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pre-Requisites For Valid Grant Of Land Under Benin Customary Law

Last Update (July 9, 2020)

For a valid grant of land under Benin Customary law, due proof of all compliance with the preliminary steps leading to the Obas approval as well as the approval itself are all important. Mere production of deed of conveyance and the issuance of a certificate of occupancy without due proof of prior title of the person from whom the title is derived cannot confer title on the holder. This was the decision in Lt. Col Mrs B.A . F Finnih - V -J O Imade SC/160/87 delivered on 24th January, 1992,(Lead Judgment Bahalakin JSC)

Also a grant by the Oba in accordance with the customary law of the Bínis must be proved and the site must be inspected by the plot Allotments Committee See the case of k S Okaeya Inneh V madam Ekionmado Aguebor Supreme Court 16 January1970 where it was held that the grant by the Oba of Benin in accordance with Bini/customary law was not proved and the respondent who had brought the matter at the lower court failed. It should be noted that before the land Use Act;

(a)  All lands in Benin Division are vested in the Oba of Benin who is thus trustee or legal owner thereof on behalf of the people of Benin who are beneficiaries in respect thereof.

(b) in respect of Benin City itse1f, the Oba of Benin had by 1961 appointed Ward Allotment Committees in respect of the 12 Wards into which the City had been divided shortly before’ this for the purpose of plot allocation.

(c) Whereas any grantee of land in Benin City before 1961 might be able to produce the approval in respect thereof reduces by the Oba of Benin into writing, such a grantee after this period must be able to produce such evidence.

(d) One of the several functions of a ward plot allotment committee is to recommend plot applications to the Oba of Benin for approval.

(e) An applicant for land in Benin City as from 1961 has to direct his application in writing to the ward plot allotment committee of his choice

(f) Wards. plot allotment committee upon receipt of the application would delegate some of their members to carry out an inspection of the land acquired within the area of their ward and they in turn would report back to the committee on their, inspection “the purpose of the inspection” being” to ascertain the plot to be granted with certainty and also to ascertain if it is free from dispute or has not been previously granted to someone”.

(g) Upon being satisfied about the exact locations, the dimensions and. the fact that the desired plot is “dispute free” the ward plot .allotment committee would endorse the application with the above facts and forward it to the Oba of Benin as recommended.

(h) The Oba of Benin would. as a rule, accord his approval in writing to a recommended application and an applicant whose application is approved by the Oba of Benin becomes the beneficial owner of the land as approved for him.

(i) Under Benin customary law a grant of land by the Oba of Benin becomes effective from the date the Oba appends his signature of having approved the application for land. See Aigbe-v Edokpolor (1997) 2 Scl P.8 35 pt 70. See also Vincent Esamegho -v- Aibangbee Ikhinmwin Suit B/1 8/66 decided by Justice Irekefe (of blessed memory) as he then was on May 17th 1968. In that case his Lordship said .

All land in Benin division is vested in the Oba of Benin as trustee for the beneficiaries, the Benin people. A Bini desiring land on which to build applies for it to the Oba of Benin through the Ward Plot Allotment Committee in which the land is situated. The Committee barriers out an inspection of the site in order to ascertain its location and in order also to be able to recommend to the Oba whether the plot desired should be granted to the applicant, it being free of dispute. upon receipt of such recommendation, the Oba approves the grant of the land shown in the application to the applicant who thus becomes beneficial owner thereof in accordance with Bini custom. The Oba registers his approval by writing “Approved” in the body of the application, followed by his signature and the date. “... The above facts are so notorious and so regularly canvassed by parties in every contest over Benin land that any Court in Benin Division is bund to take judicial notice of them”

There are a few decisions of this and other courts of record which confirmed the effectiveness of certain Benin. Custom relation to land some of them is:

Atiti God -V- B. Osarenren (1970) 1 ALL NLRI25  

Arase -V- Arase supra V BeIIo V M Eweka(1981)1 SC 101

S. Agboinfo -V- 1. Aiwereioba & Anor (1988) 1 NWLR P.2

Omoregie -v- Idugiernwanye (1985) NWLR pt.5 p.4

Mhachi -V- Oshodi & Anor (1977) 2 FCA 110

Evbuoman & Ors V Elema & Ors (1994) 20 LRCN SC 365

Ogianien V. Ogiarnien (1967) NMLR 246

Akhiomare y Omoregie (1977)2 SCI I

Edosomwan V Ogbeifun (1996) 36 LRCN

UDI V IDEMUDIA (199$) 56/57LRCN. 3184 SC. 195/1991

Obaseki Evbuornwan (1959) 4 FSC 91 Conflict to Customary Law title to land see lord Dennying in Kojo 11 y Bonsie (1957) JWLR. 1223.

Arase y Arase (1981)5 SC 33

Okeaya inneh V Aguebor (1970)1 ALL NLR 1

Eholor V Osayande(1992) 6 NWLR (pt-249) 524

Enabuiele y Agbonlahor SC 122/1993

Ugbo y Aburime (1993) NWLR, pt 273 101 (1999) 67 LRCN witnesses of the uttermost veracity may speak honestly but erroneously as to what took place a hundred years or more ago. Where there is a conflict of traditional history. One side or the other must be mistaken yet both may be honest in their belief. In such a case demeanor is little guide to the truth. The best way is to test the traditional history by reference to the facts in recent years as established by evidence and by seeing which of the two competing histories is the more probable. It is when he neither find any of the two histories probable nor conclusive that he would declare both in conclusive and proceed to decide the case on the basis of numerous positive acts of possession and ownership... Sumonu Agedegudu

Sanni Ajenifuya & Ors (1963) I ALL NLR 1O9.

Oyibo  Iriri Vs Eseroraye Erhurhobara & Anor (1991)2 LRCN 590, PM Alade Vs

Larence Awo (1975) 4 SC 215,

Ekpa Vs ITA (1932) 11 NLR 68.

Chief Alhaji  K.O.S. Ane & Anor vs Raji Ipaye & Ors (1990) 2 NWLR (Pt.132) 298

Chief Oyela kin Balogun Ors vs Oladosu Akanji & Anor (1972) 8/9 SC 83

Aikhionbare vs Omoregie (1976)12 SC 1 p 66 Paras F-E

Mogaii &ORs vs. Cadbury Nig. Ltd. (1955)2 NWLR (Pt 96) 186 at P. 104- 1 05.where the court stated that evidence of tradition usually goes to the root as to how a claimant and his predecessor in title came upon the land and when evidence of tradition becomes unconvincing and inconclusive then the matter must rest on question of facts and reference must be make to acts within living memory. Alade supra, Onwuka vs Ediala (1991) 40 NWLR (Pt 96) 186.

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