Ghassoub v. Sasraku (1961) GLR 496
The plaintiff-respondent-respondent, hereinafter the respondent, claimed to have acquired land from the Chempaw Stool through a sale or purchase. They submitted three documents to show evidence of the sale of the land by the Chempaw Stool, which is a sub-stool of the paramount stool of Kokofu. They instituted an action for an injunction and declaration of title to the land when they saw a Sawmill Company cutting trees on the land to which they laid claim.
The Sawmill Company, claiming no title to the land on its own, challenged the plaintiff to prove its title. The Omanhene of Kokofu joined the action as co-defendant and argued that land was not saleable in the Ashanti region, and even if it were, the alleged sale by the Chempaw Stool was done without the consent and concurrence of the Kokofu stool. Consequently, the plaintiffs (respondents) do not have title to the land.
At the Land Court, judgement was given in favour of the plaintiff. Per Sarkodee-Addo, "I find that the plaintiff’s company is in possession of the said land as owners thereof by right of purchase under an absolute sale by guaha from the stool of Chempaw with the knowledge and consent of the Paramount Stool of the Kokofu State". The respondent in that case appealed to the Court of Appeal. The appeal was dismissed. The appellants are now before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
Argument of the Plaintiff:
Arguments of the Co-Defendant (Kokofu Stool):
The Court of Appeal, per Granville Sharp J.A., found that:
It could not be questioned on the evidence that the three purported sales relied upon by the plaintiff had in fact taken place and it was not seriously disputed that guaha had been performed on each occasion. The evidence upon these matters was all one way. There remained only the issues as to whether land in Ashanti was alienable by sale and if so, whether the sales here in question were carried out without the knowledge and consent of the co-defendant the paramount stool over the
Granville Sharp J.A. then rejected the appellant’s contentions that land is not saleable in the Ashanti region, that the respondent did not prove that the sales were made by the custom of guaha, and that the sales were made without the consent of the Kokofu stool. The Court of Appeal referred to previous instances where the Omanhene of the Kokofu stool had assented to other sales of Chempaw lands, and it cannot thus be said that land is not saleable. The Court of Appeal also found that in the present case, the linguist to the Omanhene of Kokofu, whose signature is binding on the Omanhene, appeared as a witness on the documents of sale presented by the respondent, and it cannot be said the Kokofu stool was ignorant of the sale.
In addition, both the Land Court and Court of Appeal found that the land has been in the possession of the respondents for between 20 to 30 years and has clearly demarcated the area. Consequently, even if the consent of the Kokofu stool was not sought, the fact that they allowed the respondent to have such possession "clearly constitute proof of such laches and acquiescence on the part of the stool as would render it inequitable to interfere with the plaintiff in occupancy of the land."
The Privy Council, speaking through Lord Morris of Borth-Y-Gest, concluded that the appellant has not shown why the findings of the Land Court and the Court of Appeal ought to be disturbed. The absolute title of the respondent has been established because, throughout the years, they "…had kept the boundaries of the land cut, they had kept boundary marks clear. They had not paid any tribute. They had not paid rents or tolls" to any of the stools. The appeal is consequently dismissed.
The fact that the respondents did not pay any tribute, rent, or tolls, which would have been evidence that the stools still owned the land, meant that the respondents indeed obtained the land via a sale and are indeed the allodial title holders after an absolute sale.