22 January 2013

Nigeria: Supreme Court Settles 37-Year-Old Case

The Supreme Court of Nigeria, Friday, in a unanimous decision finally settled a 37-year-old land case between two parties who share a common ancestor.

The case was instituted in July 1976 at the Nnewi Division of the Anambra State High Court, went up on appeal to the Enugu Division of the Court of Appeal where judgment was delivered on July 13, 2005 before the final judgment delivered last Friday by the apex court.

The appellants were Thomas Nruamah, Samuel Maduabum, Anadumaka Nnedenu and John Onuora, while the respondents were Reuben Ebuzoeme, Pius Oguonu, Onwubufo and others.

Both parties in their respective claims sought to be granted exclusive title to the land in dispute but the apex court in a unanimous decision held that neither party was entitled to restrain the other from being on the land.

The trial court found and accepted that the land "Ogwugwu Ahaba land" is a vast area of land and many families own portions of the land, stating that, "they had lived on the land in dispute from time immemorial. Their predecessors had lived, died and were buried on the land in dispute. Neither of the parties had shown that they are exclusively, as against the other, entitled to be on the land in dispute as owners."

Justice Olukayode Ariwoola in the lead judgment, ordered that the parties should continue to live in peace.

"However, this being a peculiar case between the same members of the same ancestor who had lived together from time immemorial, parties are to bear their respective costs of these appeals. They shall continue to live in peace. Neither has established that he is entitled to drive the other away from the portions of the land in dispute they occupy."

The unique aspect of the case was that the evidence vividly established that both parties are related and they inherited the land from a common ancestor.

The trial court found that there was no specific evidence from the appellants as to who founded the land and in what manner the land was founded by their ancestors. Whether it was by settlement or by conquest or by grant.

The panel of the apex court that finally determined the appeal was headed by Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad. Other members were Justices Mary Peter-Odili, Olukayode Ariwoola, Kumai Bayang Akaahs and Stanley Shenko Alago.

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