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Before You Seal That Land Deal

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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.

 

Mercy Oke-Chinda

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Law/Judiciary

Travel Agent Charged With N1.3m Visa Fraud

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A 40-year-old travel agent, Eze Sunday, was on Monday arraigned at a Yaba Chief Magistrates’ Court in Lagos for allegedly obtaining N1.3 million from a client on the pretext of procuring a Turkey visa for her.
Sunday is facing a three-count charge bordering on conspiracy, stealing and obtaining by false pretences.
The defendant, who resides in Yaba, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge.
The Prosecutor, Mr J.I. Eboseremen, told the court that the defendant committed the offences sometime in January on Association Avenue in Igando, Lagos.
He said that the defendant stole the N1.3 million from the complainant, Miss Charity Obeta, which she gave him through a United Bank of Africa electronic transfer, for her travel logistics.
According to him, the defendant promised to procure a Turkey visa, get a return flight ticket and hotel reservation for Obeta, but failed.
Eboseremen alleged that the defendant absconded with the money and refused to take the complainant’s calls.
“My lord, the complainant’s intended travel date was drawing close but she could not contact the defendant.
“His colleagues at workplace told her that the defendant travelled and did not intend to return to the office.
Obeta reported the case to the police, and the defendant was tracked and arrested,” the prosecutor said.
He said that the alleged offences contravened Sections 411, 314 and 287 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015 (Revised).
The Chief Magistrate, Mrs Oluwatoyin Oghere, released the defendant on bail in the sum of N2 million with two sureties each in like sum.
Oghere said that one of the sureties must be a blood relation of the defendant and reside within the court’s jurisdiction.
She ordered that the sureties must be gainfully employed and show evidence of three years’ tax payment to Lagos State Government.
Oghere adjourned the case until September 11 for trial.

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Remove Nwosu’s Name As Guber Candidate, Court Orders INEC

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The Federal High Court, Abuja, last Monday, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to remove the name of Uche Nwosu as a governorship candidate in the last election held in Imo State.
Justice Inyang Ekwo voided Nwosu’s candidacy on the grounds of double nomination by two political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Action Alliance (AA), in violation of section 37 of the Electoral Act.
The ruling came as Nwosu, a son-in-law to the immediate-past Governor of the state, Rochas Okorocha, is currently pursuing an election petition at the state’s Governorship Election Petition Tribunal as the candidate of AA, challenging the victory of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Emeka Ihedioha, in the March 11 poll.
In his judgment on Monday, Justice Ekwo upheld the case of the plaintiffs, the Action People’s Party (APP) and its Deputy National Chairman, Mr Uche Nnadi, to the effect that Nwosu’s governorship candidature was null and void on the grounds of multiplicity of nominations as a governorship candidate of both the APC and AA.
According to him, the nomination of Nwosu by AA as a governorship candidate is invalid, null and void, having been made at the pendency of similar nomination of the 2nd defendant (Nwosu) by the All Progressives Congress for the same position.
The judge noted that Nwosu affirmed to be the APC’s governorship candidate in his statement on oath sworn before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory.
The judge similarly declared that Nwosu “has not been validly nominated by the 3rd defendant (AA) as its governorship candidate for the state governorship election having been made at the pendency of the order of Justice Valentine Ashi of the Abuja High Court recognising the 2nd defendant as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress for the Imo 2019 governorship election.”
He noted that Nwosu participated in the APC’s primaries held on October 6, 2018 and was subsequently nominated as the party’s governorship candidate.
While laying claim to the APC’s governorship ticket, amidst stiff opposition from members of the party, he was said to have on October 9, 2018, obtained an order of Justice Valentine Ashi (now deceased) of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, recognising him as the valid candidate of the party.
In the midst of this, Nwosu was also offered the ticket of the AA.
In his judgment, Justice Ekwo said, “There is no controversy that, on October 6, 2018, the 2nd defendant (Nwosu) had himself nominated as the governorship candidate of the APC.

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Enugu Police Nab Suspected Armed Robbers, Recover Pistol

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The Enugu State Police Command has nabbed two suspected armed robbers terrorising Abakpa Community in the outskirts of Enugu metropolis.
The police also recovered one locally made Beretta pistol from the suspects.
The Command’s Public Relations Officer, SP Ebere Amaraizu, said this in a statement made available to newsmen yesterday in Enugu.
Amaraizu said that the suspects were arrested on August 16 by Anti-Cult Unit of the command after a raid on a black spot in the community.
He said: “Following an attack on Abakpa Police Division operatives by hoodlums, the Anti-Cultism Unit of Command went on raid at Umuchigbo axis of Abakpa Community.
“The operatives arrested one Chekwube Igwe and one Teddy Otti both of Vikings confraternity, who have been terrorising Abakpa Community and its environs.
“The police operatives also recovered a local pistol from them.’’
The police spokesman said that the suspects had been helping police operatives in their investigation on their nefarious activities.
“They will be charged to court as soon as investigation is over,’’ he said.

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