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MBAHAGHOTU JOSHUA UGWUNNA & ANOR v. MR. AHAMEFULA NWACHUKWU & ORS

(2017) LPELR-42858(CA)

In The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

On Monday, the 7th day of August, 2017

CA/OW/263/2010


Before Their Lordships

RAPHAEL CHIKWE AGBO Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

MASSOUD ABDULRAHMAN OREDOLA Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

AYOBODE OLUJIMI LOKULO-SODIPE Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria


Between

1. MBAHAGHOTU JOSHUA UGWUNNA
(For myself and on behalf of Joshua Family)
2. OBIOMA ABANOBI NWAGWU
(For and on behalf of Nwagwu Family) - Appellant(s)

AND

1. MR. AHAMEFULA NWACHUKWU
(Chairman Customary Court Umuabali Umuopaa Umuahia)
2. MR. OBILOR UKANWOKE
(Member Customary Court Umuabali
Umuopara Umuahia)
3. CHIMA UCHENDU
(Member Customary Court Umuabali
Umuopara Umuahia)
4. ONYEMA AGOMUO NWOKORIE UGWUNNA
(Member Customary Court Umuabali
Umuopara Umuahia) - Respondent(s)


Summary

INTRODUCTION:
This appeal borders on the Jurisdiction of the Customary Court.
FACTS:
This is an appeal against the decision of the Abia State High Court .

The Appellants were defendants in Suit No. CC/UO/2/2009 pending at the Customary Court of the Umuopara District Abia State holden at Umuabali. The 4th Respondent was the Plaintiff. In the said suit, the 4th Respondent as plaintiff had stated in his claim that both himself and the Appellants were natives of Umuzam Ekenobizi, Umuopara in Umuahia South Local Government Area of Abia State. He claimed of the Appellants as follows: -
"(a) A declaration that all the portions of land as enumerated in paragraph 8 above belong to both parties jointly by inheritance.
(b) A declaration that the said ala-obi land as mentioned in paragraphs 11 and 12 above is a family land belonging to both parties by inheritance.
(c) An order of Court appoint a committee to share the aforementioned portion of land as per paragraph 8 above amongst the plaintiff and 1st, 2nd defendants respectively in accordance with the custom of Umuzam Ekenobizi, Umuopara."
The Appellants pleaded liable. The Court set up a panel which shared lands between the parties, the Court adopted the said sharing as its judgment. The Appellants dissatisfied approached the Abia State High Court seeking an order of certiorari against the Respondents on the ground that the Customary Court did not have the jurisdiction to entertain the suit as the land the subject matter of the suit was in Umuahia South Local Government Area which Area by virtue of the Designation of Urban Areas Order 1998 which order designated the whole of Umuahia South Local Government Area as an urban area.
The High Court in a considered ruling on 12th May 2010 refused the application stating that the Customary Court had the jurisdiction to order the sharing of the land of a man who died intestate under native law and custom.

Dissatisfied, the Appellants filed this appeal.


ISSUES:
The Appellants distilled 5 issues for determination while the 4th Respondent adopted the same issues. The 1st to 3rd Respondents filed no brief of argument. The appeal was however determined on this sole issue:

Whether the Customary Court had the jurisdiction to entertain any matter relating to land the subject of a statutory right of occupancy.


DECISION/HELD:
On the whole the appeal was allowed. The Ruling of the High Court of Imo State delivered on 12th May 2010 in Suit No. HU/47/2010 dismissing the application for certiorari was set aside. In its place is an order allowing the prayer for certiorari to issue. Suit No. CC/UO/2/2009 earlier determined by the Customary Court Umuabali was struck out for want of jurisdiction.


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