AKOFI v WIRESI AND ABAGYA (1957) 2 WALR 257
The plaintiff was a representative of a group of farmers who, although strangers to the stool, occupied and worked stool land. The plaintiff claims that the farmers were occupying and working the stool land under an abusa agreement (1/3 of the yield from the land is given to the owner of the land) with the stool. The defendants, however, contend that the land was taken over by the strangers under an abunu (1/2 of the yield from the land is given to the owner of the land) agreement. The plaintiff sought an order to restrain the defendants from demanding the surrender of half the land cultivated and an order requiring the defendants to enter into a written abusa agreement with the farmers represented by the plaintiff.
At the trial Native Court, the reliefs sought by the plaintiffs were granted on grounds that when the land is virgin, abunu agreements are unusual. The defendant appealed to the Land Court, and the decision of the Native Court was upheld. Defendant appealed to the West African Court of Appeal.
Whether or not the farmers represented by the plaintiff occupied and worked the land under an abunu agreement with the stool?
Arguments of the Defendant:
That the abusa or one-third arrangement was unknown to the Odoben Stool and that the arrangement had always been for the division of a farm into equal moieties, the stool, the landlord, taking one-half, this being known as the ebuenu or abunu system.
The farmers represented by the plaintiff occupied and worked the land under an abusa agreement with the stool.
The court endorsed the Native Trial Court’s observation that the under the abusa system, the landowner hands over the land to the tenant who pays all expenses in relation to clearing or making the farm, whilst under the abunu system the initial cost of making the farm is borne by the landlord and the farmer-tenant is then placed in charge of the farm to maintain and improve it. In the instant case, there was no evidence that the predecessors of the defendant had contributed to the cost of making the cocoa farms over the years. Consequently, and in light of documentary evidence which showed that the farmers worked the land under an abusa agreement, the court upheld the ruling of the two courts below.
Principle for Customary Tenancies:
The court also observed that
it is a common form of tenure throughout the country for a landowner who has unoccupied virgin or forest land, which he or his people are unable to cultivate, to grant the same to a stranger to work on in return for a fixed share of the crops realized from the land. In such a case the tenant-farmer, although he has no ownership in the soil, has a very real interest in the usufruct of the land. The arrangement may be carried on indefinitely, even by the original grantee's successor, so long as the original terms of the holding are observed.