of

Issues:

1.            If the agreement between the appellant and the Government of Rivers State was made on 26th November, 1982 as shown on exhibit G, was the Court of Appeal correct in holding that the validity of the Edict No. 15 of 1972  of the Rivers State Government could be challenged by the plaintiffs/respondents?

2.            Was the Court of Appeal correct in holding that the agreement to sell the property in dispute by the Government of Rivers State to the appellant was concluded on 9th December, 1982 and not on 26th November, 1982 as pleaded, and found by the learned trial Judge?

Facts:

By a deed of lease made on the 25th of March, 1960 and registered as

No. 22 at page 22 in volume 233 at the Land Registry at Enugu (now kept at Port Harcourt), the piece and parcel of land the subject matter of this case, was granted by the Minister of Town Planning, Eastern Nigeria to one Marcus Ezebua Nwaokenta for a term of 99 years. The said Marcus Ezeubua Nwaokenta later by a deed of assignment dated the 9th day of August, 1963, and registered as No. 44 at page 44 in volume 366 at the Land Registry at Enugu (now kept at Port Harcourt) assigned the residue of his lease to the plaintiffs/respondents with the consent of the Governor of Eastern Nigeria. The said piece or parcel of land, which was originally known as No. 4  J. N. Kanu Street, and was later renamed 4 Rex Lawson Street, had been developed before the outbreak of the civil war in 1967.

It was the respondents’ case that at the end of the civil war, they continued to deal with the property as owners and let same to tenants. In May, 1983 Messrs Knight, Frank and Rutley who were estate agents for the Rivers State Government sent to the respondents a demand notice for payment of property rates in respect of the property for the period between 1970 and 1983 . It was when they went to pay the sum demanded that they learnt for the first time that the property had been sold to one Golden Victor Nangibo ( the appellant ).

The plaintiffs later sued the said Nangibo and the Attorney-General of Rivers State claiming declaration, perpetual injunction and order of court.

At the trial, it was the appellant’s case that the said property became an abandoned property during the period of the civil war, within the meaning of the Abandoned Property (Management and Custody) Edict 1969, and that the respondents have been divested of whatever interest they might have had in the property. The appellant further maintained that the Rivers State Government sold the property to him on November 26, 1982. The 1st defendant’s case on the other hand was that the Rivers State Government had by an instrument dated October 29, 1972 and published in the extra-ordinary gazette No. 56 vol. 4 notice No. 452, cancelled the lease in respect of the property and had sold same to the appellant.

The learned trial Judge held that the Abandoned Property (Management and Custody) Edict 1969 did not divest the respondents of their interest in the property in dispute. He, however, found that the Rivers State Governor had by virtue of the extra-ordinary gazette No. 56 vol. 4 cancelled the lease of the property. He dismissed the respondents’ case.

Dissatisfied with this judgment, the respondents appealed to the Court of Appeal which allowed the appeal, holding that the extra-ordinary gazette could not have cancelled the lease of the property and had not the effect of divesting the respondents of their interest in the property.

It is against this latter judgment that the appellant has now appealed to the Supreme Court.