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Jules v. Ajani

AIYEDOUN JULES

V

RAIMI AJANI

SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA

GEORGE SODEINDE SOWEMIMO, JSC ( Presided )

MOHAMMED BELLO, JSC

KAYODE ESO, JSC

AUGUSTINE NNAMANI, JSC ( Read the Lead Judgment )

MUHAMMADU LAWAL UWAIS, JSC

SC.60/1979

4TH JULY,  1980.

DOCUMENT - Deed -Registration of - Whether evidence of due execution

EVIDENCE - Presumptions - Production of title documents over 20 years old from proper custody -Presumption raised

EVIDENCE - Proof of title - On whom onus of proof lies - Exception thereto

EVIDENCE - Proof - Allegation of crime in a civil action - Standard of proof required

LAND LAW - Declaration of title to land - On whom onus of proof lies Exception thereto

LAND LAW - Declaration of title to land - Ways of proving title to land Production of title document over 20 years old from proper custody -  Presumption raised thereby

LAND LAW - Deed -Registration of - Whether evidence of due execution

Issues:

  1. Whether there had been due execution of Exhibit A on which the respondent rested his claims for title.
  2. If there is due execution of Exhibit A, in view of the pleading and evidence in this case, whether the onus or burden of proof was not on the appellant who alleged forgery to prove same.

Facts:

The plaintiff, now respondent, filed a writ of summons in the High Court of Western State, Ibadan, against the defendant, now appellant, claiming declaration of title to land, damages for trespass and an injunction restraining the appellant, his servants or agents from further trespass on the said land.

Pleadings were ordered, filed, and delivered.  The respondent and the appellant traced their root of title to a common vendor, the Okeremi Family.  The respondent’s title over the land in dispute was based on a registered deed of conveyance, dated the 20th day of March, 1956, whose certified true copy was tendered at the trial as Exhibit A, the original copy having been lost.

The appellant at the trial based his title on a registered deed of conveyance-Exhibit C-dated the 12th day of April, 1957.  The appellant further in his statement of defence alleged that Exhibit A relied on by the respondent was a forgery.

At the conclusion of trial, the trial Judge dismissed the claims of the respondent for failure to prove due execution of the deed of conveyanceExhibit A.

The respondent, being dissatisfied, appealed to the Court of Appeal, which allowed the appeal and held that the trial Judge had wrongly placed the onus of proof on the respondent that Exhibit A was not a forgery, when it was the appellant herein that asserted the forgery and it was not proved as required by law by the appellant.

Dissatisfied with the judgment of the Court of Appeal, the appellant appealed to the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court, in resolving the matter, considered section 18 subsections 1 - 5 and section 30 subsections 1 - 2 of the Land Instruments Registration Law of Western Region of Nigeria, Cap.

56  of  1959.

Section 18 subsections 1 - 5 provides as follows:-

18 (1) Any person desiring that any instrument shall be registered shall deliver the same together with a true copy thereof and the prescribed fee to the Registrar at the office.

  1. The Registrar shall immediately after such delivery, place upon the instrument and upon the copy thereof a certificate, as in Form 8 in the Schedule.
  2. Unless the instrument is one which is declared by the

Law to be void or the registration of which is prohibited by this Law, the registrar shall compare the copy of the instrument with the original and if he shall find such a copy to be a true copy and to comply with any regulations made under this Law and for the time being in force he shall certify the same by writing thereon “certified true copy” and appending his signature thereto

  1. The registrar shall thereupon register the instrument by causing a copy so certified to be pasted or bound in one of the register books and by endorsing upon the original instrument a certificate as in form C in the first Schedule. And upon such registration the year, month, day and hour specified in the certificate endorsed on the instrument in pursuance of  subsection (2) shall be taken to be the year, month, day and hour at which instrument was registered.
  2. The original instrument shall thereafter, upon application, be returned to the person who shall have delivered it for registration provided that if application for the return of the instrument is not made within twelve months after the date of registration the registrar may

destroy the instrument.”

Section 30 sub-section 1 - 2 provide as follows:-

“30 (1) The Registrar shall upon request give a certified copy of any entry in any such register book or register, or of any field document.

(2) Every such certified copy shall be received in evidence, without any further or other proof in all civil cases”