FREEBORN OKIEMUTE Vs. THE STATEJuly 11, 2016
FABIAN IMOH Vs. THE STATEJuly 20, 2016
Court Of Appeal – July, 2016
APPEAL NO: CA/L/272/2014
Areas Of Law:
APPEAL, ESTOPPEL, LAND LAW, LOCUS STANDI, PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE
Summary Of Facts
The Claimant/Respondent instituted an action in a representative capacity at the Ikeja Judicial Division of the High Court of Lagos State seeking a declaration that the Claimants are the bona-fide owners of the property now municipally described as No. 3 Idiomo Street/No. 4, Egbe Street, Isale-Eko in the Lagos State of Nigeria by virtue of the Deed of Conveyance dated the 3rd day of June, 1998 registered as No. 7 at page 13 in Volume 33 in the Register of Deeds kept in the Lagos State Lands Registry, an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Defendant whether by himself, servants, agents or privies from meddling or interfering with the said property and the sum of N500,000.00(Five Hundred Thousand Naira) being general damages for acts of trespass committed on the property. At the close of trial, judgment was entered in favour of the Respondents. Dissatisfied with the said judgement, the Appellant has filed the instant appeal before this court.
Issues For Determination
- Whether the Learned trial Judge was correct in holding that the Respondents have traced their root of title to the purchase made by their grandfather and that they have gone further to trace and establish the title of their grandfather’s vendor
- Whether the Learned trial Judge was correct in holding the identity of the land in dispute was admitted by the Appellant.
- Whether the Learned trial Judge was correct on the true position of the application of the doctrine of Estoppel per rem judicatam as regards the decision of the Registrar of titles Exhibit “11”
- Whether the Learned trial Judge was correct in holding that the Respondents have established a better title to the subject property and are thus entitled to the judgment of the Court.”
EVALUATION OF EVIDENCE – AN APPELLATE COURT CANNOT SUBSTITUTE ITS OWN VIEWS WITH THAT OF A TRIAL COURT WHERE SAME IS SUPPORTED BY EVIDENCE
“Indeed, as the Appellant’s counsel rightly noted, evaluation of evidence is the primary function of the trial court and this court will not readily interfere nor disturb the findings of the trial court, even where it would have reached a distinct conclusion, unless the finding of fact by the trial court is not based on admitted evidence before the court or same is perverse. Put differently, it is not within the obligation of this court as an Appellate court to substitute its own view with that of the trial court where the latter’s finding is supportable by evidence on record and is not perverse. See Ifeta v S.P.D.C  8 NWLR (Pt 983) 585; Orianwo V Okene  6 SC (Pt II) 45; Agbakoba V INEC  18 NWLR (Pt 1119) 489 SC; Hassan V Aliyu  17 NWLR (Pt 1223) 547 SC. PER A. O. OSARUGUE-ADEJUMO, J.C.A
TITLE TO LAND – CRITERIA FOR PROOF OF TITLE TO LAND
“The Supreme Court decision of Idundun V Okumagba  9 10SC 227 at 246 – 250 established the criteria for the proof of declaration of title to land to include: (a) by traditional evidence; (b) by documents of title such as conveyance; (c) acts of ownership spanning over a sufficient length of time; (d) by acts of long possession and enjoyment of the land; and (b) proof of possession of connected or adjacent land”. PER A. O. OSARUGUE-ADEJUMO, J.C.A
IDENTITY OF LAND – MODE OF ESTABLISHING THE IDENTITY OF LAND
“On the question of identity of the land, while the law remain settled that, in an action for declaration of title to land, it is the duty of a Claimant to establish with certainty the identity of the land to which the action relates, it is also trite law that the claimants can discharge this burden either by calling oral evidence and describing the said land with such degree of accuracy as to guide the court with respect to the dispute before it. Another way is by filing a plan reflecting all the features of the land showing clearly the boundaries. See Adomba V Odiese (1990) LPELR – 190 (SC); Onwuka V Ediala (1989) LPELR – 2720 (SC)”. PER A. O. OSARUGUE-ADEJUMO, J.C.A
PROOF OF IDENTITY OF LAND – WHETHER IT IS MANDATORY TO TENDER A COMPOSITE PLAN IN PROVING THE IDENTITY OF LAND
“It is not mandatory for the Respondent, in proving the identity of the disputed land, to tender a composite plan. See Adedeji v Oloso  5 NWLR (PT 1026) 133. The absence of a composite plan is not fatal to the Respondents’ claim before the lower court having been able to successfully identify the land in dispute”. PER A. O. OSARUGUE-ADEJUMO, J.C.A
LOCUS STANDI – TESTS IN DETERMINING LOCUS STANDI
“On the question of locus standi, which entails the legal capacity of a person, be it natural or artificial, to institute legal proceeding in a court of law. Locus standi principally is anchored on the legal capacity of the party seeking to be heard with respect to the complaint before the court in the sense that a party must be able to show that he has interest(s), sufficient enough, which has been adversely breached or affected, the basis upon which he or she seeks redress. There are basically two tests in determining locus standi of a person. The tests are (1) the action must be justiciable; and (2) there must be a dispute between the parties and the claimant has right rights, duties, liabilities connected with the subject matter. See A-G Kaduna State V Hassan  2 NWLR (PT 8) 483; Nnoli V Nnoli (2013) LPELR – 20633, 17 -18, F – A”. PER A. O. OSARUGUE-ADEJUMO, J.C.A
DOCTRINE OF ESTOPPEL – CONDITIONS FOR THE APPLICABILITY OF THE DOCTRINE OF ESTOPPEL
“In Okukuje V. Odejenima Akwido 3 NWLR (Pt.700) 261, KASTINA ALU JSC, stated that, for the doctrine of estoppel per rem judicatam to apply, it must be shown that:
(c) Subject-matter in the previous action was the same as it was in the action in which the plea is raised.
See Thomas V Aderinokun  16 NWLR (PT.1112) 184; Adebo V Omisola  2 NWLR (Pt 909) 149.
As a general rule, once more of any issues have been distinctly raised in a cause of action and determined between the same parties in a court of competent jurisdiction, neither party is allowed to reopen or relitigate any of such issues again in another action between the same parties”. PER A. O. OSARUGUE-ADEJUMO, J.C.A
Statutes Referred To:
Administration of Estates Law Cap. A3 Laws of Lagos State (2003)
Evidence Act, 2011