TENDERING A PERIMETER PLAN DOES NOT PRIMA FACIE ESTABLISH TITLE TO LAND
CASE DETAILS: IGWE EMMANUEL UGWU & ORS v. CHIEF EDWARD MBA (2019) LPELR-46495(CA)
LEAD JUDGMENT BY: CHINWE EUGENIA IYIZOBA, J.C.A.
PRACTICE AREA: LAND LAW
FACTS OF THE CASE
This appeal is against the judgment of the High Court of Enugu State, Enugu, delivered by Nwobodo J.
The Respondent took out a writ against the Appellants claiming the following reliefs:
“i. A declaration that the defendants operating in the style and manner “IBAGWA NIKE POWER OF ATTORNEY” are not holder nor occupier of “OKPUHU-ACHALLA” land, therefore have no interest on the said land which belong to the plaintiff.
ii. A declaration that the plaintiff as the holder and occupier of the land in dispute known as “OKPUHU-ACHALLA” by inheritance, constituting his own share among the children of Late Chief Ugwu Nwa Mba Ugwu, surveyed and represented in Survey Plan No. COS/EN/12/2008, is the bona fide owner of the said land in dispute and entitled to the statutory grant of Customary Certificate of Occupancy.
iii. A declaration that the Defendant’s letter to the plaintiff dated the 18/10/2010 with their reference No. INPA/BOT/001 has no basis in law and an act of interference to the plaintiff’s enjoyment of his property.
iv. A declaration that the Defendant have no authority over the plaintiff’s land shown on plan No. COS/EN/12/2008 Exhibit A and
v. Order of Perpetual Injunction restraining the Defendants by themselves, servants, agents, workmen and or their representatives however, called further acts of trespass on the plaintiffs property/land and or interfering with the plaintiffs enjoyment of the use of his said land represented by Survey Plan COS/EN/12/2008 Exhibit ‘A’.”
The case of the Respondent was that the land in dispute was part of the land inherited by his father Chief Ugwu Nwa Mbah Ugwu from his forefathers. On his death on 16/12/92, his land known as Okpuhu-Achalla devolved on his four sons. The land was shared among the four sons on 17/10/05. The Respondent claims the land in dispute is his own share of their father’s Okpuhu-Achalla land which has common boundary with the community land called Ugwu Isiji. The Respondent claimed that Ugwu Isiji had been surveyed, necessary boundary adjustments made and the land shared to the community in 2003. In 2008, the Respondent then surveyed and registered his own share along with small off cuts beside his land in Survey plan no COS/EN/12/2008. The Respondent averred that sometime in 2010, the current Igwe of the community and some members of his cabinet (the Appellants) out of spite, wrote to the Respondent claiming that he was trespassing on community land known as “Ugwu Isiji” and asked him to vacate the land as the community now wished to make use of it. The Respondent then instituted the action.
The case of the Appellants was that “off cuts” mentioned by the Respondent were pieces of land and part of Ugwu Isiji which belong to Ibagwa Nike Community which the Respondent trespassed into and acquired illegitimately. Respondent’s brother of the full blood testified that the land the Respondent was claiming does not belong to his family.
Judgment was delivered in favour of the Respondent. Dissatisfied, Appellants appealed to the Court of Appeal.
ISSUE(S) FOR DETERMINATION
The crux of the appeal, as identified by the Court of Appeal, is:
“Whether the Respondent discharged the burden on him of proving that the land he surveyed and registered, plan COS/EN/12/2008 is exclusively his own share of the family property entitling him to a declaration that he is the bona fide owner of the land and the right to a grant of Customary Certificate of Occupancy.”
DECISION OF THE COURT
In the final analysis, the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and set aside the decision of the trial Court.
- EVIDENCE – PROOF OF TITLE TO LAND - Ways by which ownership/title to land may be proved; whether a plaintiff needs to prove all the five ways
- EVIDENCE – BURDEN OF PROOF/STANDARD OF PROOF – Burden and standard of proof in land matters
- LAND LAW – DECLARATION OF TITLE TO LAND – Whether adducing of evidence by way of survey plan without more can warrant the grant of declaration of title to land