Nigerian cases on Trespass to Land
Below are rationes decidendi from Nigerian cases on or about Trespass to Land. Trespass to Land is intentionally entering into land, remaining on land, placing or projecting any object upon land in possession of another, without lawful justification.
What is trespass to land?
Oriorio v. Osain (2012) 16 NWLR (Pt. 1327) 560
trespass to land is the wrongful and unauthorized invasion of the private property of another. It is trespass to land provided the entry into the land of another by a person is not authorized. trespass to land is rooted in a right to exclusive possession of the land allegedly trespassed. trespass to land is therefore actionable at the instance of a person in possession of the land. Only a person in possession of land at the material time can maintain an action for damages for trespass.
Who can bring an action for Trespass of Land?
EDIO EKRETSU & ANOR VS MILLAR OYOBEBERE & ORS (1992-12) Legalpedia 05059 (SC)
‘It is trite law that trespass to land is actionable at the suit of the person in possession of the land.’ Per Ogwuegbu J.S.C
AJERO & ANOR v. UGORJI & ORS (1999) LPELR-295(SC)
“In Okolo v. Uzoka (supra) this Court stated:- “It is the law and this Court has so held times without number that trespass to the land is actionable at the suit of the person in possession of the land. The slightest possession in the plaintiff enables him to maintain trespass if the defendant cannot show a better title: And as regards a claim for damages for trespass the West African Court of Appeal, Awoonor Renner v. Anan (1934-1935) 2 WACA had this to say:-
“A trespass to land is an entry upon land or any direct and immediate interference with the possession of land. The comprehensive way of describing a trespass is to say that the Defendant broke and entered the plaintiffs’ close and did damage, and it follows that in order to maintain an action for trespass the plaintiff must have a present possessory title – an owner of land who is legally entitled to possession not being competent to maintain an action for trespass before entry.”
I am therefore in entire agreement with the Appellants that having established possession and acts of trespass on the land in dispute, the court below ought to have found in their favour damages for trespass and injunction because the fact that they failed on a claim for title does not mean that their claim for damages and trespass to the same land must necessarily fail, since possession and trespass have already been established in their favour. See Oluwi v. Eniola (supra) and Ojibah v. Ojibah (1991) 5 NWLR (Pt. 191) 296.” – Per SYLVESTER UMARU ONU, JSC
Difference between a claim of title to land and trespass to land
Oyadare v. Keji (2005) 7 NWLR (Pt. 925) 571
There is a clear dichotomy between a claim for declaration of title to land and a claim for trespass to land. In the case of declaration of title, the plaintiff must prove ownership of the land. On the other hand, a claim for trespass to land is predicated or based on exclusive possession of the land to which the claim relates.
Burden of prove in a claim of trespass to land
KACHALLA v. HAMMAN & ANOR (2021) LPELR-54599(CA)
“The burden is on the party who will lose if no evidence is adduced or the person that alleges the existence of a fact. See Fajemirokun vs Commercial Bank (Nig) Ltd & Anor (2009) S.C. (pt 1) 26. The 1st Respondent is the one alleging that the Appellant trespassed into his land. The burden therefore is on the 1st Respondent to show that the Appellant trespassed into BOFG/122; Plot 11 which clearly by evidence what was sold to him.” Per EBIOWEI TOBI, JCA
Damages for trespass to land
BORNO STATE URBAN PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT BOARD, MINISTRY OF LAND AND SURVEY, BORNO STATE & ANOR v. BAMS INVESTMENT NIGERIA LIMITED (2017)LCN/9515(CA)
“On the issue of arbitrariness in making the award, it is trite law that every unlawful and unauthonzed entry into land in possession of another is actionable and for which damages would be awarded. Such damages are awarded as monetary compensation for the legal injury which a defendant has committed on the property of the claimant. The compensation in such a case is imposed by law – Attorney General, Bendel State Vs Aideyan (1989) 4 NWLR (PT. 118) 646, Ibrahim Vs Mohammed (1996) 3 NWLR (PT. 437) 453, Ajayi Vs Jolaosho (2004) 2 NWLR (PT. 356) 89.
Thus, a successful action in invasion of land per se attracts damages and even where no damage or loss is caused, the claimant is entitled to nominal or minimal damages ? Umunna Vs Okwuraiwe (1978) 6-7 SC 1, Osuji Vs Isiocha (1989) 3 NWLR (PT. 111) 623, Jija Vs Shande (2005) 9 NWLR (PT. 931) 543, Chukwuma Vs Ifeloye (2008) 18 NWLR (PT. 1118) 204, Anyanwu Vs Uzowuaka (2009) 13 NWLR PT. 1159) 445, Asuquo Vs Asuquo (2009) 16 NWLR (PT. 1167) 225, Spring Bank Plc Vs Adekunle (2011) 1 NWLR (PT. 1229)” – Per HABEEB ADEWALE OLUMUYIWA ABIRU, JCA