⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Vincent O. Awosile v. Chief F.O.D. Sotunbo (1992) – SC
Vincent O. Awosile
Chief F.O.D. Sotunbo
(1992) NWLR (Pt. 243)514;
(1992) 6 SCNJ 204;
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
A. B. Wali, J.S.C.
⦿ LAWYERS WHO ADVOCATED
* FOR THE APPELLANT
– Ladi Williams
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
– B. Awoniyi
THE FACTS OF THE APPELLANT’S CASE SIMPLY PUT ARE AS FOLLOWS:
By a deed of conveyance dated 8th June, 1964 (Exh.’A’) executed between the Ijokun Community on the one part and the appellant on the other part, the said parcel of land lying and situate at Orile Ijokun (Sabo) Shagamu was conveyed to the appellant as the purchaser.
The appellant (plaintiff) become indebted to the respondent (defendant) to the tune of 1,600.88. As a result of the indebtedness, the appellant said, by an oral agreement, he entrusted the collection of rents from the two houses built on the land to the respondent in order to reimburse himself in the sum of 1,600.00 or N3,200.00. Then in 1965 at the suggestion of the respondent, the appellant executed Exhibit “B”, another deed of conveyance in the respondent’s favour for a consideration of N4,800.00 the amount he was at the time indebted to the respondent; as security for the said debt.
From that time the respondent continued to collect and receive the rents accruing from the two buildings without rendering any account to the appellant. The appellant also complained that the respondent had by 1969, built five more houses on the land without his permission or consent. In 1973 the appellant demanded from the respondent a return of his land, the deeds of conveyance (Exhs. “A” and “B”) and for an account of the rents collected, plus payment of any amount found due either way. There was an attempt by the Akarigbo of Ijebu Remo and his Chiefs to settle the matter which partially succeeded. The appellant thereupon instituted this action claiming the relief contained in his writ of Summons.
THE FACTS OF THE RESPONDENT’S CASE SIMPLY PUT ARE AS FOLLOWS:
The appellant was the owner of the parcel of land in dispute with two dilapidated mud buildings thereon. In 1965 the appellant sold and conveyed to the respondent the parcel of land plus the two buildings thereon for N4,800.00. The deed of conveyance is Exhibit B. Between 1965 and 1972, not only did the respondent repair and renovate the two dilapidated buildings already on the land, but had erected and completed five additional storey buildings thereon to the knowledge of the appellant. By the time the dispute arose between the appellant and the respondent the respondent claimed that he had spent over N100,000.00 on improvement to the land. He gave a condition that if the appellant would reimburse him in the sum of N100,000.00 he was prepared to reconvey the land together with improvement thereon to him. When in 1972 the dispute as to the ownership of the land and the buildings thereon arose between the appellant and the respondent, the former reported the latter to the Akarigbo of Ijebu land as a result of which the Akarigbo and his Chiefs intervened.
Resulting from the intervention the respondent said he agreed to reconvey the portion of the land in dispute covered by the two buildings originally erected thereon by the appellant on humanitarian reasons. This was done and the respondent signed a reconveyance of the said portion of land to the appellant.
The appellant was not satisfied by this arrangement, hence the institution of the present action.
(i) Whether the Appellant/Plaintiff can rely on a plea of non est factum?
(ii) Was the court below correct in applying the provision of Order 3 rule 23 of the Court of Appeal Rules?
⦿ HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
1. For issue 1, the Supreme Court held for the Respondent.
i. At the tail end of Exhibit B where the signatures of both the appellant as the Vendor and the respondent as the purchaser appear there is a jurat evidencing that Exhibit B was read and explained to the appellant in Yoruba language before affixing his signature thereto. It was executed before a Senior Magistrate at Shagamu Magistrate Court. Both the Senior Magistrate and his Registrar signed Exhibit B, as witnesses to the execution and the interpretation and explanation of the contents of the documents respectively.
ii. A complaint by a person of full age, sense, knowledge and discretion that at the time he signed the document he did not know its contents without proving fraud, will not avail him a plea of non est factum to avoid the validity and legal effect of such a document.
2. Issue 2 was resolved in favour of the Appellant.
i. I have perused through the nine grounds of appeal filed and argued before the Court of Appeal and none of them complained against the trial court’s order that the respondent should return to the appellant the N5,000.00 the latter paid to the former.
ii. The fact that both counsel argued the issue in their briefs would not confer jurisdiction on the appellate court to entertain any argument which is not hinged to any ground of appeal. The learned Justice of the Court of Appeal therefore lacked jurisdiction to set aside the order aforesaid as it is not solely an issue of making a consequential order, thus falling within the discretionary powers of the Court of Appeal exercisable under Order 3 rule 23 of the Court of Appeal Rules, 1981. The Court has no power to grant a substantial relief not specifically sought by a party.
⦿ SOME PROVISIONS
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
⦿ NEGLIGENCE DOES NOT AID NON EST FACTUM
The plea (non est factum) will not be available to a party who signs a document without inquiring to know its precise effect, nor will it be available to whoever signs a document that contains a term to which he would have objected had he read and understood it. Before such a document is declared void, the element of consent must be completely lacking. – Wali, JSC. Awosile v. Sotunbo (1992)
⦿ COURT CANNOT HEAR ISSUE NOT HINGED ON GROUNDS OF APPEAL
The fact that both counsel argued the issue in their briefs would not confer jurisdiction on the appellate court to entertain any argument which is not hinged to any ground of appeal. – Wali, JSC. Awosile v. Sotunbo (1992)
⦿ The court has no power to grant a substantial relief not specifically sought by a party. – Wali, JSC. Awosile v. Sotunbo (1992)
⦿ DOCUMENT SIGNED IN THE ABSENCE OF PROOF OF FRAUD IS BINDING
For the law is that it would be dangerous to allow a man over the age of legal infancy to escape from the legal effect of a document which he has, after reading it, signed in the absence of proof of fraud or positive mis-representation by the other party who would take advantage of the due execution of the document. – Nnaemeka-agu, JSC. Awosile v. Sotunbo (1992)