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CHIEF JOSEPH OZOEMENA & ANOR v. CHIEF JOSEPH NWOKORO & ORS

(2018) LPELR-44462(SC)

In The Supreme Court of Nigeria

On Friday, the 11th day of May, 2018

SC.233/2006


Before Their Lordships

OLABODE RHODES-VIVOUR Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

JOHN INYANG OKORO Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

AMIRU SANUSI Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

EJEMBI EKO Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

SIDI DAUDA BAGE Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria


Between

1. CHIEF JOSEPH OZOEMENA
2. NZE GEORGE NDUKWE
(For themselves and as representing the members of Umulu village, Amuro, Okigwe) - Appellant(s)

AND

1. CHIEF JOSEPH NWOKORO
2. NZE PHILIP N. ONUIGWE
(For themselves and as representing Amaikpa village, Amuro, Okigwe)

AND

TIMOTHY CHUKWU
-2nd Set of Respondent - Respondent(s)


Other Citations

; ;


Summary

INTRODUCTION:
This appeal borders Civil Procedure.
FACTS:
This is an appeal against the decision opf the Court of Appeal sitting in Port-Harcourt.
The facts are that four suits Nos. COK/83/91, COK/92/91, COK/99/91 and COK/126/91 were brought before the Customary Court of Imo State sitting at Abo-Umulolo, Okigwe. The suit No. COK/92/91, filed by one Timothy Chukwu on behalf of Okoro Eze Okpuwe family of Okpala village of Amuro, Okigwe was later dismissed for want of prosecution. The remaining suits proceeded to trial and judgment as consolidated suits. The suit No. COK/83/91 was between Chief Joseph Ozoemena and another of Umulo village, Amuro Okigwe, as Plaintiffs, and Samson Eze and Another of Amaikpa village, Amuro okigwe. The Plaintiffs of Umulo village claimed against the Defendants of Amaikpa village seeking a declaration of customary right of occupancy of over a piece of land, perpetual injunction and the sum of N1,400.00 value of 400 heads of palm fruits allegedly harvested at Ulu-Okporikpo by the Defendants of Amaikpa village. 
???In the suit No. COK/99/91 - Chief Joseph Ozoemena and another, on behalf of Umulo village of Amuro Okigwe sued Timothy Chukwu of Okpala village, Amuro Okigwe. The Plaintiffs of Umulo village were in the said suit claiming against the Defendant of Okpala village a declaration that the Plaintiffs were entitled to the customary right of occupancy to the piece or parcel of land known as UHU-OKPORIKPO lying and suitate at Umulo, Amuro Okigwe. They also claimed perpetual injunction restraining the Defendant from further entering and/or interfering howsoever with the said Uhu-Okporikpo land. Chief Joseph Nwokoro and another representing Amaikpa village, Amurookigwe, were the Plaintiffs in COK/126/91. They had sued Chief Joseph Ozoemena and two others including Timothy Chukwu (Plaintiff in COK/92/91, and the Defendant in COK/99/91), claiming to be declared as persons entitled to the customary right of occupancy to the piece or parcel of land known and called UHU-OKPORIKPO situate at Amaikpa village Amuro Okigwe. They also sought N250.00 as damages for trespass and perpetual injunction restraining the Defendants from further acts of trespass into the said land. 
In all the three suits -COK/83/91, COK/99/91, and COK/126/91, the core dispute was over the customary ownership of the right of occupancy to the piece of land known as and called UHU-OKPORIKPO. In COK/83/91 and COKl99/91, the Plaintiffs were the Umulo people while Amaikpa people were the Defendants. In COK/126/91, the Amaikpa people were the Plaintiffs while the Defendants were Umulo people. The Customary Court at Abo Umulolo entered final judgment in the consolidated suits in favour of the Amaikpa people (Defendants in COK/83/91 and COK/99/91, but plaintiffs in COK/126/91) against the Umulo people (the plaintiffs in COK/83/91 and COK/99/91 but Defendants in COK/126/91). On Appeal of the Umulo people (Defendants in COK/12G/91 to the Customary Court of Appeal in Appeal No. CCA/OW/A/54/200L, the Customary Court of Appeal allowed the Appeal, set aside the judgment of the Customary Court and entered judgment for the Umulo people (the Plaintiffs in COK/83/91 and COK/99/91 and Defendants in COK/126/911). 
The Amaikpa people further Appealed to the Court of Appeal. Their Appeal No. CA/PH/290/2003 was allowed on 24th November, 2003, and the decision of the Customary Court of Appeal (CCA/OW/A/54/200I) was set aside, on facts, and the decision of the Customary Court was restored. Dissatisfied with the decision, the Umulopeople appealed to the Supreme Court.

ISSUES:
The Court determined the appeal on the Respondent's issue couched as follows:

"Whether grounds 2, 3 and 5 as contained in the notice of Appeal of the Respondents at the lower Court raised question or questions of customary law as to make the Appeal competent before the Court. "

DECISION/HELD:
On the whole, the Court found no merit in the appeal and accordingly dismissed same.


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