💎 CASE SUMMARY OF:
Enawakponmwhem Aighobahi & Ors. v Chief Edokpayi Aifuwa & Ors. (2006) – SC
1. Enawakponmwhem Aighobahi
2. Aighogun Omonoyan
3. Enoghabun Ekhoragbon
4. Osazuwa Omonoyan
1. Chief Edokpayi Aifuwa
2. Omonuwa Erebor
3. Evbaruese Uwumonse
4. Igbinovia Aiyudubie
5. Okhuoroho Osabuohien
(2006) 6 NWLR (Pt.976) 270
💎 LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, JSC
💎 LAWYERS WHO ADVOCATED
FOR THE APPELLANT
– A. O. C Okeaya-Inneh, Esq.
FOR THE RESPONDENT
– Osaro Eghobamien, Esq.
The case of the respondents who are natives of Iguomo village is that they have been the original owners in possession of a large piece or parcel of land including the portion now in dispute between the parties, from time immemorial which land is situated and lying at Iguomo village and founded by one Imadegue who deforested and settled therein; that the Iguomo village was originally known as Imadequen but was later changed to Iguomo by Oba Ozolua when he visited the village and met only women due to the fact that the male members of the community had committed suicide before his arrival; that they had since exercised acts of ownership over the entire land by letting out portions thereof to people including members of the appellants’ community; that appellants later started to commit acts of trespass on the land resulting in the institution of the action.
On the other hand, the appellants who are from Ikhuenbo village, claim that Iguomo village was a settlement made up of Oba of Benin palace servants and slaves, which was established by one Chief Ehenegha; the Chief priest and clan head of the appellant’s community, during the reign of Oba Eresoyan; that it was the said Oba Eresoyan who sent the respondents’ ancestors as palace servants and/or slaves to the said Chief priest Ehenegha to help the latter in farming and other chores; that respondents’ ancestors and the present respondents paid traditional homage to the appellants’ but later stopped.
It is important to note that though respondents claimed and testified to the existence of a boundary between the parties and other neighbouring communities, the appellants insist that there is no boundary between them because respondents live and occupy land belonging to the appellants.
The trial Judge preferred the traditional history of the respondents to that of the appellants and decided the case against the appellants who thereafter appealed to the Court of Appeal which dismissed their appeal resulting in this further appeal.
(1) Whether the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal were right in law in striking out grounds 2, 4, 5 of the appellants’ grounds of appeal before that court.
(2) Whether the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal were right in law in failing to consider issue 5 raised in relation to exhibit 7 in appellants’ brief of argument.
💎 HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
ISSUE 1: The Supreme Court held that the lower court erred in striking out the grounds. Thus, it gave judgement in this aspect in favour of the Appellant, but did not grant the Appellant’s request for the matter to be re-sent to the lower court for it to be decided. It gave reason that there was no miscarriage of justice.
i. By holding (supra), the lower court clearly stated that it could and did understand what grounds 2, 3, 4, 5, and 9 are complaining about; and concluded that while grounds 2, 3 and 9 are grounds of facts, grounds 4 and 5 are of mixed law and facts. I hold the view that by so holding the Court of Appeal meant that there was no ambiguity in the grounds of appeal complained of neither can they be said to be vague or imprecise.
ii. I hold the view that the earlier holding could not have been possible if the lower court had found the impugned grounds to be imprecise, vague or ambiguous.
ISSUE 2: As for issue 2, it was decided against the Appellant. the Supreme Court stated, “I hold the view that the trial court properly evaluated the totality of the evidence before it including the evidence on the issue of boundary and properly came to the right decision on the matter and that the lower court is right in confirming that decision. I therefore resolve issue No.2 against the appellants.”
💎 SOME PROVISIONS
⦿ FIVE WAYS OWNERSHIP OF LAND COULD BE PROVED
The law recognises five distinct ways in which title to or ownership of land in Nigeria could be proved as stated by the Supreme Court in the case of Idundun v. Okumagba (1976) 9-10 S, C 227, These are: (a) By traditional evidence (b) By production of documents of title duly authenticated and executed, (c) By acts of ownership extending over a sufficient length of time numerous and positive enough as to warrant the inference of true ownership. (d) By acts of long possession and enjoyment, and, (e) Proof of possession of connected or adjacent land in circumstances rendering it probable that the owner of such connected or adjacent land would, in addition be the owner of the land in dispute.
💎 NOTABLE DICTA
⦿ GROUND OF APPEAL IS ABANDONED WHERE NO ISSUE IS FORMULATED THEREFROM
The law is that in absence of any issue(s) being so formulated from the grounds, the said grounds of appeal are deemed abandoned and liable to be struck out. – Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, JSC. Enawakponmwhem Aighobahi & Ors v. Chief Edokpayi Aifuwa & Ors (2006)
⦿ FIVE WAYS TO PROVE TITLE – TRADITIONAL EVIDENCE / CONVEYANCE
In an action for declaration of title to land, as in the instant case, a plaintiff need not prove all the five ways. Where the plaintiff’s case is based on traditional evidence of ownership as the legal basis of his claim, his duty is limited to proving such traditional title and no more. On the other hand, if a plaintiff’s claim relies on conveyance as the legal basis of ownership his duty is, simply to produce the documents of the title or the title deeds. The same thing applies where he claims through any of the other remaining three ways. – Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, JSC. Enawakponmwhem Aighobahi & Ors v. Chief Edokpayi Aifuwa & Ors (2006)
⦿ WHAT MAKES A GROUND OF APPEAL INCOMPETENT
What makes a ground incompetent is not whether it is framed as an error and a misdirection but whether by so stating it, the other side is left in doubt and without adequate information as to what the complaint of the appellant actually is. – Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, JSC. Enawakponmwhem Aighobahi & Ors v. Chief Edokpayi Aifuwa & Ors (2006)
⦿ SUPREME COURT IS TILTED TO DOING SUBSTANTIAL JUSTICE AS LAST COURT OF RESORT
Counsel must always bear in mind that this is the court of last resort in some appeals in this country and that the attitude of this court has changed from doing technical justice to doing substantial justice. – Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, JSC. Enawakponmwhem Aighobahi & Ors v. Chief Edokpayi Aifuwa & Ors (2006)
⦿ PURPOSE OF GROUNDS OF APPEAL IS TO PUT THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COMPLAINT RAISED
It must be emphasized that the whole purpose of a ground of appeal is to appraise or put the other side on notice of the nature of the complaint being raised therein and the overriding consideration is whether the ground is clearly stated or is vague. – Mohammed, JSC. Enawakponmwhem Aighobahi & Ors v. Chief Edokpayi Aifuwa & Ors (2006)