(2021) Legalpedia (CA) 72084
In the Court of Appeal
HOLDEN AT GOMBE
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Suite Number: CA/G/48/2020
JUMMAI HANNATU SANKEY
UZO I. NDUKWE-ANYANWU
JAMES GAMBO ABUNDAGA
KARI TAYA || MUHAMMAD ABUBAKAR
AREA(S) OF LAW
PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE
SUMMARY OF FACTS
The Respondent as Plaintiff in the Upper Area Court sued the Appellants as Defendants for a declaration of title to the disputed land. The 2nd Appellant as 2nd Defendant filed a Counter-Claim on the disputed land. Both parties fielded 3 and 4 witnesses respectively. At the end of the trial, the learned trial Judge found for the Plaintiff/Respondent, dismissing the Counter-Claim of the 2nd Appellant. Being naturally dissatisfied, the Appellants herein filed an appeal to the High Court in its appellate jurisdiction. The Appellants lost the appeal hence a further appeal to this Court. The Appellant’s contention is that the evidence adduced by the Appellants before the trial Upper Area Court, Dukku and the decision reached by the two Courts below are unreasonable, unwarranted and cannot be supported having regard to the weight of evidence adduced. He submitted that the court below did not re-evaluate the evidence before the trial court.
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ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION
Whether the lower Appellate Court was right in holding that, the trial Court did evaluate the evidence before it, when by the way and manner the matter was handled, there was no proper evaluation of the evidence before it Whether or not having regard to the Islamic Law Principle of Oath taking, the lower Court was right when it affirmed that, the Oath administered by the trial Court was right even when both side called evidence
EVALUATION OF EVIDENCE –GUIDING PRINCIPLES IN THE EVALUATION OF EVIDENCE
“In the evaluation of evidence, the trial Courts are guided by the following principles namely: (1) Whether the evidence is admissible; (2) Whether the evidence is relevant; (3) Whether the evidence is credible; (4) Whether the evidence is conclusive; (5) Whether the evidence is more probable than that given by the other party. See Mogaji vs. Odofin (1978) 4 SC page 91; Akad Industries Ltd. vs. Olubode (2004) 4 NWLR (Pt.862) page 1.
EVALUATION OF EVIDENCE – EVALUATION OF EVIDENCE IS THE PRIMARY FUNCTION OF A TRIAL COURT
“Evaluation of relevant and material evidence before the Court and the ascription of probative value to such evidence are the primary functions of the trial Court which saw, heard and assessed the witnesses while they testified. Where the trial Court unquestionably evaluates the evidence and justifiably appraises the facts, it is not the business of the appellate Court to substitute its views for those of the trial Court. Agbi vs. Ogbeh (2005) 8 NWLR (Pt.920) page 40, Bashoya vs. State (1998) 5 NWLR (Pt.550) page 351; Ojokolobo vs. Alamu (1998) 9 NWLR (Pt.565) page 226; Sha vs. Kwan (2000) 5 SC page 178; State vs. Agie (2000) 7 SC (Pt.1) page 24; Fagbenro vs. Arobadi (2006) 7 NWLR (Pt.978) page 174”.
DECLARATION OF TITLE TO LAND – ON WHOM LIES THE BURDEN OF PROOF IN A CLAIM FOR DECLARATION OF TITLE TO LAND
“In civil matters a Plaintiff who claims a declaration of title to land has the burden of setting out clearly by who and how the land was founded and the names of persons who had exercised acts of ownership on the land before it devolved upon him. Olokotintin vs. Sarumi (2002) 13 NWLR (Pt.784) page 307”.
DECLARATION OF TITLE TO LAND – DUTY OF A PLAINTIFF WHO SEEKS A DECLARATION OF TITLE TO LAND
“A plaintiff who seeks a declaration of title to land must prove his root of title to the land. Where he traces his title to a particular person, he must further prove how that person got his own title or came to have the title vested in him, including where necessary the family that originally owned the land. The burden of proof on the plaintiff is not discharged even where the scales are evenly weighted between the parties. Archibong vs. Edak (2006) 7 NWLR (Pt.980) page 485; Dike vs. Okoloedo (1999) 10 NWLR (Pt.623) page 359; Otanma vs. Youdubagha (2006) 2 NWLR (Pt.964) page 137”.
DECLARATION OF TITLE TO LAND – WHETHER A PLAINTIFF CAN RELY ON THE WEAKNESS OF A DEFENDANT’S CASE IN A CLAIM FOR DECLARATION OF TITLE TO LAND
“In a claim for declaration of title to land, a plaintiff has the burden of proving his case upon his own evidence and cannot rely on the weakness of the defendants’ case. However, a plaintiff can take advantage of evidence by the defence, which supports his case: Otanma vs. Youdubagha (supra); Onisaoy vs. Elewufu (2006) 13 NWLR (Pt.998) page 517; Dike vs. Okoloedo (supra); Madubuonwu vs. Nnalue (1999) 11 NWLR (Pt.628) page 673; Eze vs. Alasue (2000) 6 SC (Pt.I) page 214; Elema vs. Akenzua (2000) 7 SC (Pt.III) page 26; Hauma vs. Akpe-Ime (2000) 7 SC (Pt.II) page 24”.
EVALUATION OF EVIDENCE – DUTY OF A PARTY WHO COMPLAINS OF IMPROPER EVALUATION OF EVIDENCE
“Now, it is settled law that an appellant who complains of improper evaluation of evidence is duty bound to specifically mention or identify the particular evidence that was not evaluated. See: Richard Idowu Akanmode V. Melaye Daniel Dino (2008) LPELR-8405 (CA), Igago V. The State (1999) LPELR-1442 (SC) and Akpan V. Fed Mortgage Finance Ltd & Anor (2018) LPELR-46153”.
PROOF OF TITLE TO LAND – DUTY OF A PLAINTIFF WHO RELIES ON TRADITIONAL EVIDENCE IN PROVING TITLE TO LAND
“The law is also settled that there are five methods by which title to land can be proved. See: Idundun V. Okumagba (1976) 9-10 S.C 227. Of these methods, the Respondent chose to prove his case by traditional evidence or traditional history. The Respondent was able to satisfactorily prove his title by this method through the evidence of his witnesses. The Trial Upper Area Court who saw those witnesses testify believed them, as opposed to the evidence called by the Appellants who were not certain of the land in dispute. Worse still the Appellant traced his title to the district head whose title to the land, or authority to allocate some to the Appellant could not be proved. It is certainly the law that where a plaintiff relies on acquisition of title by grant, he is duty bound to prove it, or risk dismissal of his claim. See: Oko V. Okenwa (2009) LPELR-8099 (CA) at pp. 18-19, paras F-D”.
STATUTES REFERRED TO
1.A. Y Umar Esq. for the Appellant|2.A. K Jibrin Esq. for the Respondent|
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