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Laode Matonmi V. Bakare Ibiyemi & Ors (1953) LJR-WACA

Laode Matonmi V. Bakare Ibiyemi & Ors (1953)

LawGlobal Hub Judgment Report – West African Court of Appeal

Jurisdiction—Magistrate’s Courts Ordinance (Cap. 122), section 19 (1) and proviso—Supreme Court Ordinance (Cap. 211), proviso to section 12—Claim in trespass for damages—Test on whether issue of title to land is raised.

Facts

Section 19 (1) of the Magistrate’s Courts Ordinance reads as follows:—
“Subject to the provisions of this or any other Ordinance a Magistrate of the first grade shall have and exercise jurisdiction in civil causes:—
“(a) In all personal suits, whether arising from contract, or from tort, or from both, where the debt or damage claimed, whether as balance claimed or otherwise, is not more than two hundred pounds;

“(b) in all suits between landlord and tenant for possession of any lands under agreement or to be delivered up, where the annual value or rent does not exceed two hundred pounds;
(c) to appoint guardians ad litem and to make such orders and give and issue directions relating thereto;

“(d) to grant in any suit instituted in the Court injunctions or orders to stay waste or alienation or for the detention and preservation of any property the subject of such suit, or to restrain breaches of contracts or torts;

“(e) in any appeal from the decision of an Assessment Committee constituted under the provisions of the Eastern Region Local Government Ordinance, 1950;
“Provided that, except in so far as the Governor may by order in Council otherwise direct, and except in suits transferred to a Magistrate’s Court under the provisions of section 28 of the Native Courts Ordinance, a Magistrate’s Court shall not exercise original jurisdiction in suits which raise any issue as to the title to land or as to the title to any interest in land, or in which the validity of any devise, bequest or limitation under any will or settlement is or may be disputed or in any matter which is subject to the jurisdiction of a Native Court relating to marriage, family status, guardianship of children, inheritance or disposition of property on death.”

See also  Rex V. Kegham Ohannes Minassian (1942) LJR-WACA

Section 12 of the Supreme Court Ordinance provides that:—
“Subject to such jurisdiction as may for the time being be vested by Ordinance in Native Courts, the jurisdiction by this Ordinance vested in the Supreme Court shall include all His Majesty’s civil jurisdiction which at the commencement of this Ordinance was, or at any time afterwards may be exercisable in Nigeria, for the judicial hearing and determination of matters in difference, or for the administration or control of property and persons, and also all His Majesty’s criminal jurisdiction which at the commencement of this Ordinance was, or at any time afterwards may be there exercisable for the repression or punishment of crimes or offences or for the maintenance of order and all such jurisdiction shall be exercised under and according to the provisions of this Ordinance and not otherwise:

“Provided that, except in so far as the Governor in Council may by order otherwise direct and except in suits transferred to the Supreme Court under the provisions of section 25 of the Native Courts Ordinance, the Supreme Court shall not exercise original jurisdiction in any suit which raises any issue as to the title to land or as to the title to any interest in land which is subject to the jurisdiction of a Native Court nor in any matter which is subject to the jurisdiction of a Native Court relating to marriage, family status, guardianship of children, inheritance or disposition of property on death.”

The plaintiff (appellant above) sued in the Magistrate’s Court claiming damages for trespass and fruit collected, and averred that the first and second defendants, who trespassed and collected fruit from his farm through the other defendants as their servants, had sued hifn earlier in the Native Court claiming title to the land but failed. The defendants denied the claim and alleged that that earlier suit was not relevant. The Magistrate refused to transfer the case and held on the evidence that the farmland the subject of the trespass was the same area as in the earlier suit; and he gave judgment for the plaintiff.

See also  T. E. Dompreh V. J. E. Marfo (1948) LJR-WACA

The defendants appealed, and in the Supreme Court that judgment was set aside on the ground that the Magistrate had no jurisdiction as there was a bona fide dispute about the land.

The plaintiff then appealed from the Supreme Court’s decision complaining that the Judge erred in holding:—
(a) that the Magistrate overlooked the point of jurisdiction;
(b) that the evidence raised a bona fide question of title; and
(c) that there was no evidence to determine the exact location of the land.

For the defendants (respondents now) it was pointed out that the proceedings in the Native Court had not been put in and that there was no plan of the locality.

Held

(1) The Magistrate’s refusal to transfer the suit showed that he was alive to the point of jurisdiction; and the test was whether the defendants raised a genuine issue of title.

(2) The effect of the judgment in the earlier suit was that the defendants were estopped from re-litigating the title to the land and that the plaintiff was in possession; therefore the defendants could not have raised a genuine issue of
title.

(3) The fact that the former proceedings were not put in and that there was no plan did not affect the case as the Magistrate on the evidence of both sides found as a fact that it was the same land as in the former suit, and that finding should not have been disregarded.


Appeal allowed; Judgment of Magistrate restored.

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