Ajaka Izenkwe & Ors V. Onyemuche Nnadozie (1953)
LawGlobal Hub Judgment Report – West African Court of Appeal
Jurisdiction—Supreme Court Ordinance, section 11 and Proviso to section 12—Whether claim in trespass raises issue oftitle to land—Plaintiffs with judgment for title.
(For the purposes hereof, the above section 11 confers complete original jurisdiction on the Supreme Court but the proviso to section 12 forbids its exercise where the suit raises an issue of title to, or an interest in, land which is subject to the jurisidiction of a Native Court, unless the Governor otherwise orders or the suit is transferred from the Native Court.)
The plaintiff (respondent above) sued in the Supreme Court in trespass claiming damages and an injunction and averring a trespass on land of the plaintiff and his people known as ” Alaike ’’ and awarded them in a certain suit against the first defendant (first appellant above) and others, the area trespassed on being shown on a plan. The defendants (above appellants) denied the claim and averment and reserved to themselves the right to raise every pertinent defence possible.
The evidence for the plaintiff left no doubt that he and his people owned “Alaike “, which had an ancient ditch as boundary separating it from the defendants’ land. The evidence for the defendants did not deny that the plaintiffs had won about the ” Alaike ” land but they said that the ditch marked the plaintiffs’ southern boundary and that the area on which the plaintiffs complained of trespass was within the defendants’ land known as “Kpokokpo “.
The trial Judge held that the defendants were calling by another name an area which was part of ” Alaike ” land and gave judgment for the plaintiffs. The defendants appealed and argued that though they had not pleaded to the jurisdiction, the trial Judge ought to have declined to hear the suit when it became apparent that they disputed the plaintiffs’ ownership of the land mentioned in the claim.
The defendants had not pleaded to the jurisdiction, nor could they have raised any genuine issue as to title, as that had been settled in earlier litigation.
The sole issue was one of fact—whether the area on which the plaintiff complained of trespass was or was not part of “Alaike” land for which he had obtained judgment of ownership.