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The Governor Of Kaduna State & Anor V. Mr. A. A. Dada (1986) LLJR-SC

The Governor Of Kaduna State & Anor V. Mr. A. A. Dada (1986)

LawGlobal-Hub Lead Judgment Report

This is an appeal by the Government of Kaduna State of Nigeria (hereinafter referred to as “the Appellants”) against the decision of the Court of Appeal in Kaduna dated 30th Novemher 1984 in which that Court inter-alia declared as invalid, unlawful, null and void, and of no effect whatsoever, the purported revocation in respect of the Certificate of Occupancy No.6483 dated 8th May, 1954 granted to one Mr. A. A. Dada (hereinafter referred to as the Respondent). In order to fully appreciate the whole situation, it is not only important, but necessary to set out briefly the facts of the whole case thus:

By a Certificate of Occupancy No. NC6483 dated 8th May, 1954 (Exh.1) the Appellants granted a statutory right of Occupancy to the Respondent in respect of No.6 Ahmadu Bello Way (Formerly No.6 Prince Edward Way) Kaduna for a term of 40 years with effect from 25th June, 1954 and at a rental of 27. 6pounds (now N54.60k) per annum. Apparently, a portion of the plot was dry land and as such developable while a stream passed through the remaining portion of the land and therefore rendered it waterlogged and unsuitable for development.

As a result of the condition of the other portion of the land, the Respondent petitioned for a reduction of the rent payable and it was subsequently granted and the Rent was reduced to a sum of 12.17pounds (now N25.70k). There was absolutely no special conditions attached to the grant except the usual one of erecting on the land a building worth 2,500pounds (now N5,000) within a period of two years of the grant: and the additional condition imposed consequent to the reduction of the rent that as regards the unsuitable portion of the land, the Respondent should maintain the stream with anti erosion measures and keep the area clean.

There was evidence that the Respondent observed those conditions by not only erecting buildings worth about N39,000.00 on the developable portion of the land; but also by taking necessary steps at a great expense to maintain the stream on the unsuitable portion with anti-erosion measures and to keep it clean. Later, a dispute arose between the parties as to the proper maintenance of the unsuitable area of the land. That dispute culminated in an approval of the revocation of the grant of the whole plot being given by the Appellants vide a letter No. NCL/2111/146 of 16th February, 1977, subject to excising the undeveloped portion of the piece of land and the regranting of the developed portion to the Respondent; and on the ground that the undeveloped portion of the land was required by the Appellants for purpose of public use (See Exh.A).

As a result of a petition made later by the Respondent, the Appellants suspended the notice of revocation by giving the Respondent a period of twelve (12) months within which he should carry out some meaningful development on the undeveloped (though undevelopable) portion of the land; and that on failing to comply with that condition, the original notice of revocation would become effective.

There was also evidence that thereafter, the Respondent spent a substantial sum of money to reclaim and stabilise the unsuitable portion of the land; but apparently the Appellants were not satisfied with what he did. Consequently, they proceeded to carry out the revocation of the land by a Deed of Revocation – Exh.9 dated 28th February, 1981 which tells the whole story thus:

“Whereas by a Certificate of Occupancy under the hand of the Minister of Land and Survey, Northern Nigeria, Federal Republic of Nigeria, dated the 8th day of May, 1954 and numbered (which said certificate of occupancy was registered as No.34 at Page 34 in Volume 42 (Certificates of Occupancy) of the Lands Registry in the office at Kaduna) it was certified that Mr. Adeyemi Alimi Dada of L. 11 Ibadan Street Kaduna was entitled to a right of occupancy over the land at Plot No.6 Ahmudu Bello Way Kaduna on the plan numbered A6998 and more particularly described in the schedule to the said certificate of occupancy;

AND WHEREAS a storm-water channel runs through the said piece of land thereby rendering the greater part of it unsuitable for development at the time of allocation.

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AND WHEREAS as a result of that physical limitations, only 0.640 of an acre being the developable part of the 1.365 acre site, was initially allocated to Mr. A. A. Dada.

AND WHEREAS under the cover of his letter dated 3rd day of December 1954, Mr. A.A. Dada requested that the undevelopable part of the site be incorporated in the one earlier allocated to him. AND THAT he AGREED, in the event of approval, keep the area considered undevelopable clean and to perform such necessary anti-erosion measures as might be desired by the authorities.

AND WHEREAS Mr. A.A. Dada’s request was approved subject to those conditions he (Mr. A. A. Dada) covenanted to implement in his letter dated 3rd December 1954. AND particularly subject to payment of a nominal rent of only 10k per acre per annum over the undevelopable portion and the revision thereof to economic rent whenever the said portion was considered suitable for developments during the unexpired residue of the term granted under the said Certificate of Occupancy.

AND WHEREAS it was discovered that Mr. A.A. Dada had not been observing and performing the undertakings which he agreed to observe and perform in his letter dated 3rd December 1954. AND as a result the Right of Occupancy was revoked with a view to excising the undevelopable portion for public and the regrant of the developed portion back to Mr. A.A. Dada. The said revocation was conveyed under the cover of letter No. NCL.2111/146 of 16th February, 1977.

AND WHEREAS on receipt of the letter of revocation Mr. A.A. Dada petitioned to me under the cover of his letter dated 26th February 1977 appealing for the re-instatment of his Certificate of Occupancy.

AND WHEREAS I considered the said petition and approved the reinstatment of the Certificate of Occupancy on the following conditions:-

(a) Commencement of meaningful developments on the undeveloped portion of the plot within twelve months from 11th March 1977, and

(b) In the event of failure or refusal to comply with condition

(a) the approval for the reinstatement would stand withdrawn.

AND WHEREAS the said meaningful developments had not commenced as stipulated. AND I decided to withdraw the approval for the reinstatment of the Certificate of Occupancy on the 6th day of November, 1980. AND THAT a fresh Certificate of Occupancy would be issued to Mr. A. A. Dada over the portion he had already developed for the unexpired term granted under Right of Occupancy No.6483.

NOW THEREFORE, in exercise of the powers conferred upon me by Section 34(2)(c) of the Land Tenure Law (Cap.59), I hereby revoke with effect from the 6th day of November, 1980, the said Right of Occupancy of the said Mr. A. A. Dada over that piece of land at Plot No.6 Ahmadu Bello Way Kaduna on the plan numbered A6998 and more particularly described in the schedule to the said Certificate of Occupancy numbered 6483.”

It is to be noted that Section 34(2)(c) of the Land Tenure Law Cap.59 of the Laws of Northern Nigeria under which the Deed of Revocation Exh.9 was made authorized the Appellants to revoke a grant of a right of Occupancy in respect of state land if such land is required for public purpose within Northern Nigeria; whereas the main reason given under the Deed itself was that the Respondent failed (i) to keep the undeveloped area of the land clean; (ii) to perform anti erosion measures thereon; and (iii) to commence meaningful development of the area within 12 months from 11th March, 1977.

Consequent upon the revocation of the right of occupancy being made by the Appellants, the Respondent sued and claimed as follows:-

(a) A declaration that the purported revocation of the said statutory right of occupancy is invalid, unlawful, null and void of no effect and ultra vires the powers of the Defendant/Appellants and accordingly should be set aside.

(b) A declaration that Section 34(2) of the Land Tenure Law (Cap.59 Northern Nigeria) does not confer on the Defendants/Appellants power to effect such a revocation in the factual circumstances of this matter.

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(c) A declaration that the purported revocation of the Certificate of Occupancy and the regrant of a portion of a previously demised grant without an adequate offer of compensation is unlawful and ultra vires the powers of the Defendant/ Appellants.

(d) A declaration that the purported reasons given for the revocation as set out in the purported revocation order of the 28th February, 1981 are invalid, unlawful and unjust in view of the fact it is the agents of the 1st Defendant/Appellant whose actions and commissions had prevented the development of the portion of the plot which is the subject matter of this suit.

(e) A declaration that it is unlawful, null and void and of no effect and ultra-vires the powers of the Defendant/Appellants to revoke the right previously granted over a plot for a term of years during the said period, in exchange for the excision of an unused portion of the plot.

(i) An interim injunction and an order restraining the Defendants/Appellants, their agents, servants, privies, or any one acting by any authority, expressed or implied of the Defendants/Appellants from taking possession of, or doing any acts inconsistent with or contesting the rights and interest of the Plaintiff/Respondent over the whole of the said land covered by the said Certificate of Occupancy.

(ii) Or in the alternative the Plaintiff seeks an order of the court that he be adequately compensated by the Defendants/Appellants in the sum of N121,000 being a fair and reasonable compensation for the unjust compulsory acquisition of the said portion of the Plaintiff/Respondent’s landed property covered by the said Certificate of Occupancy No. 6483.”

Pleadings were subsequently filed; and at the trial in the High Court at Kaduna, evidence was adduced by both parties in support of their pleadings.

At the conclusion of trial the learned trial Chief Judge in a well considered judgment concluded as follows:-

“On the whole and in view of the foregoing none of the declarations sought by plaintiff can be granted in the terms he wants this court to act. All the declarations sought on revocation or referring to it are for the reasons given, refused. The alternative relief sought on compensation is partially granted to the extent that the Plaintiff is entitled to adequate compensation for the value at the date of revocation of his unexhausted improvements on the undevelopable part of No.6 Ahmadu Bello Way and that the defendants shall be guided by the provisions of Section 29 of the Act in assessing the amount of compensation due to him.

Order accordingly.”

Against that decision, the Respondent appealed to the Court of Appeal in Kaduna on several grounds which inter alia challenged the finding of the learned trial Chief Judge that the purported revocation of the Right of Occupancy of the land in dispute was valid and for his failure to assess and award compensation for the said revocation having found that the Respondent was entitled to adequate compensation. At the Court of Appeal, that court painstakingly and meticulously considered the submissions made by both parties and at the end of the day allowed the appeal and made the following declarations:-

(a) That the purported revocation of the statutory right of occupancy in respect of the Certificate of Occupancy No.6483 dated 8th May, 1954 is invalid, unlawful, null and void, and of no effect whatsoever. It is accordingly set aside.

(b) That Section 34(2) of the Land Tenure Law does not confer on the defendants/respondents power to effect such a revocation in the factual circumstances of this matter.

(c) That the purported reasons given for revocation as set out in the purported revocation order of 28th February, 1981, are invalid, unlawful and unjust:

(d) The appellant is entitled to compensation assessed at N126,786 should the revocation or the acquisition of the land in dispute hereafter be declared valid.”

Dissatisfied with that decision, the Appellants have now appealed to this court on the following five grounds which shorn of their particulars are:

  1. That the judgment is against the weight of evidence, unreasonable, unwarranted and cannot be supported by evidence or statute.
  2. That the learned justices of the Court of Appeal misdirected themselves in law when they held that the Land Tenure Law 1962 is no longer applicable.
  3. That the learned justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law and on facts in holding that it was not a condition of the grant that the respondent should keep the land in question clean and effect anti-erosion measures and that it was only a condition for the down-ward revision of rent.
  4. That the learned justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law and on facts in holding that the revocation of the respondent’s statutory right of occupancy over the land in question by the 1st appellant was improper, invalid and null and void,
  5. That the learned justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law in holding that the court has jurisdiction and that it is justifiable for it to assess compensation. At the hearing of the appeal in this Court, Mr. Majiyagbe S.A.N., learned Counsel for the Respondent raised a preliminary objection to the consideration of Grounds 1, 3 and 4 of the grounds of appeal. It was submitted that those grounds of appeal raised either question of facts simpliciter or question of mixed law and facts and that since no leave of the Court of Appeal or of this court was previously obtained by the Appellants in accordance with Section 213(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1979 to argue them, those grounds were incompetent, and they should be struck out. After hearing both parties on the matter, the Court upheld the objection and struck out those grounds. Grounds 2 and 5 were thus left for argument. But it should be observed that Ground 2 only raises the point as to whether or not the Court of Appeal was right in holding that the Land Tenure Law Cap.59 of the Laws of Northern Nigerian was no longer applicable to the issue in question; and Ground 5 raises the issue of the jurisdiction of the Court in assessing and awarding compensation to the Respondent.
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It is however important to note that the main purpose of the appeal was to challenge: (i) the correctness of the declaration made by the Court of Appeal that the purported revocation of the statutory right of occupancy in respect of the Certificate of Occupancy No.6483 dated 8th May, 1954 is invalid, unlawful, null and void, and of no effect whatsoever (ii) the setting aside of the said purported revocation; and (iii) the assessment and award of an amount of N126,786.00 as compensation to the Respondent should the revocation be declared valid by this court.

Hence the first two points above were covered by Ground 4 while the last point was covered by Ground 5. It is also pertinent to note that it is only when the issue of the invalidity of the purported revocation challenged by Ground 4 has been decided by this court that the issue of jurisdiction and payment of compensation raised by Ground 5 can even arise. This Court having therefore struck out Ground 4 as incompetent, there is nothing left in the appeal which challenges the issue of invalidity of the purported revocation of the statutory right of occupancy. In the circumstances, the declaration made by the Court of Appeal on the issue, that the purported revocation of the Certificate of Occupancy No.6483 of 6th May, 1954 was invalid, unlawful, null and void and of no effect whatsoever, still subsists.

It will therefore serve no useful purpose to consider the issue of the jurisdiction of and the award of compensation by the Court of Appeal raised in ground 5. As regards ground 2, it seems to me to be quite irrelevant to the consideration of the main issue in this appeal.

Consequently the appeal fails and it is hereby dismissed with N300.00 costs to the Respondent.


Other Citation: (1986) LCN/2264(SC)

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