When Will A Family Land Become A Personal Land

When Will A Family Land Become A Personal Land? Daily Law Tips (Tip 614) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LL.M, ACIArb(UK)

It is not uncommon to find family members fighting over land and property. There are situations where family land becomes private and personal land of a family member or even a third party. The situation has been emphasised by the Supreme Court of Nigeria, in the below sentences.

“Where the land in dispute is accepted by the parties or found by the Court to be originally a family land, the person who claims exclusive ownership thereto must fail unless he asserts by his pleading and proves by evidence how that exclusive ownership properly devolves on him. See Eze v. Igiliegbe & Ors. (1952) 14 WACA 61; and Adenle v. Oyegbade (1967) NMLR 136 at p.138.” Per YEKINI OLAYIWOLA ADIO ,J.S.C ( P. 34, paras. B-C ) Quotation from AJUWON v. AKANNI & ORS (1993) LPELR-311(SC)

This takes us to “how to prove ownership of land”. So, below is the logic of the Court of Appeal on this.

”It is now well accepted that in a claim for declaration of title, a Plaintiff as well as a Defendant/counter claiming declaration of title to land has open to him five way by which to prove his title to the land in dispute. These five ways, which have crystallized over the years in a long line of decided cases as are replete in our law reports are each if proved by credible and cogent evidence sufficient to ground title in the party who so claims. These five methods are namely: (a) Evidence of traditional history of title (b) By production of title documents (c) By acts of ownership (d) By acts of possession long enough to warrant the person in possession as the owner. (e) By acts of possession of a adjoining or adjacent land in such a way as would make it probable that the owner of the adjoining or adjacent land is also the owner of the land in dispute. See Idundun V. Okumagba (10976) 6 – 10 SC 48,; Morenikeji V. Adebugun (2003) 8 NWLR (Pt. 825) 612; Ojah V. Eviawure (2000) FWLR (Pt. 57) 163; Okore V. Onuyejuwa (2001) FWLT (pt. 41) 1820.” Per BIOBELE ABRAHAM GEORGEWILL ,J.C.A ( Pp. 51-52, paras. C-B ). Quotation is from the case of GABDO v. USMAN (2015) LPELR-25678(CA)


1. The judgement of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (when family land becomes personal land) in the case of AJUWON v. AKANNI & ORS (1993) LPELR-311(SC)

2. The judgement of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (on how to prove ownership of land) in the case of Idundun V. Okumagba (10976) 6 – 10 SC 48

3. The Court of Appeal’s judgement (on how to prove ownership of land) in the case of GABDO v. USMAN (2015) LPELR-25678(CA)










Feel free to reach the author, ask questions or make inquiries on this topic or any other legal issues via onyekachi.umah@gmail.com or +2348037665878.


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