Anglican Church Loses Land Dispute in Nigeria

National Church of Nigeria
The National Church of Nigeria. |

The Nigerian Supreme Court resolved a three-decade-old land dispute between the Iwaya community and Anglican Church in Lagos state. By resolving the matter in favor of the community, the High Court ended 33 tortuous years of legal tussle between the two parties.

The case began in 1984 when the Lagos Diocese of the Anglican Church filed a suit before the Ikeja High Court, claiming ownership of a vast parcel of land situated at the Iwaya area. The church was claiming under a deed while the community claimed direct purchase from the Oloto chieftaincy family which became the seventh defendant in the case.

Justice Fatai Adeyinka delivered a judgment in 1998 in favor of the church and held the defendants liable for trespassing. Dissatisfied with the result, the Iwaya community appealed the ruling which was dismissed in 2002 by the appellate court. Unperturbed, the community ran to the Supreme Court.

After 15 years, the Supreme Court handed down a decision, this time in the community's favor. It stated that the Church had no legal capacity to institute an action in court and couldn't own land being an unregistered entity. It established that the Church had no juridical personality for failing to produce its certificate of incorporation.

Based on this evidence, the apex court nullified and set aside the earlier decisions of the Lagos State High Court and Court of Appeals. It wasn't clear why the Anglican Communion in Nigeria failed to produce a certificate of incorporation or trustee certificate when the Church had been in existence in the country since the 15th century.

On Feb. 24, 1979, the 16 dioceses of Nigeria were joined in the Church of Nigeria, a newly founded province of the Anglican Communion. Today, it is the second-largest province in the Anglican Communion after the Church of England with two million active attendees every Sunday.

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