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ALHAJI WAHABI LAYIWOLA OLATUNJI
1. THE MILITARY GOVERNOR OF OYO STATE
2. TAWA INVESTMENTS (NIG.) LTD.
The Government of Oyo State pursuant to Section 28 of the Land Use Act Cap. 202 of the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990 compulsorily acquired a parcel of land at Orita Ikereku, Challenge for public purpose. The acquisition notice was published in Oyo State of Nigeria Gazette No. 10 in Vol. 7 of 11th March, 1982, as Oyo State Notice No. 53.
Before the compulsory acquisition, one Alhaji Wahabi Layiwola Olatunji had in 1976 purchased the parcel of land from Awojobi Kure family of Ibadan.
The said parcel of land thus acquired by the Oyo State Government ostensibly for public purposes was turned over to Tawa Investments Nigeria Limited, a private limited liability company in 1987 because the Government no longer required the said parcel of land for public purpose.
Dissatisfied by the turn of events, Olatunji filed a suit before the High Court claiming the following reliefs:
(i) Declaration that the Compulsory Acquisition of his parcel of land by the Oyo State Government, null, void and of no effect – the same having not been acquired solely for public purposes.
(ii) Declaration that the grant of Certificate of Occupancy dated 25th day of February 1987 in respect of the Acquired Land to a private company, Tawa investments Nigeria Limited, is null, void: The grant not being for public purposes.
In his judgment, the learned trial Judge, Adeyemi, J., rejected Olatunji’s reliefs and proceeded to dismiss his entire claims.
Dissatisfied with the decision of the High Court, Olatunji appealed to the Court of Appeal.
Is public purposes the only ground on which the Government can revoke and compulsorily acquire a person’s piece of land?
The Court of Appeal stated that by the acquisition notice published the land was being acquired for a public purpose. Section 50 of the Land Use Act states what public purpose connotes. Although the section opens with the words “public purpose includes” which words convey that the definition of public purpose therein may not be exhaustive, it seems that other public purposes not stated under Section 50 have to be those similar to those stated in the section. The section also provides that where the acquisition of land is for the use of a body corporate registered under the Companies and Allied Matters Act, the Government must be shown to own shares, stocks, or debentures therein. Throughout the hearing of the case, it was never shown that the Oyo State Government owned shares, stocks, or debentures in Tawa Investments Nigeria Ltd., the limited liability company to which the land was granted after its purported acquisition by the Oyo State Government. The position is that the Oyo State Government in the guise of using the land for a public purpose seized the land of a citizen and gave it away to another citizen or some other citizens. The action of the State Government must be deprecated without reservation. The Oyo State Government in the circumstances acquired no valid interest which could be passed to Tawa Investments Nigeria Ltd.
The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and set aside the decision of the High Court. In its place, it declared the compulsory acquisition of the Olatunji’s land at Orita-Challenge, Ibadan null and void.
It also set aside the grant of Statutory Right of Occupancy to Tawa Investments Nigeria Limited.