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Isaac Adepoju Of Prestea V. Bniwa Of Prestea & Ors (1945) LJR-WACA

Isaac Adepoju Of Prestea V. Bniwa Of Prestea & Ors (1945)

LawGlobal Hub Judgment Report – West African Court of Appeal

Courts (Amendment) Ordinance, 1944—Exclusive jurisdiction in Land Court in causes or matters relating to ownership, possession of occupation of land between (1) natives, (2) natives and non-natives, (3) non-natives—Whether or not jurisdiction in land cases conferred on Divisional Court has been taken away by the Courts (Amendment) Ordinance, 1944—Section 20A, Sub-section 4 of that ordinance—Whether or not the Land Court has power to transfer a suit to Divisional Court, Section 20A (1) of the Courts (Amendment) Ordinance, 1944.

Held: Section 20A (1) and sub-section 4 (a) are precise and unambiguous and subject to the exceptions contained in Section 20A. Sub-section 4 the jurisdiction in any other Court in land matters has been ousted. Divisional Court does not and cannot possess concurrent jurisdiction with Land Court.

N. A. 011ennu for Plaintiff.

C. E. M. Abbensetts for 2nd Defendant.

The following opinion of the Court was delivered by BAKER,

AG.C.J., NIGERIA :—

This is a case stated from the learned acting Judge of the Divisional Court, Sekondi, wherein he asks us the following questions :-

  1. Whether or not the intention of the Courts (Amendment) Ordinance, 1944, in creating a Lands Division of the Supreme Court was to confer exclusive jurisdiction on the Land Court in causes or matters relating to ownership, possession or occupation of land between (1) natives, (2) natives and non-natives, (3) non-natives.
  2. Whether or not the jurisdiction In land cases conferred on the Divisional Court has been taken away by the Courts (Amendment) Ordinance, 1944, especially in view of Section 20A, sub-section 4, of the Courts Ordinance.
  3. If the original jurisdiction conferred on the Divisional Court in land matters is not taken away whether or not the Land Court has power to transfer the suit brought before it to the Divisional Court of the same Judicial Division where such suit does not come within the same provision of Section 20A, sub-section 4, of the Courts Ordinance.
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Section 20A (1) of the Courts (Amendment) Ordinance, 1944, amending Section 20 of the principal Ordinance, prescribes :-

” There shall be a division of the Supreme Court to be kwown as the Lands Division to which shall be appointed and assigned so many Puisine Judges (hereinafter called Land Judges) as may from time to time be necessary to exercise within such area or areas as the Governor may from time to time by order specify, jurisdiction in all causes and matters relating to the ownership, possession or occupation of land specifically assigned to the Division by this or by any other Ordinance”,

and sub-section 4 provides :—

“A Land Court shall have exclusive original jurisdiction to hear and determine any cause or matter relating to the ownership, possession or occupation of land—

  1. where there is no Native Court competent to try the cause or matter ;
  2. where the cause or matter has been transferred to the Land Court from a Native Court in accordance with the provisions of the Native Courts (Colony) Ordinance, 1944;

(e) where, immediately prior to the appointed day, any such cause or matter is pending-

  1. before a Provincial Council, or a Judicial Committee of a Provincial Council or a Joint Judicial Committee under the Native Administration (Colony) Ordinance; or
  2. before any State Council or Native Tribunal under the Native Administration (Colony) Ordinance where there is no Native Court competent to hear and determine the cause or matter; or
  3. in the Court of a Provincial Commissioner; or
  4. in the Supreme Court,

and in respect to the provisions of paragraph (c) of this sub-section, the Land Court shall hear the cause or matter de novo.

It is common ground that the 2nd Defendant is not a native and therefore not subject to the jurisdiction of Native Courts, and it is also agreed that the action was not pending before any of the before-mentioned Courts before the Ordinance came into being or was it transferred to the Land Court in accordance with the Native Courts (Colony) Ordinance, 1944.

See also  Rex V. Nyong Etim Udo & Ors (1942) LJR-WACA

We are satisfied that the words of Section 20A (1) and subsection 4 (a) are in themselves precise and unambiguous and that expounding those words in their ordinary and natural sense it is clear that the said sections have conferred exclusive jurisdiction in all causes and matters relating to ownership, possession or occupation of land exclusively to the Land Court : in other words exclusive means what it says.

Accordingly it is perfectly clear that the Courts (Amendment) Ordinance, 1944, Section 20A, sub-section 4, has from the date thereof subject to the exceptions hereinbefore mentioned ousted the jurisdiction of any other Court in land matters and given exclusive jurisdiction to Land Courts which have been created by the before

mentioned ordinance. The answer therefore to question (a) is an affirmative one.

Again with regard to question (b) : Section 20a, sub-seetion 4, having given exclusive jurisdiction to the Land Courts, it naturally follows that the Divisional Court does not and cannot possess concurrent jurisdiction and the answer to question (b) must also be an affirmative one.

The original jurisdiction conferred on the Divisional Court in land matters must necessarily have been taken away if another Court is given exclusive jurisdiction in such matters, and it naturally follows that a Land Court once seized with a land case cannot transfer the said case to a Divisional Court of that Judicial Division or any other Division : the answer to question (c) is therefore a negative one.

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