Oladega Odutola Vs Joseph O. Akande (1960)
LawGlobal-Hub Lead Judgement Report
This is an appeal from the High Court of Lagos sitting in its appellate jurisdiction. The proceedings began with an application to the Registrar of Titles by the present appellant for the registration of himself as owner of certain freehold property at Strachan Street, Ebute Metta. The application was duly advertised and the objector, the present respondent, objected to the registration. On the matter coming before the Registrar of Titles the objection was dismissed and the Registrar ordered that registration of the property in the name of the appellant should proceed. The objector then appealed to the High Court, and the learned Chief Justice of the High Court reversed the decision of the Registrar of Titles and held that the objection succeeded. The appellant then appealed to this court, and the following ground of appeal was argued:
“The learned Chief Justice misdirected himself in law and in fact in holding that the inaction of the Olotos must be presumed to have abandoned this property and acquiesced in the appellant’s possession having regard to the provisions of section 16 of the Glover Settlement Ordinance, Cap. 75, and the Caution Notice Ex. “C” to the proceedings.”
Mr. Moore, for the appellant, submitted that the decision of the High Court was contrary to that of the West African Court of Appeal in Suleman v. Johnson, 13 W.A.C.A. 213, and that on the evidence the respondent could not be held to be a squatter exercising adverse possession.
I do not find it possible to agree with Mr. Moore, and I prefer the view of the learned Chief Justice of the High Court expressed in his judgment with regard to the effect of the reasoning in Suleman v. Johnson. In his judg-ment the learned Chief Justice said this:
On the facts found by the Registrar, two questions really arise for decision in this appeal, and both derive from the long possession of the appellant. The first is, has there been such ac-quiescence on the part of the Oloto Family as would serve to pass their original title to the occupier-the appellant. The Registrar, applying the reasoning in Suleman and Another v. Johnson, 13 W.A.C.A. 213, answered the question in the negative. In other words he considered that there had been no such acquiescence because the original owners, having divested themselves of possessory rights and retaining merely a reversionary interest, were not concerned with mere acts of possession on the part of any-one. It is quite true that in the case under reference the court distinguished between cases where occupational rights had been granted and cases where they had not. It did not, however, decide that acquiescence could not arise in the former. What it did decide was that evidence required to establish acquiescence in the latter need not be as strong as in the former. Thus in Saidi and Another v. Nigerian Automobile Co. Ltd. and Another 1956, 1 F. S. C. 107; (1956) SCNLR 339, where the land was comprised in the Glover Settlement, although, there is nothing in the judg-ment to show whether it was allotted or not to Egba refugees, the court nevertheless declined to disturb the occupier, who had been in possession for some 21 years or more. Each case has to be decided on its own facts. The facts of the present case are very simple. Originally the property belonged to the Oloto Family, since it is included in land given by that family for the settlement of Egba refugees.
The preamble to the Glover Settlement Ordinance states, inter alia, that nearly a hundred years ago the then head of the Oloto Chieftaincy Family agreed to place certain lands (of which the land in dispute in this case forms part) at the disposal of the Crown, but that the records of persons to whom portions of the lands were allotted have disappeared, although there was in existence, at the date when the Glover Settlement Ordinance was passed (in 1947), a plan showing the numbers allotted to plots. The appellant, in his evidence before the Registrar of Titles, said that, although the land in dispute is situate within what is known as the “Glover Settlement,” it was never allotted to an Egba refugee. This was confirmed by the duly authorised representative of the Oloto Chieftaincy Family, who said he obtained his information from “Governor Glover’s Allotment Plan.” This seems to show that there has always been available a source from which it could be ascertained whether any particular plot in the area placed at the disposal of the Crown was in fact disposed of by the Crown by allotment to an Egba refugee. It seems to me that any plot not so disposed of remained vested in the Oloto Chieftaincy Family. This is borne out, in my view, by the provisions of section 16 of the Glover Settlement Ordinance. If that be right, then the following words in the judgment of the court below express the correct legal position:
For upwards of fifty years the Oloto Family took no steps to ascertain what had happened to it. In fact, it took no interest in it whatsoever. Meanwhile, the appellant’s father took possession of it, erected buildings on it, lived on it and rented part to tenants, became the reputed owner of it and was described in a plan as far back as 1916 as the owner. He paid rates to the Lagos Town Council as far back as 1936, and no one has ever questioned or disturbed his possession until the respondent came into the picture in 1958. The appellant and his father have been in continuous and undisturbed possession as owners without the leave of the Olotos for over fifty years. In my view, by their inaction the Olotos must be presumed to have abandoned the property and acquiesced in the appellant’s possession. It would, in my view, be most unfair to the appellant, who has believed throughout all these years that he was the owner, to hold otherwise.
In my opinion these views of the learned Chief Justice are not open to question, and I consider, with respect, that his decision which followed was right.
In the circumstances I would dismiss this appeal, and the appellant must pay the costs of it, assessed at 20 guineas.
HUBBARD, AG, FJ
Other Citation: (1960) LCN/0857(SC)