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PIUS UMEADI & ORS v. VICTOR CHIBUNZE & ANOR

(2020) LPELR-49566(SC)

In The Supreme Court of Nigeria

On Friday, the 13th day of March, 2020

SC.395/2015


Before Their Lordships

OLABODE RHODES-VIVOUR Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

MARY UKAEGO PETER-ODILI Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

CHIMA CENTUS NWEZE Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

AMINA ADAMU AUGIE Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

EJEMBI EKO Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria


Between

1. PIUS UMEADI
2. JONAS UMEADI
3. CLEMENT UMEADI
4. CHIGOZIE UMEADI
5. CHARLES UMEADI
6. NKEKE UMEADI
7. TOCHUKWU ECHEZONA
8. OKECHUKWU ECHEZONA
9. ANTHONY ECHEZONA
10. MARCEL NWANA
11. NWANKWO NGENE - Appellant(s)

AND

1. VICTOR CHIBUNZE
2. WILLIAMS CHIBUNZE - Respondent(s)


Other Citations

; ;


Summary

INTRODUCTION:
This appeal borders on customary land law.

FACTS:
???The Respondents are descendants of one Chibunze, a lineage of Umu-Ofuonye larger family. The Appellants are also members of the said Umu-Ofuonye family. The dispute between the parties at the High Court of Anambra State, was largely an intra family dispute over piece of land, known and called Isi-Ekpe land.

In 1940,  a dispute over the said Isi-Ekpe land arose between the Umu-Ofuonye family and Umu-Ogbocha family. The Egbeagu village intervened and successfully arbitrated in the dispute. The parties submitted to the arbitration and oath taking procedure was adopted. The Umu-Ogbocha agreed that if the Umu-Ofuonye family successfully took the traditional oath, the land will become theirs. The Umu-Ogbocha placed juju on the land. Within the Umu-Ofuonye family only, Chibunze agreed to take the oath. He eventually took the oath and survived. Thereafter the said Chibunze and his descendants had laid claim to the ownership of the Isi-Ekpe land to the exclusion of other members of Umu-Ofuonye family (represented by the Appellants), who insisted that the land remained the joint property of the entire Umu-Ofuonye family.
???
At the trial, the Appellants relied on traditional history, against the direct evidence of the Respondents. The trial Court, in its judgement, found for the respondents. Dissatisfied, appellants appealed to the Court of Appeal, Enugu, which dismissed the appeal and affirmed the decision of the trial Court. Appellants further appealed to the Supreme Court.

ISSUES:
Appellants submitted the following issues for determination:
1. Whether the respondents established by cogent evidence the custom that a family member who defends family land by oath taking automatically became the exclusive owner of such family land so as to entitle them to the declaration they sought?
2. Was the Court below right when it affirmed the decision of the Trial Court that burden of proof shifted to the appellants when the Respondent failed to discharge the initial burden of proof?
DECISION/HELD:
The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal.


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