➥ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Ogundele v. Agiri (2009) – SC
by PipAr Chima
Supreme Court – SC.134/2004
➥ JUDGEMENT DELIVERED ON:
Friday, the 11th day of December, 2009
➥ AREA(S) OF LAW
Customary Court judgment.
➥ NOTABLE DICTA
⦿ ORAL EVIDENCE INADMISSIBLE TO CONTRADICT DOCUMENT
It is trite law that oral evidence is inadmissible to contradict the contents of a document. In other words oral testimony cannot be used to state the content of a document. This is so, because documents when tendered and admitted in court are like words uttered and do speak for themselves. They are more reliable and authentic then words from the vocal cord of man as they are neither transient nor subject to distortion and miss-interpretation but remain permanent and indelible through the ages. – Muntaka- coomassie, JSC.
⦿ WHEN IS AN ISSUE ON APPEAL EXTRANEOUS
An issue is said to be extraneous, when it was neither raised nor canvassed at the trial court on pleadings and in the evidence of the parties. – Ogbuagu JSC.
⦿ STRICT PRINCIPLES ARE INAPPLICABLE TO NATIVE COURT PROCEEDINGS
The procedure of a Native Court should not be subjected to strict principles of law as done, in the regular courts of record. Greater latitude and broader interpretation should be accorded to decisions of native courts. – Fabiyi JSC.
1. Bello Ogundele
2. Ajide Lode Onifare (for themselves and on behalf of ONIFARE Family Ila-Orangun)
Shitiu Agiri Lawani Agiri (for themselves and on behalf of AGIRI Family of Ila Orangun).
➥ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
M. S. Muntaka-coomassie, J.S.C
⦿ FOR THE APPELLANT
T.O AJIBOLA, ESQ.
⦿ FOR THE RESPONDENT
OLALEKAN OJO, ESQ.
➥ CASE HISTORY
The gist of this case is that there was a dispute over the land in dispute between the families of the parties in his case in 1937 before the ILA Native Court. On 14/7/37 judgment was delivered whereby the defendants, the predecessors of the appellants before that court, were ordered to pay 20 shillings and to vacate the land. However in 1938 the matter was ordered to be re-opened and a joint inspection of the land was ordered whereby both parties agreed to a common boundary and the court’s inspection team planted “peregun” tree at the agreed boundary to demarcate the and, thereafter a judgment was finally delivered in terms of the mutual agreement.
In 1979, the respondents filed a fresh action for declaration of title to the land, including the part that belonged to the appellants, and tendered the judgment delivered on 4/7/37 without averting the court with the proceedings that terminated in 1938. Based on the judgment of the Native Court delivered on 14/7/37. Hon. Justice Oloko gave judgment for the respondents. The appellants appealed against the judgment but later abandoned it.
Thereafter, the appellants filed this suit and claimed the reliefs earlier set out in this judgment. The judgment delivered in 1938 was tendered as Exhibits B and B1. The learned trial judge, Justice R. O. Yusuf gave/judgment for the plaintiffs.
The respondents appealed against this judgment to the Court of Appeal, hereinafter called the lower court. The lower court allowed the appeal.
Being dissatisfied with the judgment of the lower court, the appellants have appealed to this court.
➥ ISSUE(S) & RESOLUTION
I. Whether the respondents made a full disclosure of the proceedings of the lIa-Native Court before the High Court of Justice in suit No. HOS/1/79, that led to the judgment delivered in the said suit by the Hon. Justice S. A. Oloko on 23/1/81?
I.A. With the greatest respect I am of the humble view that the trial court’s findings on this issue were correct. If this proceedings of 5/10/38 has been produced before the court in suit No. HOS/1/79, the judgment of the Hon. Justice S.A. Oloko would have been different. This is a clear case of concealment or false misrepresentation. I quite agree, with all sense of responsibility, with the submission of the learned counsel to the appellant that the lower court based its judgment on extraneous matters to wit – issue of custody, authenticity and/or discrepancies between exhibits B and B1. These are issues not raised by the parties. The lower court was therefore in error to have raised them suo-motu without affording the parties the opportunity to address it on them.
I.B. Finally, I hold that this appeal my lords has merit. The appellants have proved that the respondents falsely misrepresented the proceedings of lIa- Native Court in suit No HOS/1/79 by concealing the final judgment of that court, which led to the judgment delivered by the Hon. Justice S.A. Oloko in 1981. Consequently the judgment of the lower court is hereby set aside and in its place the judgment of the trial court delivered by Hon. Justice R. O. Yusuf on 13th day of October, 1998 is hereby restored. The appellants are entitled to costs both in the court below and this court assessed at N30,000.00 and N50,000.00 respectively.
➥ MISCELLANEOUS POINTS
⦿ APPELLATE COURT APPROACH TO REVIEWING CUSTOMARY COURT DECISION
This court in the case of Odofin V. Oni (2001) 1 SCNJ 130 handed down the principles to be adopted in interpreting the records of proceedings of a Native or Customary Courts. At page 149 of the report Achike JSC of blessed memory stated the principles thus:- “In order to appreciate the real effect of the lower courts strong criticism of the statement of the customary court that the respondent “failed to prove ownership of the land in dispute” it is important to stress that greater latitude and broader interpretation must be accorded to decision of customary courts as it is trite that the proceedings in the customary courts are not subject to the application of the Evidence Act. It is important that superior appellant courts in relation to matters relating to customary courts should focus their attention to the substance of the judgments or decisions in those courts rather than the forms. This is so because customary courts be they Area Courts or whatever name they are christened in our judicial jurisdiction are generally presided over by laymen without even rudimentary exposure to legal principles. An Appellate Court should in all circumstances strive to get the bottom of the decision of a customary court. This can only be achieved by considering the input of a decision of a customary court not in fragments or in isolation of excerpts thereof but must be read harmoniously as a whole in order to capture its imports. In other-words when greater latitude is accorded to the interpretation of the decisions of customary court it will be sufficient if such decisions are seen to accord with the view of person of good common sense and reason completely devoid of legalistic encrustments”.
➥ REFERENCED (STATUTE)
➥ REFERENCED (CASE)
➥ REFERENCED (OTHERS)