The Federal High Court is not empowered with the jurisdiction to entertain land matters – Omotesho v Abdullahi Nig. Plc (2008), F.H.A v Olayemi (2017) LPELR 43376 CA, Adetayo v Ademola (2010) LPELR 155 1 at 23, Dosumu v NNPC (2013) LPELR 20655 1, Pan-Ocean vs Mene-Okotie (2015) LPELR 25128 at Page 1, Nigeridock (Nig) Ltd v Aderibole (2019)
See a fuller exposition of the position of whether or not the Federal High Court has jurisdiction to entertain land matters once an agency of the Federal Govt is involved –
ABUJA INVESTMENT & PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT CO. LTD v. PAUL & ORS (2018) LPELR-45827(CA).
In that case, the Court cited and relied on the earlier supreme Court decision of – PETER ESSI Vs NIGERIA PORT PLC (2018) 2 NWLR (PART 1604) 361 AT 385 – 386 and 390 E – H per KEKERE EKUN, JSC who said:- “In determining whether or not a Court had jurisdiction to entertain a cause or matter, it is the plaintiff’s claim as disclosed in his writ of summons and statement of claim that would be considered. Where the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal High Court is in issue, the mere fact that an agency of the Federal Government is a party is not sufficient, without more to confer jurisdiction on the Court. The Court deciding the issue will also take into consideration the nature and subject matter of claim. It has been held severally by this Court that the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal High Court provided for in Section 230(1)(s) of the 1979 Constitution, as amended by Decree No. 107 of 1993 (now Section 251(1)(r) of the 1999 Constitution) does not extend to dispute arising from simple contracts. See: Adelekan v. Ecu-Line NV (2006) 12 NWLR (Pt.993) 33; Onuorah v. KP.P.C. Ltd. (2005) 6 NWLR (Pt. 921) 393 @ 405 A-D & 409 A-D; Sun Insurance Nig. Plc. v. Ume: Eng. Const. Cont. Co. Ltd. (2015) 11 NWLR (Pt.1471) 576; (2015) LPELR-24737 (SC). The dispute between the parties in this suit se from a simple breach of a landlord/tenant contract. It does not fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal High Court.”
CHIEF RITA LORI OGBEBOR & ORS VS. INEC & ORS (2018) 6 NWLR (PART 1614) 1 AT 22 G – H TO 23A per EKO, JSC who said:-
“Now, I come back to the contention of the appellants that what determines the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court is the parties, and not the nature of the claim. To be specific, the appellants contend that where the action is in relation to the matters covered by Section 251(I) (p), (q) & (r) of the Constitution, the determinant is whether the party, either as the plaintiff or defendant, is the Federal Government or any of its agencies. To some extent this statement of law is correct, but in a limited sense. In the instant case, the appellants as the plaintiffs, have not been able to convince the judex that their suit has anything to do with the administration, management or control of the Federal Government or any of its agencies of the validity of any executive/administrative action or decision of the Federal Government or any of its agencies to warrant the Federal High Court interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution in that regard. This Court has shifted position from the blanket statement that in any Suit, where the Federal Government or any of its agencies is a party, only the Federal High Court has jurisdiction to entertain such an action. In Onuoha v. Kaduna Refinery & Petrochemical Company (2005) 6 NWLR (Pt.921) 391 at 405, it has stated clearly that the jurisdiction conferred on the Federal High Court by the 1999 Constitution does not extend to claims founded on simple contract between the Federal Government or any of its agencies, and a third party. See also Adeleke v. Ecu-Line NV (2006) 12 NWLR (Pt.993) 33; (2006) 5 SC (Pt.2) 32 where Onnoghen. JSC (as he then was) stated that the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court does not Include dealing with any case of simple contract.”
JOSIAH AYODELE ADETAYO & ORS. Vs. KUNLE ADEMOLA & ORS (2010) 6 SCM 1 at 169 -18A-B where MAHMUD MOHAMMED JSC who read the leading judgment firmly held thus: “Close examination of the entire provision of the 1999 Constitution prescribing the jurisdiction of Federal High Court to the exclusion of all other Courts, there is nothing therein specifically conferring jurisdiction in that Court in causes of matters land disputes. Although the section also indicated that the National Assembly may confer additional jurisdiction to the Court to entertain causes and matters on land disputes. If any such additional jurisdiction had been given, the most relevant statute to examine in search for it in my view, is the Land Use Act because jurisdiction of the Federal High Court to entertain land matters cannot be inferred by implication in the construction of Section 251 of the 1999 Constitution the meaning of which is quite clear and plain as no causes or matters in land dispute are mentioned therein. Since the provisions of Section 251 (1)(r) of the 1999 Constitution are not helpful in tracing any jurisdiction in land matters to the Federal High Court as jurisdiction of Court is derived from statutes conferring the jurisdiction, I decide to examine the provisions of the Land Use Act 1978 which was promulgated specially and specifically to deal with the control and management of land in Nigeria. The Court conferred with jurisdiction to entertain disputes between Nigerians in exercising their rights to acquire and use land under the Act are clearly specified therein.
The relevant Sections in this respect are sections in this respect are Sections 39, 41 and 42 respectively which states –
“JURISDICTION OF HIGH COURTS AND OTHER COURTS Jurisdiction of High Courts; The High Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction in respect of the following proceedings:
(a) Proceedings in respect of any land the subject of the Statutory Right of Occupancy granted by the Governor or deemed to be granted by him under this Act, and for the purpose of this paragraph, includes proceedings for a declaration of title to a Statutory Right of Occupancy.
(b) Proceedings to determine any question as to those entitled to compensation payable for improvements on land under the Act.
(2) All Laws, including rules of Court, regulating the practice and procedure of the High Court shall apply in respect of proceedings to which this Section relates and the laws shall have effect with such modifications as would enable effect to be given to the provisions of this section. Jurisdiction of Area Courts or Customary Courts etc. An Area Court or Customary Court or other Court of Equivalent jurisdiction in a state shall have jurisdiction in respect of proceedings in respect of a Customary Right of Occupancy granted by a Local Government under this Act; and for the purpose of this paragraph “proceedings” includes; Proceedings for a declaration of title to a Customary Right of Occupancy and all laws including rules of Court regulating practice and procedure of such Court shall have effect with such modifications as would enable effect be given to this section.
(1) Proceedings for the recovery of rent payable in respect of any Certificate of Occupancy may be taken before a Magistrate’s Court of competent Jurisdiction by and in the name of the Chief Land Officer or by and in the name of any other officer appointed by the Governor in that behalf.
(2) Proceedings for the recovery of rent payable in respect of any Customary Right of Occupancy may be taken by and in the name of the Local Government concerned in the Area Court or Customary Court of equivalent jurisdiction.”
It is quite clear for the provisions of the above sections of the Land Use Act with specific powers and jurisdiction in respect of land matters specified therein conferred on State High Court is not one of the Courts conferred with jurisdiction to entertain any dispute in the land matters. Infact the purpose of which Section 39, 41 and 42 of the Land Use Act are designed to serve are very clear. While Section 39 excludes Area Courts and Customary Court from exercising jurisdiction in respect of land the subject of Statutory Right of Occupancy. Section 41 redefines the jurisdiction of the Courts referred to therein so as to ensure that Courts, such as the Customary Courts in Southern State of this had previously been exercising concurrent jurisdiction with the High Court without distinction by classification of land, have their jurisdiction limited as stated therein. In other words while the State High Court has exclusive jurisdiction over lands in Urban Areas by virtue of Section 39(1) of the Land Use Act, that Courts shares jurisdiction with only the Area Courts and Customary Courts or other Courts of equivalent jurisdiction by virtue of both the Jurisdiction of the State High Court under Section 272 of the 1999 Constitution and the jurisdiction conferred on the Area Courts and Customary Courts by virtue of Section 41 of the Act. As there is nothing in these Section 39, 41 and 42 of the Land Use Act that conferred jurisdiction on the Federal High Court to entertain land causes or matters, I entirely agree with the Court below that the Federal High Court has no jurisdiction to hear and entertain any dispute declaration of the title to land.”
See also – THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL OF THE FEDERATION OF NIGERIA V THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL OF ANAMBRA STATE (2018) 6 NWLR (PART 1615) 314 AT 349 E – G per PETER-ODILI, JSC
Ohakim v. Agbaso (2010) 19 NWLR (Pt.1226) 172 @ 236 – 27 G-D; Salim v. CPC (2013) 6 NWLR (Pt.1351) 501; Ucha v. Onwe (2011) 4 NWLR (Pt.1237) 386, to the effect that in determining the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, notwithstanding the fact that one of the parties is an agency of the Federal Government, the subject matter of the dispute is also relevant.