WHEN WILL A STATEMENT ON OATH NOT CONSTITUTE EVIDENCE TO PROVE PLEADED FACTS
CASE TITLE: ALALADE & ORS v. ODODO & ORS (2019) LPELR-46888(CA)
JUDGMENT DATE: 6TH MARCH, 2019
PRACTICE AREA: LAND LAW
LEAD JUDGMENT: UGOCHUKWU ANTHONY OGAKWU, J.C.A.
SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT:
This appeal borders on land law.
This is an appeal against the decision of the High Court of Lagos State.
The disputed land was (eleven plots of land) situate at Ije Ododo, Lagos State. The Appellants claimed to have bought the land from one Alhaja Basiratu Ododo (deceased) who was related to all the Respondents. The Appellants case was that after the death of their vendor, the Respondents trespassed upon the land consequent upon which the Appellants instituted proceedings at the High Court and claimed as follows:
“1. A declaration that the Claimants are entitled to Statutory Right of Occupancy to the Eleven Plots of Land Situate at Ije Ododo, Lagos State shown and delineated on Compilation Survey Plans JOD/37/87 AND JOD/004/89 MADE BY Surveyor J. O. Dudu of 19, Assoland Street, Ewu Tutun, Shogunle Lagos.
- A sum of N22 Million (Twenty-two Million Naira) being Special and General Damages for trespass.
- Perpetual Injunction restraining the defendants jointly and severally, their agents, servants, assigns and privies from committing further acts of trespass on the said Plots of Lands.”
The Respondents were served with all the Court processes but they neither filed any processes nor cross-examined the sole witness called by the Appellants in proof of their case. In its judgment, the trial Court dismissed the Appellants’ case. Appellants appealed to the Court of Appeal.
ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION
Appellants distilled five issues for determination as follows:
“1. Whether the witness statement on oath of the 1st appellant is competent and whether the lower Court can determine the suit on the basis of the witness statement on oath.
- Whether the disparity between exhibits B, D, E, F, K and K1 and the evidence of the 1st appellant with respect to the date of the purchase of the land in dispute is fatal to the appellants’ case.
- Whether the trial judge was right to have raised and determined suo motu the issue of discrepancy in exhibits B, D, E, F, K and K1 and the evidence of the 1st appellant without allowing the appellant to address him on it.
- Whether there was evidence in the written statement on oath upon which the lower Court could have granted the appellants a declaration to the land in dispute.
5. Whether the other claims of damages and injunction founded on the declaratory relief should fail.”
In conclusion, the Court of Appeal resolved the issues against the appellants and dismissed the appeal.
- COURT- RAISING ISSUE(S) SUO MOTU: Whether drawing inference from evidence on record amounts to raising issues suo motu
- DAMAGES- SPECIAL DAMAGES: Whether a claim for special damages must be specifically pleaded and strictly proved
- BURDEN OF PROOF/ONUS OF PROOF: Whether the plaintiff in a declaratory action has the burden to prove his case irrespective of admissions or default of pleading by the defendant
- EVIDENCE- UNCHALLENGED/UNCONTROVERTED EVIDENCE: Whether where the evidence adduced before a trial Court is unchallenged, the Court still has a duty to evaluate same
- LAND LAW- CLAIM FOR TRESPASS AND INJUNCTION: Whether a plaintiff can succeed on a claim for damages for trespass and injunction even where his claim for a declaration of title fails