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Boundaries and titles: The legal angle

By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa
29 November 2022   |   2:38 am
Last week, I was privileged as a guest speaker, to address the 1st Surveyor-General’s Stakeholders Summit put together by the Office of the State Surveyor-General, Lagos State. Permit me to share my thoughts with you on the topic.

Last week, I was privileged as a guest speaker, to address the 1st Surveyor-General’s Stakeholders Summit put together by the Office of the State Surveyor-General, Lagos State. Permit me to share my thoughts with you on the topic.

It is indeed a great honour to stand before this great audience to deliver a paper titled “Boundaries and Titles: The Legal Angle. ”When I received the invitation a few weeks ago, I realized that my busy schedule would not permit me to present an exhaustive paper on the topic, being one that requires extensive research. Being a Legal Practitioner (and not a Lecturer), I will rely greatly on my practical experience, case laws and the Nigerian situation in doing justice to this Topic.

I need not say, as I verily believe you are well aware that the topic is indeed a broad and extensive one, although short in words. However, it is amenable to brevity and simplicity which I will adopt in this paper.

Without much ado, let me delve into the business of today but let me digress a bit, to say that I do not claim a monopoly of knowledge in this field moreso that the topic is of public knowledge hence I will appreciate constructive criticisms and discussions by this great audience. Permit me to say that I am also a fan of knowledge and I am open to learning more today.

What to expect in this lecture
In this lecture, I intend to delve into the following issues before I conclude:
1. Legal Definition of the word “Boundaries”
2. Legal Definition of the word “Titles”
3. Ways of Identifying Boundaries.
4. Boundaries and Titles: The Legal Perspectives.
5. Stages of Acquiring and Perfecting Title to Land
6. Conclusion.

Legal definition of the word “boundaries” Generally speaking, boundaries are real or imagined lines that mark the edge or limit of something or a given place. In relation to properties, boundaries are imaginary or invisible limits dividing one person’s property from that of another.

Furthermore, a boundary is understood as every separation, natural or artificial, which marks the confines or lines of division of two contiguous estates. Boundaries may be natural or artificial separations or divisions between adjoining properties that show their limits of ownership of property and exercise of powers. I will like to pause here for now.

Legal definition of the word “Titles”
Titles connote the legal right to own a movable or immovable property. In relation to documents and ownership, a title is a document that shows the legal ownership of an asset. A title can represent ownership of a real asset such as a car or an intangible property or asset such as a trademark. A title might show ownership of property of an individual or as a business, which is the ownership of resources whether they are tangible (physical in nature) or intangible.

In property law, the title is a bundle of rights exercised over a piece of property which a party may own either through a legal interest or an equitable interest. It connotes ownership of land, which stands against and above the right of anyone else to claim the land. This is aptly captured by section 43 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.

Ways of identifying land boundaries
Boundaries can be identified through natural or artificial features. Survey Plans also constitute a means of identifying the limits and boundaries of one’s land.

·Natural Boundaries: These are land boundaries characterized by natural features rather than artificial features. These natural boundaries include streams, moots, trees, rocks etc.

·Artificial Boundaries
: Artificial boundaries include landmarks or signs erected by the hand of man, such as a pole, stake, pile of stones, and roads.

·Survey Plans: The most popular way of identifying the limit of one’s ownership of land is through a survey plan. A survey plan is a document that measures the boundaries of a parcel of land to give an accurate measurement and description of that land.

A good survey plan must contain the name of the owner of the land surveyed, the location and description of the land, the size of the land surveyed, the Survey Plan Number, the beacon numbers of the land surveyed, the name of the surveyor who drew up the survey plan and the date it was drawn up etc.

Boundaries and titles: The legal perspectives
Boundaries in relation to title and ownership of property connote the limits and extent of a person’s exercise of the right in respect of the property. It is the degree and measure of one’s exercise of power and authority over a land vis a vis another’s land. There are five ways of proving ownership of title to land, which were first enumerated by the Supreme Court in the locus classicus case of Idundun V. Okumagba (1976) 6 – 10 SC 48. A person can prove ownership of title to land via any of the following ways:

1. Proof of title via traditional history or evidence;
2. Proof of title via production of title documents;
3. Proof of title via acts of ownership;
4. Proof of title by acts of possession long enough to warrant the person in possession as the owner and
5. Proof of title by acts of possession of adjoining or adjacent land in such a way as would make it probable that the owner of the adjoining or adjacent land is also the owner of the land in dispute.

To be continued tomorrow
Adegboruwa is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN)