The blessing called urbanisation, as we have experienced, is always accompanied by some of her ugly friends like corruption, pollution, immorality and the like. But one that has really plagued most Nigerian cities like Port Harcourt is fraudulent real property practices. Unfortunately, not all victims of this ugly experience live to recount their tales of woe.
As more areas are urbanised, the courts and traditional arbitrators are inundated with suits bordering on fraudulent land transactions. The myriad of land cases lingering in courts is a testimony of the havoc wrecked by dubious land agents and land owners who spring up daily and prey on unguarded land speculators and purchasers.
It is traite that a lot of these litigations would have been averted, had purchasers and speculators known potential danger areas in land transactions and the safe guards to adopt.
In a land matter between Idundun V Okumagba (2006)2 LC100 Atanda Fatai Williams, JSC, while delivering his lead judgment stated five ways by which ownership may be proved.
Firstly, he said ownership of land may be proved by traditional evidence. Secondly, ownership of land may be proved by production of documents of title which must, of course be duly authenticated. This means that their due execution must be proved unless they are produced from proper custody given rise to the presumption in favour of due execution in the case of documents that are twenty years old or more at the date of the contract (see Section 12g of the Evidence Act).
So also, acts of the person (or persons) claiming the land such as selling, leasing or renting out all or part of the land, or farming on it or on a portion of it, are also evidence of ownership, provided the acts extend over a sufficient length of time and are numerous and positive enough as to warrant the inference that the person is the true owner.
Fourthly, acts of long possession and enjoyment of the land may also be prima facie evidence of ownership of the particular piece or quantity of the land with reference to which such acts are done (section 45 of the Evidence Act). Such acts of long possession, in a claim of declaration of title (as distinct from a claim for trespass) are really a weapon more of defence than of offence. Moreover under section 145 of the Evidence Act, while possession may raise a presumption of ownership, it does not do more and cannot stand when another proves a good title.
Finally, proof of possession of connected or adjacent land in circumstances rendering it probable that the owner of such connected or adjacent land would, be in addition, be the owner of the land in dispute, may also rank as a means of proving ownership of the land in dispute (see section 45 of the Evidence Act).
It should be noted that for the provisions of Section 45 of the Evidence Act to apply, there must be an admission by the respondents, or a finding by the judge, that the kind in dispute was surrounded by other lands belonging to the appellants.
In the light of the above, it behoves land purchasers and speculators to be properly guided because to be forewarned, is to be forearmed as ignorance of the law will not avail you. As one might be propelled by the wonderful and tempting location, fantastic price and desire to own property, there is the need to take all necessary steps and precautions, by investigating the vendor’s title, go for physical inspection of the property and make enquiries in the area the property is situated and from family members if the vendor claims that the land was given to him by his family.
It is also necessary to engage the services of a legal practitioner from the onset to avoid being duped. Unfortunately, most victims of fraudulent land agents and owners only engage the services of a legal practitioner after the deed had been done.
To avoid the attendant embarrassment and loss of hard-earned money, it is therefore necessary to consider the five ways of proving ownership enumerated by the learned Justice of the Supreme Court. It is dangerous to hurriedly seal any land deal no matter the urgency. Worse still, it is dangerous to start building on a land you are not sure of title because it is traite law that “quic quid plantatur solo solo cedit”, meaning that he who owns the land owns what is attached to the land.
Corroboration Of Evidence
There is no law where provision is made for the number of witnesses that must testify before a plaintiff or the persecution will succeed in his case. A court can convict on a single witness. A case is not decided by the number of witnesses, single credible convincing evidence is enough to convict. But there are exceptions, such exceptions are circumstances where corroboration is required before a judge can decide his case.
Corroboration is the ground for the amenability of certain evidence for the purpose of conviction and if the corroborating evidence is not the same with the existing evidence an accused cannot be convicted upon such existing evidence. Corroboration simply means confirmation, support. In Ogumbayo V. State (2007) 8 NWLR (Pt 1035) P. 157, the Supreme Court holds per Ogbuagu JSC that “corroboration is not technical term of art and means no more than evidence tending to confirm, support and strengthen other evidence sought to be corroborated”.
Hence corroborative evidence is an independent testimony implicating the accused to the charge and supportive of the testimony requiring corroboration. This corroborative evidence may be the testimony of another witness, or in a piece of real evidence tendered or in the conduct of the accused himself or from what the accused said. Corroboration therefore implies the existence of more than one piece of evidence, in which the corroborative evidence comes in to confirm, ratify, verify or validate the existing evidence coming from another independent witness or witnesses.
Corroboration of evidence is not required exception where the law demands it. Oputa JSC in Onafowakan V. The State (1987) 7 SCNJ @ 233 holds that. “It is trite that the evidence of one solitary credible witness can establish a case beyond reasonable doubt and that it is said that truth is not discovered by a majority vote”. Although a court of law need not take the fact of the number of witnesses per se into account in deciding which side that would succeed, yet the Evidence Act creates some exceptions in relation thereto.
Some of the exceptions are treason and treasonable offence, perjury, an unsworn evidence of a child witness and Breach of Promise to marry. Breach of Promise to marry is perhaps the only instance of civil cause in which corroboration is required as a matter of law for a plaintiff to recover a verdict. Section 197 of the Evidence Act 2011 provides that “no plaintiff in any action for breach of Promise of marriage can recover a verdict, unless his or her testimony is corroborated by some other material evidence in support of such promises….”
Corroboration is an exception created by law and judicial practio, the general rule being that one qualitative evidence is enough to found a conviction.
By: Nkechi Bright-Ewere
Rivers Judiciary Workers’ Welfare Tops Union’s Agenda
Workers’ welfare and other social benefits were to top on the agenda of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), Rivers State branch, following its election last Friday in Port Harcourt.
The hint came from the electoral committee chairman, Ken Agi as he gave charge to the newly elected executive of the union in River state.
Agi said union leaders must learn how to put the interest of members top, if they must do well as leaders.
He explained that JUSUN was a group made of talented people who are determined to evoke change in the system.
About the peaceful atmosphere witnessed during the election, he said that it was the making of the Chief Justice of the state, Hon Justice Iyayi Lamiankara.
The union’s eleco boss, hinted that the CJ, was interested in workers’ welfare, hence her insistence on quality electoral process devoid of rancour.
The returning officer of the the election, Comrade Marwan Adamu, who corroborated Agi’s views, said workers’ welfare package must top the agenda of any good executive.
Adamu, the National President of the union, further tasked the new leadership of the union in the state to shun what he described as divide and rule system.
Declaring the nine -man committee returned as elected, he swore them in for immediate action.
In his victory speech, the chairman of the union, Comrade Anthony Nwachukwu, assured workers of all inclusive government.
Nwachukwu, stressed that for the sake of the union, there was no victor or vanquished at the poll, and added that the victory belonged to the entire workers.
He therefore, called on his members to be up and doing in order to promote the interest of the union.
JUSUN is the umbrella body of judiciary workers in the country.
Human Rights Day: NHRC Urges Youths To Shun Criminality
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), has appealed to youths to stay off crimes, but defend their rights for the development of the nation.
The commission made the appeal yesterday in Lagos as Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark the 2019 International Day for Human Rights.
The South-West Commander, NHRC, Mr Lucas Koyejo, speaking with The Tide source said that many youths were into various crimes.
He urged them to be more active and vocal in promoting whatever concerns the nation saying that no one would step down for them to occupy leadership.
The commander speaking on the theme of this year said that the UN picked it to draw the attention of the youth to their responsibilities and the need for others to support them.
The Tide reports that the UN had set aside Dec.10 of every year as the International Day for Human Rights.
This year’s theme is: “Youth Standing Up for Human Rights.’’
Koyejo said, “The UN knows that the youth are the future leaders of the world.
”Unfortunately, some youths in present day Nigeria are not as proactive as youths of old.
”A lot of our youths are not interested in their rights or government policies that will affect their future.
”The youth need to be interested in governance. That is the difference. Nobody will be discriminated against, because the future belongs to them.
”They must stand up for their rights,” he said.
Also, a human rights lawyer and a Civil Society leader, Mr Malachy Ugwummadu, spoke on the role of the youth in promoting human rights and peace.
He said that Nigerian youths have the population to make the needed positive changes.
Ugwummadu, who described the youth population in Nigeria as a “critical mass” for a change, called on them to be knowledgeable about their rights and the laws of the country.
”We have a law: ‘Not too young to run’. They must know about it and other laws concerning them.
”One major challenge is the division among the youth. They must be united if they want to bring about any positive change.
”They must network across all ages and genders. They should improve on themselves, and collectively take up national issues,’’ he said.
Similarly, Mr Duke Amaliechi, the National Coordinator of Youth for Human Rights International, said that youths had a great responsibility before them.
He said that was why the UN was advising them to stand up for their fundamental human rights.
Amaliechi said that there were lots of injustices going on in the society.
He said that the youth should speak out against perceived injustices in the society and participate in governance.
He advised them not to become tools of crisis or destabilisation in the hands of politicians.
He said that only those with poor mindsets would collect money from people to kill fellow human beings or cause crises.
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