Pastor S. G. Adegboyega & 2 Ors V. Peter Otasowie Igbinosun & Ors (1969) LLJR-SC

Pastor S. G. Adegboyega & 2 Ors V. Peter Otasowie Igbinosun & Ors (1969)

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In Suit LD/532/66 Sowemimo J. on the 29th of May, 1967 in the Lagos High Court gave judgment in the following terms:-

“In respect of the claim therefore there will be judgment for the plaintiffs for the amount of £600 for the rent due on 1st June, 1966 and on the counter-claim, there will be judgment for the defendant for the sum of £5,700. The plaintiffs are therefore ordered to pay the defendant the balance of £5,100 with costs assessed at 75 guineas costs in favour of the defendant.”

The plaintiffs’ claim had been:-

“for the sum of £2,500 (two thousand five hundred pounds) being the amount payable by the defendant to the plaintiffs as rent in advance for the period 1st June, 1966 to 31st May, 1967 in respect of the property known as 194, Broad Street, Lagos demised by the plaintiffs to the defendant under a sub-lease dated the 5th July, 1963 and registered in the Lagos Land Registry under Title No. LO 5208 for a period of five (5) years commencing the 1st June, 1963 at the rent of £2,500 per annum payable in advance.”and paragraph 6 of their statement of claim read:-

“6. Under and by virtue of a deed of sub-lease dated 5th July, 1963 and registered under Title LO 5208 the plaintiffs demised to the defendant all that piece or parcel of land together with the buildings thereon situate at and known as 194, Broad Street, Lagos from 1st June, 1963 for a term of (5) years at the rent of £2,500 (two thousand five hundred pounds) per annum payable yearly in advance.” The defendant for his part pleaded in paragraph 6 of his statement of defence as follows:-

“6. Paragraph of this statement of claim is admitted but the defendant will rely on section 10 of the Rent Restriction Act, cap. 183 and says that the rent was unlawfully increased without prescribed notice from £600 per annum to £2,500 per annum and that he resides on the same premises.”and counter-claimed for:- “(a) £5,700.0s.0d. being the difference between unlawfully increased rent received by the plaintiffs from the defendant and the lawful rent calculated under section 9 of the Rent Restriction Act, cap. 183 and paid to the plaintiffs by the defendant in 1963, 1964 and 1965 in respect of premises at 194, Broad Street, Lagos registered under Title No. LO 1704 and Title No. LO 5208 in the Registry of Titles, Lagos. (b) A declaration that the lawful rent recoverable by the landlords or landlord of 194 Broad Street, Lagos aforesaid in respect of the premises let to the defendant under a lease dated the 5th July, 1963 and registered under Title No. LO 5208 aforesaid does not exceed £600.0s.0d. per annum.” No evidence was called but 3 deeds were tendered by consent and it was agreed (it would appear though it was a most unsatisfactory procedure in this case where there were a number of facts in issue) to accept the pleadings as the basis of the matter and to determine on that basis the issues of law.

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The importance of this is that it was pleaded by the defence that the defendant resided on the premises and this had to be accepted as established together with the pleading by the plaintiffs in paragraph 5 of the amended reply that it was used as a night-club. It would appear therefore that the premises were being used for both purposes but in our view there was no evidence which was the predominant use though Chief Williams for the appellants submitted that the night-club was. Both parties agreed that in determining whether the premises came within the Rent Restriction Act, cap. 183 it was in fact necessary to have regard to section 1(4) of the Rent Control (Lagos) Amendment Act, 1965 (hereinafter referred to as “the Act”) in deciding the meaning to be given to “premises”, and that being so in our view section 1(3) of that Act would apply to make the nature of the property at the time the question arose the determining factor irrespective of how it was used earlier. The effect of that would be that though at the beginning of the tenancy in 1959 the premises were used solely as living accommodation, at the time the question arose they were used partly as living accommodation and partly as a night-club and it is the latter dual user that must determine the matter Now Section 1(4) of the Act reads as follows:-

“(4) `Premises’ for the purpose of this section, and where used else-where in this Act or any enactment amended by this Act unless the context otherwise requires, means a building of any description occupied or used by persons for living or sleeping or other lawful purposes, as the case may be, whether or not at any time it is also occupied or used under any tenancy as a shop or a store, and the expression includes any room or other part of a building of not less than one hundred square feet of floor space separately let or sublet as the case may be, for any such purpose.” This replaced the provision in section 3(1) of the Rent Restriction Act which reads:- “3. (1) Unless and until the same be modified or extended by any Order made under the provisions of section 1 the expression ‘premises’ shall for the purpose of this Ordinance include any dwelling-house and any other building in which persons dwell, whether or not a part thereof is used as a shop, and any part of any premises let or sub-let separately, and if the definition of the expression `premises’ has been extended by Order under regulation 3 of the Nigeria Defence (Increase of Rent) (Restriction) Regulations, 1942, in respect of any area or areas in Nigeria, the expression `premises’ shall for the purposes of this Ordinance, be deemed to include this extended definition in respect of the area or areas in Nigeria to which such order applied”, but that definition had in fact been vastly extended for Lagos by the Definition of Premises (Lagos Township Extension) Order (Order 22 of 1942) where the expression ‘premises’ was extended to mean “any dwelling-house, flat, factory, warehouse, office, counting-house, shop, school and any other building in which persons dwell or are employed or work and any part of such premises let or sublet separately”.

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The important question that had to be determined in this matter was therefore, whether premises used partly for living and partly as a night-club fall within the definition of ‘premises’ in section 1(4) of the Act? As to this all the learned trial judge said in his judgment was- “On a consideration of the definition of the word `premises’ in this case, since it has not been argued that the use to which the property has been placed is unlawful, then it must be held that the property which is the Area Of Law of this case comes within the provisions of the Rent Control (Lagos) Act and comes within the definition of the word `premises’.”

It is against that finding that this appeal is brought. Chief Williams for the appellants has submitted that it was wrong as the words in section 1(4) “living or sleeping or other lawful purposes” should in his submission not be given an extended meaning but the words “or other lawful purposes” should be construed on the ejusdem generis principle with the words “living or sleeping”. On that basis he submits that the night club would not fall within the words “or other lawful purposes” as it was not of the same nature of user as living or sleeping. He further submitted that, if that was right, then the major or predominant user was that as a night club, so the living user could be ignored so that the use of the premises would not fall within the expression at all.

He finally submitted that, if the living user had to be taken account of, then the only user at the same time that section 1(4) of the Act contemplates to bring it within the definition was the user as a shop or as a store and a night club was in his submission neither.

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Mr Impey for the defendant/respondent submitted that section 18(3) of the Interpretation Act, 1964 which reads:- “(3) The word `or’ and the word `other’ shall, in any enactment, be construed disjunctively and not as implying similarity.”showed that “or other lawful purposes” should not be construed as being similar purposes to “living or sleeping” and would therefore cover the user as a night club as that was a perfectly lawful purpose.

He further submitted that general words were not controlled by specific instances and relied on the cases of Ambatielos v. Anton Jurgens Margarine Works [1923] A.C. 175 and Canadian National Railways v. Canada Steamship Lines, Ltd. [1945] A.C. 204 for that submission, though in each of those cases we note that there was a converse situation to the present one as the general words were the initial words and were held not to be governed by the subsequent specific words, and in the latter case Lord Macmillan at page 211 said:- “The circumstance that the general words are followed by a specific direction to the board to have regard in particular to two specified topics in no way derogates from the generality of their discretion. It is n

Other Citation: (1969) LCN/1734(SC)

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