Whether Certificate of Occupancy is Conclusive Evidence of Title? #
OTUKPO v. JOHN & ANOR (2012) LPELR-25053(SC)
“…a certificate of occupancy, as has been held by this Court in a number of cases, is a prima facie evidence of title or possession which is, however not a conclusive proof of title to the land it relates – See Registered Trustees Mission vs. Mrs. E. I. Olowoleni (1990) 6 NWLR (Pt.158) 514.” Per WALTER SAMUEL NKANU ONNOGHEN, JSC (Pp 18 – 18 Paras F – F)
ORIANZI v. AG RIVERS STATE & ORS (2017) LPELR-41737(SC)
“I have stated elsewhere in this judgment that the disputed land was deemed granted to the Appellants since the rights of those who abandoned the property are deemed transferred to him. Subsequent sale to Dr. Dima was invalid ab initio, in absence of proper termination of the agreement between the Rivers State Government and the Appellant. In Olohunde & Anor V Adeyoju (2000) 79 LRCN 2297 at 2328 paras D – E, this Court had this to say:- “A certificate of statutory or customary right of occupancy issued under the Land Use Act, 1978; cannot be said to be conclusive evidence of any right, interest or valid title to land in favour of the grantee. It is at best, only a prima facie evidence of such right, interest or title without more and may in appropriate cases be effectively challenged and rendered invalid, null and void.” See Kyari v Alkali & 3 Ors (2001) 5 SCNJ 421.” Per PAUL ADAMU GALUMJE, JSC (Pp 32 – 33 Paras C – A)
ADOLE v. GWAR (2008) LPELR-189(SC)
“A Certificate of Occupancy issued on the Land Use Act, it must be stressed, cannot be said to be conclusive evidence of any interest or valid title to land in favour of the grantee; it is only prima facie evidence of such right interest or title without more and may in appropriate cases be effectively challenged and rendered in-valid, null and void. See Mohamoud J. Lababedi v. Lagos Metal Industries (Nig.) Ltd. (1973) NSCC. 1 at 6.” Per SYLVESTER UMARU ONU, JSC (Pp 17 – 17 Paras D – E)
Conditions for the Validity of a Certificate of Occupancy #
MARANATHA CONSULTANTS LTD & ANOR v. DIRISU (2019) LPELR-47745(CA)
“The law is that for a grant of certificate of occupancy to be valid, there must not be in existence the valid title of another person with legal interest on the same land. Where such exists, it means the Certificate of Occupancy was granted against the letters and spirit of the Land Use Act and therefore invalid. See OLOHUNDE & ANOR. VS. ADEYOJU (2000) 6 SCNJ 470 AT 493 – 494; OMIYALE VS. MACAULAY (2009) 7 NWLR (PT. 1141) 597.” Per FOLASADE AYODEJI OJO, JCA (Pp 26 – 26 Paras D – F)
USMAN v. BABA (2013) LPELR-22136(CA)
“Where a party relies on documents like Certificate of Occupancy, to prove title to land, it must be rooted on a good foundation. That is to say, the Certificate of Occupancy must be based on the land being properly acquired by the authority issuing out the Certificate of Occupancy, failing which the Certificate of Occupancy becomes nothing but a worthless paper and sit precariously on banana pills and must slip with a slight touch of a judicial Hammer. See Alhaji Sani Mani & 2 Ors v. Alhaji Shehu M. Shanono (2006) 15 WRN 1 – 192 pages 128 at 130 ratio 13 where this Court held thus: “it is the law that a Certificate of Occupancy properly issued by a competent authority raises the presumption that the holder is the owner in exclusive possession of the land in respect thereof, the certificate also raises a presumption that at the time it was issued, there was not in existence a customary owner whose title has not been revoked. The presumption is however rebuttable because if it is proved by evidence that another person has a better title to the land before the issuance of the Certificate of Occupancy, then the Court can revoke it.” Per SOTONYE DENTON-WEST, JCA (Pp 23 – 24 Paras C – B).
HADEJIA v. ABBAS (2016) LPELR-40234(CA)
“For a certificate of occupancy to be valid it must be issued after the grant of a right of occupancy under Section 5 (1) (a) or Section 6 (1)(a) and (b) or Section 34(1) of the Land Use Act. A certificate of occupancy must not be issued when there is in existence another one issued over same land. In MADU v. MADU (2008) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1083) P.286 @ 325, the Supreme Court held that for a certificate of occupancy, under the Land use Act, to be valid, there must not be in existence, at the time the certificate was issued, a statutory or customary owner of the land in issue who was not divested of his legal interest to the land prior to the grant. However, this principle of law is only relevant in cases where a claimant has proved that he has a prior and un-extinguished title to the land so that the new right of occupancy cannot over-ride, extinguish or have priority over that existing right. In APOSTOLIC CHURCH v. OLAWOLEMI (1990) 10 SCNJ p. 69 @ 25, the Supreme Court also held that if the issuance of a certificate of occupancy was not in accordance with the Land Tenure Law, the certificate is defective and the holder has no basis for a valid claims. To be valid, there must not be in existence at the time the certificate was issue a customary owner who has not been divested of his title over the land See also AZI v. REG. TRUSTEES OF EVAN. CHURCH (1990) 5 NWLR (Pt. 195) P.111 @ 121.” Per IBRAHIM SHATA BDLIYA, JCA (Pp 27 – 28 Paras A – B).
AKUJOBI & ORS v. AKUJOBI (2017) LPELR-41685(CA)
“It is in my considered view also worthy to note what Ogbuagu, JSC; said regarding certificate of occupancy in his lordship’s concurring judgment in the case ofOMIYALE V. MACAULAY (2009) LPELR – 2640 (SC) and it goes thus:-“xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxThis is because, the effect of Section 34 of the Land Use Act on or in respect of the title of a person with title to land before the coming into force of the Act, is that vested rights (such as is in the instant case leading to this appeal), CANNOT be defeated by the application of say Sections 1 and 5 of the Act. The prerequisite for a valid grant of a Certificate of Occupancy, is that there must not be in existence, the valid title of another person with legal interest in the same said land at the time the certificate was issued. xxxxxxxxxxxx For a Certificate of Occupancy under the Act to be therefore, valid, there must not be in existence at the time the certificate was issued, a Statutory or Customary owner of the land in issue or dispute who was not divested of his legal interest to the land prior to the grant. In other words, where a Certificate of Occupancy has been granted to one of two claimants who has not proved a better title (as the Appellant), it must be deemed to be defective, to have been granted or issued erroneously and against the spirit of the Act and the holder (such as the Appellant), would have no legal basis for a valid claim over the land in dispute. It must be stressed and this is also settled that a Certificate of Occupancy, does not confer legal right to possession where such possession, was procured following acts of trespass such as in this case leading to this appeal. In other words, possession cannot be properly and validly secured by an act of trespass or acquisition of a Certificate of Occupancy procured after this trespass. So held this Court in the case of Datoegoem Dakat v. Muse Dashe (1997) 12 SCNJ. 90 – per Ogwuegbu, JSC. The holding of a Certificate of Occupancy whether Statutory or Customary, is at best a prima facie evidence of title of the land covered by it. But its exclusive possession, is rebuttable. See the case of Dapub v. Kola (993) 12 SCNJ 1 citing the case of Chief Titiloye & 4 ors. v. Chief Olupo & 4 ors. (1991) 7 NWLR (Pt.205) 519 @ 530; (1991) 9-10 SCNJ. 122. See also the cases of Olahunde & anor. v. Prof Adeyoju (supra) and Alhaji Kyari v Alhaji Alkali & 2 ors. (2001) 5 SCNJ. 421 @ 447, 448. I can go on and on in respect of this issue of the Appellant relying heavily on a purported but invalid Certificate of Occupancy. It need be stressed or always borne in mind as this is also settled, that the registration of a Certificate of Occupancy (as was done by the Appellant), does not and cannot, cure or validate any irregularities in its procurement. This is why there is the need for a person seeking such registration, to make prior enquiries and search. But invariably, regrettably and unfortunately, this will not be done by a desperate party who wants registration of his/her “title” Deed and grant of a Certificate of Occupancy, by all means. I sound this note of warning or can I say, free advise because, the mere registration, does not and will not, validate spurious or fraudulent instrument of title or a transfer or grant which in law, patently remains, invalid or ineffective. See the cases of Lababedi & anor. v. Lagos Metal Industries (Nig.) Ltd & anor. (1973) 8 NSCC 1 and Romaine v. Romaine (1992) 4 NWLR (Pt.238) 650; (1992) 5 SCNJ. 25 – per Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC. From the foregoing, since it is also firmly settled that where it is shown by evidence, that another person other than the grantee of a Certificate of Occupancy, had a better right to the grant, a Court such as this Court, may have no option, but to set aside the said grantor otherwise, discountenance it as invalid, defective and/or spurious as the case may be. See the cases of Ogunleye v. Oni (supra) and Dzungwe v. Gbishe & anor. (1985) 2 NWLR (pt.8) 528 @ 540. S.C. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.” Per AYOBODE OLUJIMI LOKULO-SODIPE, JCA (Pp 60 – 64 Paras E – C)