Ededem Archibong V. Ntoe Asim Ita & Ors (1954)
LawGlobal Hub Judgment Report – West Africa Court of Appeal
Real Property—Evidence—Onus on plaintiff—User of isolated parts of land. Practice and Procedure—Claim to land not proved—Defendants putting in a document and calling no other evidence—Judgment dismissing claim.
(Section 45 of the Evidence Ordinance (Cap. 63), which is not cited in the judgment infra, seems to accord with Jones v. Williams, 2 M. and W. 326 at 331, which is cited.)
The appellant tribe claimed against the other two tribes of the town exclusive
ownership of an island of about four square miles and called witnesses who gave traditional evidence and evidence of user of isolated places.
In the course of the plaintiff tribe’s evidence the defendant tribes put in a judgment awarding the compensation paid by Government for acquiring a plot on the island to all three tribes on the ground of long common user by all three, and submitted at the close of the plaintiff tribe’s evidence that there was no case to answer.
The Judge dismissed the claim, not being satisfied that the traditional history showed the plaintiffs were owners or that the evidence showed acts of ownership sufficient to justify a declaration of title to the whole island.
In their appeal the plaintiffs argued that the defence ought to have been called upon as a prima facie case had been established; that the occupation proved by the plaintiffs as to certain portions raised a presumption of ownership of the whole island; and that if their evidence did not entitle them to a declaration, they should have been non-suited only.
(1) In substance the defendants led evidence by putting in the previous judgment and elected to call no more.
(2) Occupation of a portion may in an appropriate case raise a probability, not a presumption, of ownership of the whole; but the isolated acts of user in this case did not warrant an inference of such ownership.
(3) The onus of proving exclusive ownership was on the plaintiffs; they failed to discharge it; judgment for the defendants was therefore the proper judgment.