The appellants were defendants in an action instituted by L. L. Rickets now deceased, as plaintiff, now respondent. The respondent claimed as follows:
(i)             A declaration that the plaintiff is the beneficial owner of the property situate, lying and being at Thomas Drive and forming part of a larger area of land covered by a deed of conveyance registered as No. 9 at page 9 in volume 1547 of the Lands Registry, Lagos and that the plaintiff is entitled to a certificate of occupancy of the same property (hereinafter called ‘the land in dispute’);
(ii)           N1,000.00 (one thousand naira) damages for trespass committed by the defendants, servants and agents on the said piece or parcel of land on or about the 29th day of April, 1980.
(iii)          Perpetual injunction restraining the defendants, servants and/or agents from further acts of trespass on the land in dispute.
The land in dispute is a portion of the land (4 plots) sold by the administrators of the estate of Babatunde Jemi-Alade deceased in 1965 to the respondent. Mr. Ricketts paid part of the purchase-price to the vendors but failed to pay the balance. He went into possession and surveyed the land, (the entire 4 plots). He however, developed only a part of it leaving the part now in dispute undeveloped. He built on the portion of the land developed by him but left the undeveloped part vacant. He bought the 4 plots of land for E950.00 (nine hundred and fifty pounds) but made a part payment of E700.00 (seven hundred pounds) for which he was given a receipt. This was in 1965. He did not pay the balance of the purchase price despite repeated demands from the vendors.
In 1971, one Mr. S. O Adenuga went on the land in dispute. He was challenged by the respondent, Mr. Ricket2ts. Mr. Adenuga, disclosed to Mr. Ricketts that he was supervising the building on the land on behalf of Madam Asimowu Odusoga the 1st appellant. The respondent sued Mr. Adenuga and Mrs. Ebun Bucknor the sole surviving administratrix of Jemi-Alade in suit No. LD/414/72 for damages for trespass. It was disclosed in the course of the proceedings that Mrs. Ebun Bucknor had sold the land in dispute to the 1st appellant in the present proceedings following the failure of the respondent to pay the balance of the purchase price of the 4 plots of land sold to him in 1965. The respondent was non-suited in the action. Thereafter, he instituted the proceedings leading to this appeal against the appellants claiming as herein-before mentioned.
Pleadings having been ordered, filed and exchanged the action proceeded to trail. At the conclusion of trail and after addresses by learned counsel for the parties, the learned trial Judge in a reserved judgment, found that the respondent was in possession of the land in dispute at the time that the appellants came on it to build. He also found that although the respondent paid a part of the purchase price in 1965, he did not pay the balance of the purchase price of the land sold to him, until 1976. He found also that the land in dispute was conveyed to the 1st appellant in April 1972 by Mrs. Ebun Bucknor the sole administratrix of the estate of Jemi-Alade the original owner of the land and two members of Jemi-Alade family. The learned trial judge also found that the deed of conveyance executed in favour of the respondent in 1976 by Mrs. Ebun Bucknor after the respondent paid the balance of the purchase price was ineffective to pass the title to the land in dispute to the respondent in that by the earlier conveyance in 1972 in  favour of the 1st appellant, the estate of Jemi-Alade had divested itself of any title to the land in dispute that could be passed to the respondent. He finally found that the 1st appellant had better title to the land in dispute and consequently dismissed the respondent’s claim in toto.
The respondent was dissatisfied with the decision of the learned trial judge and appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal, reversed the decision of the trail court and granted the respondent’s claim. The appellants were dissatisfied with the judgment of the Court of Appeal and appealed to the Supreme Court.
On ingredients of valid sale of land under customary law –
It was stated that to constitute a valid sale of land under customary law, three essential ingredients are required, namely:
a)     Payment of the purchase price;
b)    Purchaser is let into possession by the vendor; and
c)     In the presence of witnesses.
On effect of failure to pay the full purchase price of land under customary law –
It was stated that where the purchase price of land under customary law is not fully paid there can be no valid sale, notwithstanding that the purchaser is in possession. That possession cannot defeat the title of the vendor.
On whether vendor can resile from contract of sale after part-payment made under customary law –
It was stated that where part-payment of the purchase price was made and the balance is tendered within the stipulated time or, in the absence of a stipulated time, within a reasonable time, the vendor cannot resile from the contract of sale and the purchaser in possession will be entitled to a decree of specific performance.
On effect of payment of purchase price and possession of land –
It was stated that at common law, payment of purchase price coupled with possession gives the purchaser an equitable title and he is entitled to seek an order of specific performance to compel the vendor to convey legal title to him. But where the purchase price is not fully paid, the purchaser will have no right to enforce specific performance.
On right of vendor where purchaser fails to pay balance of purchase price of land –
It was stated that where the purchaser has made a part-payment of the purchase price is in default of payment of the balance, there is right in the vendor to rescind the contract of sale and re-sell the property.
On priority of deeds of conveyance coming from the same source –
It was stated that where the deeds of conveyance are validly executed and come from the same source to transfer the interest in a property, the first in time takes priority.

The Supreme Court allowed the appeal, and set-aside that of the Court of Appeal.


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