⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
L.T. COL. MRS. R.A.F. FINNIH v. J.O. IMADE (1992) – SC
⦿ LITE HOLDING
⦿AREA OF LAW
Findings of fact;
L.T. COL. MRS. R.A.F. FINNIH
(1992) JELR 43188 (SC)
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
B. O. BABALAKIN, J.S.C.
* FOR THE APPELLANT
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
⦿ FACT (as relating to the issues)
In the Benin High Court of the then Bendel State now Edo State, the Plaintiff/Respondent took action against the Defendant/Appellant as follows:
“(a) A declaration of statutory right of occupancy to the plaintiff’s piece of land verged green in survey plan No. ER. 2175 which is filed with the statement of claim.
(b) The sum of N60,100.00 being special damages made up as follows: (i) value of uncompleted houses damaged by the defendant and/or agents or servants ….N56,100.00 (ii) value of building materials on the site damaged by the defendant and/or her agents or servants……4,000.00
(c) the sum of N39,000 being general damages including loss of rent at rate of N6,000 per annum each bungalow until judgment.
(d) A perpetual injunction to restrain the defendant her servants or agents from committing any further acts of trespass on the land.” Statement of claim and defence were filed, amended and exchanged.
The plaintiff/respondent testified and called six witnesses. The defendant/respondent testified on her behalf and called one witness namely the principal Deeds Registrar in the Ministry of Land and Survey, Benin City.
After hearing evidence, the trial court dismissed the plaintiff/respondent’s claim for declaration of statutory right of occupancy to the land in dispute. He however held that the plaintiff/respondent’s claim for damages for trespass in the sum of N60,100.00 succeeded and awarded that sum to the plaintiff/respondent he dismissed the claim for perpetual injunction.
Aggrieved by that part of the judgment awarding damages to the plaintiff/respondent, the defendant/appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal. Also aggrieved by the part of the judgment which dismissed his claim for the declaration of Statutory Right of Occupancy the plaintiff/respondent cross-appealed to the Court of Appeal.
At the Court of Appeal, briefs of argument were filed and exchanged and after hearing argument of the parties, the Court of Appeal allowed the plaintiff/respondent’s Cross-appeal and dismissed the defendant/appellant’s appeal.
Dissatisfied with the judgment of Court of Appeal, the defendant/appellant has further appealed to this Court.
1. Whether the respondent has a better title?
⦿ RESOLUTION OF ISSUE(S)
[APPEAL: APPEAL DISMISSED]
1. ISSUE 1 WAS RESOLVED AGAINST THE APPELLANT BUT IN FAVOUR OF THE RESPONDENT.
i. As shown in exhibit “D” the grant to Ojo Osunbor from whom plaintiff/respondent derived his title is earlier in time to that of A. Omoregie from whom the defendant/appellant derived her title. On the decided authorities referred to above under Benin Customary Law, the earlier grant is superior to and better title than a later grant where both relate to one and same piece or parcel of land.
⦿ ENDING NOTE BY LEAD JUSTICE – Per
⦿ REFERENCED (STATUTE)
Section 73(1)(a) of Evidence Act provides: 73(1) The Court shall take Judicial notice of the following facts: (a) All laws of enactments and any subsidiary legislation made there- under having the force of law now or heretofore in force, or hereafter to be in force, in any part of Nigeria”
⦿ REFERENCED (CASE)
⦿ REFERENCED (OTHERS)
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
I wish to emphasize that where the trial court has drawn the wrong inference from primary facts the appellate court can reject the inference and make what it considers to be the right inference supported by evidence. – Babalakin JSC. Finnih v. Imade (1992)
It is true that the Court of Appeal will be reluctant to upset the findings of fact of a trial court but where as in this case the learned trial court draws wrong conclusions from the totality of the evidence before it, the Court of Appeal will and in fact has a duty to reverse the wrong conclusions and make findings that the facts before it demand. – Babalakin JSC. Finnih v. Imade (1992)
It is well settled that every pleading must state facts and not law. A party is not expected to plead conclusions of law or mixed fact and law. However, conclusions of law can be drawn from material facts pleaded. It is also unnecessary to set out in a pleading content of a public statute. – Karibe-Whyte, JSC. Finnih v. Imade (1992)
Parties having joined issues as to the ownership of the land in dispute and having pleaded the facts they relied upon which involved the validity of the allotments in Wards, A1 the question of the law applicable may be cited to the court by learned Counsel, or may come from the industry or research of the Judge. – Karibe-Whyte, JSC. Finnih v. Imade (1992)
It is accepted that in our adversary system of the administration of Justice, where the Judge is at all times expected to play the role of an unbiased umpire, he cannot raise any issues of facts suo motu, and proceed to decide the matter on such issues without hearing the parties – See Kuti v. Balogun (1978) 1 LRN. 353, Atanda and Anor. v. Lakanrni (1974) 1 All NLR, (Pt.l) 168, Odiase and dnor v. Agho and Ors. (1972) 1 All NLR. (Pt.1) 170. The judgment must be confined to the issues of facts raised by the parties, – See Ochonrna v. Unosi (1965) NMLR 321. I am not aware of the extension of this principle to the application of the law relevant to the determination of the issue before the Court. In my opinion as long as the issues on which the judgment is based are findings of facts arising from the pleadings and evidence before the Court, the fact that the court has in the determination of the issues applied principles of law not cited by learned counsel, will not affect the decision. This has always been the accepted law. – Karibe-Whyte, JSC. Finnih v. Imade (1992)
Every Judge in Nigeria has sworn to do justice according to law. The laws to be applied by a court in all cases are not limited to only those authorities, statutory and judicial, which have been cited for the court’s consideration by counsel on both sides. Rather, they include those laws which the court can judicially notice as well as those relevant to the issues before the court which the court can from its own research find out. If Judges, do otherwise they will be deciding contrary to laws which they have sworn to uphold. – NNAEMEKA-AGU, J.S.C. Finnih v. Imade (1992)
For whereas building materials deposited by a trespasser on another’s land may not necessarily accrue to the true owner of the land, it is difficult to see how a trespasser can get damages from a true owner of land for his uncompleted building on the owner’s land, for the simple reason that in accordance with the maxim quic quid plantatur solo solo cedit (any fixture unto the land becomes a part of the land), the fixture becomes the property of the true owner. – NNAEMEKA-AGU, J.S.C. Finnih v. Imade (1992)
It is trite law that forgery is a very serious imputation and needs to be pleaded with particularity and proved strictly. – NNAEMEKA-AGU, J.S.C. Finnih v. Imade (1992)