CASE SUMMARY OF:
Chief Ebenezer Awote & Ors. v. Alhaji Sunmola Kadiri Owodunni & Anor. (1987) - SC
- Declaration of title to land;
1. Chief Ebenezer Awote (The Oliwo Agbadagbodo and Head of The Oliwo Agbadagbodo Family of Ijasi Quuter Ijebu Ode);
2. Mrs. Edith A. Onabanjo;
3. Mr. Oseni Kehinde Muse;
4. Mr. Ma Jekodunmi Agunbiade (For Themselves as Members and Representatives of the Oliwo Agbadagbodo Family of Ijasi Quarter Ijebu Ode and on Behalf of the said Oliwo Agbadagbodo Family)
1. Alha Ji Sunmola Kadiri Owodunni;
2. Prince Moliku Oladeji Oluwole (Substituted by Order of Court for Kafaru Olayinka);
(1987) NWLR (Pt. 57) 366;
(1987) 5 S.C 1;
LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
* FOR THE APPELLANT
- Mr. G. O.K. Ajayi SAN;
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
- Professor A.B. Kasunmu SAN.
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FACT (as relating to the issues)
This case started from the Customary Court - from the Ijebu-Ode Grade "A" Customary Court. There the Plaintiffs claimed the following reliefs:- (1) Declaration of title in accordance with customary law to all that piece or parcel of land situate lying and being along Ijebu-Ode/Ibadan Road, Ijebu-Ode at the back of Chief T.A. Odutola's compound, Ijebu-Ode as the property of the Plaintiffs' family, to wit, the Oliwo Agbadagbodo Family (otherwise known as and called Olore Family Nigeria). The value of the land is 250.00pounds (Two Hundred and Fifty Pounds). (2) Two Hundred and Fifty Pounds being general damages for the trespass committed on the said land by the defendant on or about the 24th day of June, 1968, and (3) Injunction restraining the Defendant, his agent, servants or assigns from any further act of trespass on the said land.
This being a case commenced in the Customary Court there was no order for pleadings and plans to be filed and exchanged. After hearing evidence from both sides the learned President of the Customary Court dismissed the Plaintiffs' claim. This was on the 21st day of May, 1973. The Plaintiffs then appealed from the Customary Court to the High Court Ijebu-Ode in its appellate capacity. Coker, J. (as he then was) allowed the Plaintiff's appeal and set aside the judgment of the Customary Court. The Defendant dissatisfied and aggrieved by the appeal judgment of the Ijebu-Ode High Court then appealed to the Western State Court of Appeal which allowed the Defendants' appeal, set aside the appeal judgment of Coker, J. (as he then was) and restored the original judgment of the Ijebu-Ode Grade "A" Customary Court.
The Plaintiffs again dissatisfied and aggrieved have now appealed to the Supreme Court of Nigeria on four grounds of law and one of facts.
HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
THE SUPREME COURT ORDERED A RETRIAL OF THE CASE. THE SUPREME COURT STATED:
"The elements of surprises should be eliminated so that the real issues in controversy can be determined. Without pleadings in a matter of this nature, there can be no proper trial of all the issues in controversy."
"The plans used in this case, EXS.A, F and Z fall far short of what is required of plans in land cases. The plan in a land case should be properly orientated, drawn to scale, and accurate. Such a plan should reflect all the boundary features and show clearly the boundaries in dispute especially where the lands of the contesting parties abut on one another. Where, as in this case, parties own land on either side of a common boundary, it is necessary to show very clearly where that boundary is and what it consists of otherwise (as also in "the present case) such plans will be regarded as vague and inaccurate."
"Therefore in the interest of justice, and acting on the general powers conferred on this Court by Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act No. 12 of 1960 and Order 8 Rule 13(1) of the Supreme Court Rules 1985, a new trial in the appropriate High Court where accurate plans and pleadings should be ordered will be the only just and equitable answer. To that end this appeal is allowed. The judgments and consequential orders of all the 3 Courts below are hereby set aside and in their place a new trial of this case in the Ijebu-Ode Judicial Division of the Ogun State High Court is hereby ordered. I will make no orders as to costs."
J.M. Kodilinye v. Mbanefo Odu (1935) 2 W.A.C.A 336 at pp. 337/338 the West African Court of Appeal held: "The onus lies on the plaintiff to satisfy the Court that he is entitled on the evidence brought by him to a declaration of title. The plaintiff in this case must rely on the strength of his own case and not on the weakness of the defendant's case. If this onus is not discharged, the weakness of the defendant's case will not help him and the proper judgment is for the defendant. Such a judgment decrees no title to the defendant, he not having sought the declaration. So if the whole evidence in the case be conflicting and somewhat confused and there is little to choose between the rival traditional stories, the plaintiff fails in the decree he seeks and judgment must be entered for the defendant."
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Where a court of trial fails to advert its mind to and treat all issues in controversy fully and there is insufficient material before the appeal court for the resolution of the matter, the proper order is one of retrial. - Oputa, JSC. Awote v. Kadiri (1987)
There is no doubt that the onus (and a very heavy onus it is) is on a plaintiff/claimant asking for a decree of declaration of title to show clearly the area of land to which his claim relates. - Oputa, JSC. Awote v. Kadiri (1987)
The plaintiff can do this by such oral description of the land that any Surveyor acting on such description can produce a plan of the land he claims see Kwadzo v. Adjei (1944) 10 W.A.C.A. 274. Another and perhaps better way of proving the identity and extent of the land claimed is by filing a plan reflecting all the features of the land and showing clearly the boundaries. - Oputa, JSC. Awote v. Kadiri (1987)
The plans used in this case, EXS.A, F and Z fall far short of what is required of plans in land cases. The plan in a land case should be properly orientated, drawn to scale, and accurate. Such a plan should reflect all the boundary features and show clearly the boundaries in dispute especially where the lands of the contesting parties abut on one another. Where, as in this case, parties own land on either side of a common boundary, it is necessary to show very clearly where that boundary is and what it consists of otherwise (as also in "the present case) such plans will be regarded as vague and inaccurate. - Oputa, JSC. Awote v. Kadiri (1987)
The elements of surprises should be eliminated so that the real issues in controversy can be determined. Without pleadings in a matter of this nature, there can be no proper trial of all the issues in controversy. - Oputa, JSC. Awote v. Kadiri (1987)
It is a settled principle of law that there can be no finality in adjudicatory process and litigation until justice is obtained and length of time does not constitute a barrier to justice once a matter is in court. - Obaseki, JSC. Awote v. Kadiri (1987)
The end of this brief.
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