Daily Law Tips (Tip 600) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LL.M. ACIArb(UK)


As you may know, writing (documents and documentation) is unknown to customary/native law in Nigeria. Writing is alien, unknown and not needed for any thing done under customary (native/traditional) law. The reason for this is not far fetched; writing is an invention unknown to our customs and traditions.

No person is expected to proof any customary transaction, business or relationship through or with the aid of any document, including certificates, receipts, power of attorneys or any agreement (however, if a person has any of them, it is a plus (mere surplus) not a requirement). By now, you may be wondering, how one can prove ownership of land in villages and towns, purchased under customary law?

The Supreme Court of Nigeria, has settled this issue, as far back as 1956. Below are the golden words of the apex court:

“It is trite law that for a sale of land under native or customary law to be valid, the following requirements must be met. These requirements are:- (1) There must be payment of money or agreed consideration. (2) The transaction must be witnessed by witnesses. (3) The actual handing over of the land must be done in the Presence of the same witnesses. See Adedeji v Oloso [2007] SCNJ 411; Folarin v. Durojaiye (1988) 1 NWLR (Pt 70) 351; Cole v Folami (1956) 1 FSC 66 at 69.” Per SANUSI ,J.S.C ( Pp. 18-20, paras. F-A )

“I now take the liberty to re-state these prerequisites for a sale of land under Customary Law. These are that: in addition to the payment of the agreed consideration; the transaction must have been concluded in the presence of persons who also witnessed the actual handing over of the land sold. Cole v Folami (supra); Akingbade v. Elemosho (supra); Erinosho v. Owokoniran (supra); Ajadi v Olarewaju (supra). There is the requirement that the names of such witnesses and the facts of their having witnessed the sale transaction and the handing over of the land to the purchaser must be pleaded and evidence adduced thereon. Folarin v. Durojaiye [1988] 1 NWLR (Pt. 70) 357; Igbokwe v. Nlemchi [1996] 2 NWLR (Pt. 429) 185; Ogunbambi v. Abowab (supra); Odusoga and Anor v Ricketts (supra).” Per CHIMA CENTUS NWEZE ,J.S.C ( Pp. 31-32, paras. D-F )

My authorities are:

2. The Supreme Court’s judgement in Adedeji v Oloso [2007] SCNJ 411;
3. The Supreme Court’s judgement in Folarin v. Durojaiye (1988) 1 NWLR (Pt 70) 351;
4. The Supreme Court’s judgement in Cole v Folami (1956) 1 FSC 66 at 69


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