Following its recent victory at the Court of Appeal, Ibadan Oyo State, Solabi family has raised the alarm over ploy by some perceived elements to deceive the public about ownership of parcels of land at Ajelanwa Olowo Igbo village and Kajola Iboro village via Atan, Ogun State.
The family maintained that the Court of Appeal had in suit number CA/IB/115/2016 set aside the judgment of the Ogun State High Court granting statutory right of occupancy on parcels of land to Oyeyemi Asalu family.
Solabi family noted that it was becoming clear that some elements have made themselves available to distort the verdict of the appellate court: “We wish to blow the whistle as an early warning alert of the scheme by some unscrupulous elements aimed at deceiving the public and distort the decision of the Court of Appeal in suit number CA/IB/115/2016.”
The appellate court had in a unanimously dismissed the suit filed by Oba Samuel Olufemi Ojugbele and four others (respondents) for themselves and on behalf of members of Oyeyemi Asalu family of Iga, Isalu Ota and awarded a cost of N250, 000 against the family. The court held that the appellants have the right to appoint Alhaji Mutairu Owoeye, Ganiyu Owoeye and one other (7th-9th appellants) as agents over the land in dispute.
The lower court had declared that the respondents were the persons entitled to statutory right of occupancy over the disputed land. Dissatisfied, the appellants Alhaji Yekini Solabi, Lamina Solabi, Jimoh Solabi, Fasasi Solabi, Ibrahim Solabi and their agents Alhaji Mutairu Owoeye and Ganiyu Owoeye appealed against the judgement and urged the court to set it aside.
The court noted that though the respondents claimed that they are the direct children of Oyeyemi whom they said founded the disputed land, but they failed to prove by evidence how the land was transferred from Oyeyemi down the line before it became their own.
Justice Olukayode Bada held: “It is evident that there is a serious contradiction in the case of the claimants as to the children or direct issue(s) of Oyeyemi. Which one is correct? Did Oyeyemi actually have a child or children? The implication of Oyeyemi having children as against a child is very clear in that, if he had children then claimants have decided to suppress their names.
“In my view, the claimants cannot be granted a declaration of title/statutory right of occupancy to the land that does not exclusively belong to them.” He further held that the trial judge ought to have made a finding of fact on whether Oyeyemi actually had children, adding that where a finding of fact was not made on a crucial issue like this and appeal would be allowed.
The court stated that the first to fourth respondents failed to prove their root of title to warrant judgement being given in their favour in the face of their failure to prove transfer of land from the first founder to the present claimants without a break. It added that it was an error on the part of the trial judge to state that the identity of the land was not in dispute stressing that the claimant took the issue with levity:
“The first to fourth respondents have not proved the identity of the land in dispute in this case, the lower court was wrong to have granted title to them.” On whether the appellants were customary tenants on the disputed land, Justice Bada stated: “I do not think so because a party who alleges another to be customary tenants, must plead the incidence of customary tenancy.
“It is settled in law that under native law and custom, to prove Isakole (royalty), the plaintiff must adduce clear evidence on thing or things paid, the payee or receiver, the time when it is paid and other circumstances surrounding it. Bare assertion of payment or that a person is a customary tenant is insufficient.”
Consequently, the appellate court held that the respondents have not been able to establish customary tenancy therefore no such relationship existed between the respondents and the appellants.
Justice Bada held that the trial judge who knew that there was no pleading or evidence to support instances of where payment of tribute could be dispensed with still went ahead to raise it Suo Motu.
He further held that the lower court was in breach of the appellants constitutionally guaranteed right to fair hearing when it made an order of forfeiture against them especially when there was no evidence of customary tenancy between the parties.