Wiapa v. Solomon (1905) Ren 410
The plaintiffs are members of the Nyago family and claim title to certain lands on the grounds that their predecessor, one Nto, went to the land in question many years ago and settled there at a time when the land belonged to no one. On the other hand, the defendants, one of whom is the Omanhene of Akwapim, claim title to the lands as stool lands.
At the trial court, judgement was given in favour of the plaintiff. The Akwapim Stool, represented by the Omanhene, appealed.
Whether or not the lands belong to the plaintiff’s family or to the Akwapim Stool
Arguments of the Appellants (Akwapim Stool):
The land on which the plaintiff’s predecessor settled was unowned and therefore stool land.
Their lordships acknowledged that the principle enunciated by the appellant, that all unoccupied land within the territory of a paramount stool belongs to the stool, has been widely applied by the courts in the colony. For instance,
When Sir William Maxwell’s Concessions Bill was before the Government, there was much discussion on the subject, and must stress was properly laid upon the fact that the Courts had always held that there was no unowned land in the colony, and that all unoccupied land was attached to the adjoining stools; this was indeed the foundation argument on behalf of the native chiefs against that Bill, and the Government recognized its force by withdrawing the Bill.
However, this principle has been modified, and it cannot be said at all times that all unoccupied lands are stool lands because sub-stools, families, and individuals may also own such lands. Griffith C.J. explained:
Though the principle obtains that all the unowned land under the authority of a paramount stool belongs to such stool, in practice this is much modified, at any rate in the Eastern parts of the colony. In these parts each subordinate stool has attached to it large portions of land, apparently carved out of the territory originally belonging to the paramount stool; similarly, families have large tracts of land carved out of the subordinate stool lands, and finally, we get down to individuals with private worship of particular parts of the family land; or private individuals may have part of the stool land not being family land. Any unoccupied land within the recognized boundaries of the subordinate stool land or the family land or private land would, of course, belong to the subordinate stool, or the family, or the private individual as the case may be; but any unoccupied land not being a part of th e land of a subordinate stool or family, or a private person would be attached to the paramount stool.
Thus, even if land is unoccupied yet falls within the recognised boundaries of a sub-stool, family land, or private land, it will be held to still belong to the sub-stool, family, or individual, respectively, and not the stool. However, when land is unoccupied and also not within the boundaries of the lands belonging to a sub-stool, family, or individual, it can be said to belong to or be attached to the paramount stool.
1.No land is ownerless: land either belongs to a paramount stool, a subordinate stool, a family, or an individual.
2. Rights of Subjects to Use Stool Lands:
Per Griffith C.J.,
Then it was suggested that hunting over the land gave them a right of ownership. We do not agree. Subject to the usual toll, the stool lands can freely be hunted over by all the subjects of the paramount stool, but in our opinion hunting can confer no right of ownership as between a stool and a subject. The plaintiffs further argued that they had sold lands there; that would not help their case, as they were selling Nto first went upon it; the land was clearly stool land, and the plaintiffs have never so occupied it as to enable the Court to say that it has been taken out of that category. In our opinion, judgment should have been given in the Court below for the defendants. We think that the judgment of the Court below should be reversed, and that judgment should be entered for the appellants, with costs here and below, except any costs with respect to the plea of res judicata in the Court below, which should be awarded to the plaintiffs.