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Land cases are among the few cases that bring most Nigerians to court, at least for the first time. Land racketeering (fraud) has led many land transactions to end up in case files of courts. By the way, the Magistrate Courts cannot entertain cases of land dispute rather such cases are within the exclusively jurisdiction of the High Courts in Federal Capital Territory and across states in Nigeria.

Often, parties (both sides) to a land dispute come to court with conflicting evidence to prove their cases. So, justice in such cases rely on what the courts will do with the conflicting evidence. On this issue, below are the words of the great Justice Chukwudifu Akunne Oputa of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in a case decided on 22 April 1988 by the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

“In this case both parties claimed ownership of the land in dispute, both also claimed various acts of ownership and possession in and over the land. The case was fought on the assumption that each side is claiming ownership and possession. When such is the case, the law is that he who can prove title is in actual possession and the other is a trespasser. See Jones v. Chapmein (1849) L.J. Ex. 456 at p 460: See also Da Costa v. Ikomi (1968) 1 All N.L.R. 394 at p.398. The Court of Appeal was therefore right in holding that where “there are conflicting claims” to ownership and possession as in this case, effective and exclusive possession needed to establish trespass “cannot be ascribed to the plaintiffs who failed to show better title.”

My authorities are:

1. Sections 39, 51 and 52 of the Land Use Act, 1978.

2. The judgement of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the case of FASORO & ANOR v. BEYIOKU & ORS (1988) LPELR-1249(SC)

3. Jones v. Chapmein (1849) L.J. Ex. 456 at p 460

4. Da Costa v. Ikomi (1968) 1 All N.L.R. 394 at p.398










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