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Odunsi Lasisi Ajibola v. Aminu Akindele Ajani Ojora (1961)

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⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:

Odunsi Lasisi Ajibola v. Aminu Akindele Ajani Ojora (1961) – SC

by PipAr Chima

⦿ LITE HOLDING

* NATIVE CUSTOM IS A QUESTION OF FACT
Native law and custom being a question of fact in an action in the High Court, it is true that the findings in these cases are not binding as precedents, and it is also true, as has been pointed out by Mr Oseni on behalf of the respondents, that however learned and experienced the Judges whose judgments are relied on may have been, they could only act on the evidence which the parties in the cases concerned chose to call before them.

⦿ TAG(S)

White cap chief
Head of family

⦿ PARTIES

APPELLANT
Odunsi Lasisi Ajibola

v.

RESPONDENT
Aminu Akindele Ajani Ojora

⦿ CITATION

(1961) LCN/0916(SC)

⦿ COURT

Supreme Court

⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:

Brett, F.J

⦿ APPEARANCES

* FOR THE APPELLANT

* FOR THE RESPONDENT

– Mr Oseni.

⦿ FINDING-OF-FACT

The parties are all members of the Ojora family of Lagos, a land-own-ing family having the right to nominate its head to the Oba of Lagos for cap-ping as an Idej o White Cap Chief with the title of Chief Ojora. The appellant has admittedly been capped as Chief Ojora on the instructions of the Oba, and was recognised by the Governor-General in 1956 as a Chief for the pur-poses of the Lagos Local Government Law, 1953.

Bennett, J. upheld the first of the respondents’ submissions. He found as a fact that the plaintiff was the choice only of a small minority of the fam-ily, and that the Oba, on the advice of the White Cap Chiefs, authorised his capping in the face of a protest by a number of the leading members of the family. He also found as a fact that the first respondent was the choice of the majority of the family, and that it was in accordance with native law and cus-tom for him to act as head of the family in managing the family property and use the title Chief Ojora. On these findings the interpretation of the settle-ment did not arise for decision, but Bennett, J. expressed the view that it had already been authoritatively interpreted in favour of the respondents’ sub-mission in the judgment of this Court in another suit between Bakare Faro, Chief Ojora, and members of the family: Appeal No. W.A.C.A. 242/1955.

Available:  Aigbobahi, Omonoyan, Ekhoragbon, Omonoyan (for themselves and on behalf of ikhuenbo village) v. Aifuwa, Osabuohien & Ors. (for themselves and on behalf of Iguomo Village) (SC. 194/2001, 3 Feb 2006)

⦿ CLAIM

This is an appeal by the plaintiff from the decision of Bennett, J., in the High Court of Lagos, dismissing his claim for an injunction to restrain the defendants from alienating any portion of the family lands and properties without his consent and for an account.

⦿ ISSUE(S)

1. Whether the plaintiff (now appellant) is the Chief Ojora (head) of the Ojora family?

⦿ RESOLUTION OF ISSUE(S)

[APPEAL: ALLOWED]

1. ISSUE 1 WAS RESOLVED IN FAVOUR OF THE APPELLANT BUT AGAINST THE RESPONDENT.

RULING:
i. Nevertheless, both on the authority of those decisions, and as a matter of probability I would say that the burden of proving that there may be simultaneously in one family a Chief who has been capped but has no rights of management over the family property, and another Chief with the same title who has not been capped but manages the family property, was on those who asserted it, and I am unable to agree with Bennett, J., that the respondents discharged that burden.

Available:  Anthony Ibekwe v. Oliver Nwosu (2011) - SC

ii. If it is correct that the other White Cap Chiefs were over-hasty in advis-ing the Oba to approve the capping of the appellant, that is not a matter which the Court can correct, and for the reasons which I have given I am not satisfied that it alters the effect of capping.

⦿ ENDING NOTE BY LEAD JUSTICE – Per Brett FJ.

The Courts have always been ready to preserve the legitimate interests of land-owing families, as many reported cases show, and I should regret it if it were necessary now to introduce a new ground of uncertainty into a matter in which sufficient.

⦿ CONTRIBUTIONS OF OTHER JUSTICES TO ISSUE(S)

⦿ REFERENCED (STATUTE)

Section 3(a) Oba and Chiefs of Lagos Ordinance, 1959: No. 22 of 1959):
Notwithstanding anything in any written law contained whereby or whereunder jurisdiction is conferred upon a Court, whether such jurisdiction is original, appellate or by way of transfer, a Court shall not have jurisdiction to entertain any civil cause or matter instituted for –
(a) the determination of any question relating to the selection, ap-pointment, installation, deposition or abdication of a Chief.

Available:  Enebeli v. State (2021) - SC

⦿ REFERENCED (CASE)

⦿ REFERENCED (OTHERS)

⦿ NOTABLE DICTA

* PROCEDURAL

* SUBSTANTIVE

* MANAGEMENT BY THE WHITE CAP CHIEF
If the appellant is entitled to exercise the usual powers of the Chief or family head in the management of the family property, he is also entitled to the relief he asks for, since it is not pretended that the settlement enables the respondents, or the family council less the Chief, to dispose of the family property without the consent of the Chief. If, on the other hand, the appellant is not entitled to exercise any powers of management over the family property then he cannot obtain any relief, whatever the effect of the settlement may be. If this view is correct, the only question which the Court has to decide is whether the appellant has the usual powers of the Chief or family head. – Brett F.J. Ajibola v. Ojora (1961)

* WHITE CAP CHIEF & PUBLIC POLICY
and as far as what I may call public policy is concerned it is just as important that members of the public should know that they may safely deal with a White Cap Chief as the person empowered, subject to the usual consents, to dispose of the family land, as that the interests of the fam-ily should be secured. – Brett F.J. Ajibola v. Ojora (1961)

⦿ SIMILAR JUDGEMENTS

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