FEDERAL HIGH COURT JURISDICTION ON LAND MATTER (CASE)

DOES THE FEDERAL HIGH COURT HAVE JURISDICTION ON LAND DISPUTE WHERE AN AGENCY OF FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS INVOLVED

IN CBN VS. RAHAMANIYYA GLOBAL RESOURCES LTD LPELR (2020) 1081 (SC), Suit no: 632/201

The Supreme Court held thus;

“In considering these provisions of the Constitution, this court, per Mohammed, JSC held in the case of Adetayo V Ademola (2010) 4 (PT 1) MJSC 107 AT 119 – 120 and I totally agree and adopt as follows:-

‘On the face of these provisions of the Constitution, it appears that impression has been created that the Federal High Court has exclusive original jurisdiction to the exclusion of all other courts in Nigeria in any civil cause or proceedings in which the Federal Government or any of its agencies is a party. However, a very close, careful and proper interpretation or construction of the provisions would show that this is not necessarily the true position. This is because in my view, it is the facts and circumstances of each case that will determine whether or not it is a case within or outside the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal High Court.’

In applying the above provisions of the Constitution, I hold the considered view that for an argument to be sustained as touching any action or proceeding within the ambit of section 251(1)(p), (q) and (r) such action must relate to or affect the validity of any executive or administrative action or decision of the Federal Government or any of its agencies. 

My Lords, I hold the view that in the light of the provision of section 39(1) of the Land Use Act, 1978, it is the State High Courts that have exclusive jurisdiction to entertain proceedings in respect of land disputes. It is instructive to note that the Land Use Act, 1978 was promulgated specifically to deal with the control and management of land in Nigeria. The said section 39(1)of the Land Use Act provides as follows:-

‘The High Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction in respect of the following proceedings:-

(a)        proceedings in respect of any land the subject of a statutory right of occupancy granted by the Governor or deemed to be granted by him under this Act; and for the purposes of this paragraph, proceedings includes proceedings for a declaration of title to statutory right of occupancy;

(b)        proceedings to determine any question as to the persons entitled to compensation payable for improvements on land under the Act.

(2)    All laws, including Rules of court relating to the practice and procedure of the High Court shall apply in respect of proceedings to which this section relates and the law shall have effect with such modifications as would enable effect to be given to the provisions of this section.

It is quite clear from the above provision that it is the State High Court which has exclusive jurisdiction to determine dispute in land matters particularly where such dispute relate to declaration of title to a statutory right of occupancy and not the Federal High court

The National Assembly has not yet conferred any additional jurisdiction in land matters on the Federal High Court. The Federal High Court can therefore not assume jurisdiction over matters relating to land disputes where there is no statute conferring such jurisdiction on it. I have found no provision in either section 251(1) (p) (q) and (r) of the 1999 Constitution or section 39 of the Land Use Act 1978 conferring jurisdiction on the Federal High Court to entertain proceedings for declaration of title to land.” 

 PER J. I. OKORO, J.S.C. In 

CBN VS. RAHAMANIYYA GLOBAL RESOURCES LTD

 LPELR (2020) 1081 (SC), Suit no: 632/201

“Again, to be said is that there is no provision that confers automatic and exclusive jurisdiction on the Federal High Court in every action by or against the Federal Government irrespective of the subject matter. The case of NEPA V Edegbero (2002) 18 NWLR (PT.798) 100 – 101 per Tobi, JSC has settled whatever confusion as to what to do or what path to trod wherein the Supreme Court stated as follows:-

‘As I indicated above, another important area of the subject matter of litigation. In my view, for the Federal High Court to have exclusive jurisdiction, the matter must be a civil matter arising from the administration, management and control of the Federal Government or any of its agencies. The matter must arise from the operation and interpretation of the Constitution. And finally, the matter must arise from any action or proceeding or injunction affecting the validity of any executive or administrative actions or decisions by the Federal Government or any of its agencies.’”

PER M. U.PETER-ODILI, J.S.C IN CBN VS. RAHAMANIYYA GLOBAL RESOURCES LTD

 LPELR (2020) 1081 (SC), Suit no: 632/201

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