Minister Of Lands Western Nigeria Vs Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe & Ors (1969) LLJR-SC

Minister Of Lands Western Nigeria Vs Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe & Ors (1969)

LawGlobal-Hub Lead Judgment Report

Per Coker, J.S.C. 

This appeal is a sequel to a determination by the High Court pursuant to the provisions of section 10 of the Public Lands Acquisition Law (Cap. 105, Western Nigeria Laws 1959). In the High Court, Ikeja, in Suit No. HK/115/59, the Minister of Lands and Labour, Western Region, had taken out an originating summons in terms of the pro-visions of the law for the determination of the following question, that is to say:-

“the person or persons entitled to the land known as the Ikeja Industrial and Housing Estates and shown on Claims Plan No. IKJ 35”.

The Government of the then Western Region had compulsorily acquired an area of land of approximately 748 acres situate within the Ikeja and Agege districts of the Ikeja Division of what was then the Western Region and had by Western Regional Notice No. 152 of 6/2/58 invited applications by respective claimants of parts or portions of the area of acquisition to establish their interests. Some fifty claimants eventually appeared claiming portions of the area of acquisition and, not unexpectedly, in some cases there were conflicting claims with respect to specific portions.

The Claims Plan No. IKJ 35 prepared by the Ministry of Lands and Labour, Western Region, shows the names of the several claimants and the respective areas claimed by each. At the trial that plan was produced and admitted in evidence as exhibit ‘A’ and it shows as well the names of the several claimants and the numerical order in which they have been placed. The several parcels into which the area of acquisition thus became divided have been given corresponding numbers according to those of the claimants. Most of the claims had been disposed of but claimants No. 37 (i.e. the Obadina family) and claimants No. 41 (i.e. the executors of Chief J. A. Ajao, deceased) are dissatisfied with the determination by the High Court and they have appealed to this Court.

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When the appeal was called before us on the 15th January, 1969, the 37th claimants were absent and were not represented by counsel. We were satisfied that the necessary hearing notice on those claimants had been duly served and we therefore dismissed the appeal of the 37th claimants leaving until the end of the whole hearing the question of costs as against them. The interests claimed by the 41st claimants conflict with those of claimants No. 45 (i.e. the Ambrose family), No. 48 (i.e. the Ashade family) and No. 50 (i.e. the Yesufu family). That much is clear from a plain reading of the plan exhibit A.

However, a claim for compensation for land compulsorily acquired by virtue of the Public Lands Acquisition Law is not a claim for a declaration of title, the question to be determined primarily being entitlement to compensation and not declaration of title. The statements of interest that are usually filed describe the interests of the claimants in respect of which compensation is being claimed and the duty of the court is to ascertain the nature and extent of such interests and, where sustained, to make the appropriate awards.

Where there are conflicts of interests several questions may arise as to entitlement to awards and although the rejection of the claims of a claimant does not automatically entitle a claimant in of, the case may give rise to such a result.   

In the case in hand the 41st claimants had laid claim, as will be seen from the plan exhibit ‘A’, to virtually the entire land comprised in the acquisition area. The portion claimed by them is edged red on the plan exhibit ‘A’ and, according to that plan, that portion is roughly divided into two halves by a footpath (hatched in blue pencil on the plan) running from west to east across the land and generally described by a number of witnesses at the trial as the footpath from Ogba (town or village) to Isheri.

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The 41st claimants claimed to have purchased the land from the Owodina family and rested their case at the trial on a conveyance dated the 27th day of December, 1957, and admitted in evidence as exhibit ‘R’. Admittedly, the plans accompanying exhibit ‘R’ (there are two of them) purport to embrace the areas north and south of the footpath in exhibit ‘A’ and indeed the 41st claimants did not at the trial, as did their counsel before us, concede the existence in that location of that footpath. The several claimants of interest north of the footpath resisted the claims of the 41st claimants to any land in that area.

The Ashade family, i.e. the 48th claimants, claimed to be the owners of all lands to the north of the footpath and the head of the Owodina family, one Karimu Durojaiye Owodina, who testified on behalf of the 41st claimants, stated that his family sold some 360 acres of their land to the late Chief Ajao (the boundaries of which they showed to him) and that the footpath to Isheri was the northern boundary of their family land. On this point the evidence of the witness is as follows:-

“Owodina family and Ashade family have common boundary. Our boundary is a footpath leading to Isheri Road and had been in existence from time immemorial. I grew up to know the boundary. Even my father met the boundary there. Going along the footpath towards Isheri Road, Owodina family land is to the right and Ashade family land to the left.

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The land involved in the 1897 case is on the right hand side of the footpath going towards Isheri Road and on Owodina family land. The land shown to Oreniyi and the surveyor did not include Ashade family land. I know Taiwo Olowo village. It is in Ashade’s land”.

There was evidence by a witness, Rasaki Agbaje, called by the 41st claimants, to the effect that the footpath from Ogba to Alawusa village was inside the Owodina family land.

The witness did not disclose the source of his knowledge of such a claim disputed alike by the Owodina family as well as the other families with lands to the north of this footpath. The learned trial judge did not accept this phenomenal claim and he held that, with the exception of areas already sold by the Owodina family before the sale to the late Chief Ajao, compensation for lands claimed by the 41st claimants lying to the south of the footpath should be paid to the 41st claimants.

Other Citation: (1969) LCN/1731(SC)

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