Brief of Ngmati v. Adetsia

Brief of Ngmati v. Adetsia by Legum

Ngmati v. Adetsia [1959] GLR 323

Material Facts:

The plaintiff instituted an action for a declaration of title to a portion of the Okwenya Lands, which he claims belongs to him because, about 200 years ago, his ancestors farmed that portion of land. He instituted the action because the defendants went onto that land and started a farm without obtaining his consent.

The defendants, on the other hand, contend that the land does not belong to the plaintiff because the entirety of the lands at Okwenya belong to the Kornor of Manya Krobo, and only subjects of Manya Krobo could acquire a title to any portion of those lands. The ancestors of the plaintiffs, through whom the plaintiff claims ownership of the land, however, are Yilo Krobo subjects and could not have acquired title to it.


Whether or not the land in dispute belongs to the Manya Krobo Stool.


The land in dispute does not belong to the Manya Krobo Stool.

Ratio Decidendi:

The High Court, speaking through Ollennu J, noted that the farms of subjects of a stool may be used to decide lands that belong to one stool and lands that belong to another. In his words,

The boundary between the lands of the two Stools must be identical with the boundary between the farms of subjects of one Stool farming from one direction, and the farms of subjects of the other Stool farming from the opposite direction to meet the former.

This position was clarified by the first co-defendant as follows:

Unoccupied land which is round about an area which a Stool settles upon, and which the subjects of the Stool cultivate, comes to be regarded as property of the Stool. But the portion which any one so farmed also remains ancestral property for his descendant. Both the Yilos and Manyas got to the land by migration, and found it unoccupied by any other tribe. From the way the two Krobo communities lived and farmed the area, the only way in which a boundary between lands of their Paramount Stools can be determined is by following farm boundaries between land farmed by their subjects from opposite directions.

In the present case, the Manya Stool can only assert its title to the land by demonstrating that one of its subjects has in the past farmed the land. His Lordship explained this as follows:

In view of the method by which the Manya Krobos and the Yilo Krobos acquired land in the area, the only way in which the Manya Krobo Stool can defeat the plaintiff’s evidence of possession and occupation of a portion of the land is to produce Manya Krobo subjects whose ancestors farmed the area in ancient times. No Manya Krobo family has come forward to claim the land in dispute as his ancestral family property. That being so, the Stool, which can acquire title only through its subjects, cannot resist the evidence of a Yilo Krobo subject whose ancestor’s original cultivation of that portion of the land has been established.

Summarily, the Manya Krobo cannot claim title to the land by virtue of being unable to produce a subject whose ancestors farmed the land in ancient times.

Main Principles in the Case:

  1. One way the stool obtains an allodial title is if its subjects cultivate unoccupied land.
  2. When subjects of a stool cultivate the land, "the portion which any one so farmed also remains ancestral property for his descendant."
  3. Occupation does not necessarily become ownership: "The submission of learned counsel that the plaintiff cannot be heard to complain of trespass when he has admitted that the defendants or some of them have lived on and farmed the land is not a fair interpretation of the evidence. Occupation of a portion of land does not necessarily amount to possession and occupation of a larger area of land, unless the whole area of land is under one holding or ownership. The evidence shows that the village where the defendants have lived all through the years, and the portions of land farmed originally, are not claimed by the plaintiff and that it was only when the defendants made cultivations on that portion of the land owned by the plaintiff’s family that the plaintiff stepped in, and requested them either to attorn tenants to him or to quit the land. In those circumstances no estoppel by conduct can arise, the plaintiff not having been shown to acquiesce in the defendants’ exercising rights of ownership of his land in manner adverse to his title."
  4. Litigating over family land: "I now pass on to the 2nd co-defendant. His case is that the land in dispute is the property of his family, the Padi Keteku, or Ologo family, of Yilo Krobo, i.e the family of the Paramount Stool of Yilo. He admitted that he is not the head of that family, and has not been authorised by the family to represent them in this suit. Upon that admission I hold that he has no locus standi in the case."