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CASE OF THE WEEK
GODWIN C. ONOVO & 3 ORS (FOR THEMSELVES AND ONBEHALF OF THE FAMILY OF UMUNWESETE OF OBEAGU UGBAWKA NKANU LGA) V FERDINAND MBA & 3 ORS (FOR THEMSELVES AND ON BEHALF OF UMUIGBUDU FAMILY OF OBEAGU UGBAWKA NKANU LGA) (2014) 19 JMLR 52
ISSUE: WAYS OF PROVING TITLE TO LAND UNDER THE LAW
FACTS OF THE CASE
The family of Umunwesete and the family of Umuigbudu both of Obeagu Ugbawka Nkanu LGA of Enugu were claiming ownership of a particular land known as and called Akpa Land. The Umunwesete family claimed that this parcel of land in dispute belonged to them since time immemorial and they had exercised ownership over the land from the very beginning.
The Umuigbudu family on their own part claimed that the land is a vast expanse of land and each family in Ugbawka has its own portion, including them and the Umunwesete family.
Both families agreed that they have a common ancestor called Ogbu Newezeogo. According to them this ancestor had two sons and shared his land between the two sons. They however disagreed on who the elder of the two sons were.
The Umunwesete family claimed that they are descendants of one son while the Umuigbudu family claimed that they descended from Nevo Ogbu.
The Umunwesete family claimed that their ancestors was given akpa land while the ancestor of Umuigbudu family was given another land known as Apiti land.
The Umuigbudu family claimed that their common ancestors gave each of his two sons a portion of Akpa land, as well as a portion of Apiti land. The Umunwesete family took the Umuigbudu family to court for trespass and asked for the following:
- That the said Akpa land belongs to them.
- That N 500 be given to them as general damages for trespass
- That the court should stop the Umuigbudu family from entering into the said land.
In a considered judgment the trial high court dismissed the claim of the Umunwesete family. The Umunwesete family dissatisfied with the judgment went on appeal, the court of appeal also dismissed their appeal. Further aggrieved the appellant appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and ruled in favor of the Umuigbudu family on the grounds that the Umunwesete family failed to proof exclusive possession of land.
The Court maintained that to succeed in a claim for title to land at least one of the following five methods must be used.
- Proof by traditional evidence
- Proof of acts of ownership: acts by persons claiming the land such as selling, leasing, renting out all or part of the land or farming on it or otherwise utilizing the land beneficially; such acts of ownership must extend over a sufficient time and numerous and positive enough to warrant the interference that the person claiming is the true owner
- Proof by production of title which must be authenticated
- Proof of ownership by acts of long possession and enjoyment in respect of the land through the acts are done.
- Proof of possession of the connected or adjacent land in circumstances rendering it probable that the owner of such connected land would in addition be the owner of such connected or adjacent land in dispute.
Molindo Mary Nkoyo (Pro-bono Partner)