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ACHIASE STOOL v. APPIAH AND OTHERS


  • New
  • 1962-12-10
  • HIGH COURT
  • 2 GLR 159161
  • Print

APALOO J.


Summary

Customary law?-Arbitration?-Compromise?-Binding effect of compromise arrived at after negotiated settlement and accepted by parties.Customary law?-Stool?-Debts?-Stool incurred debt in litigation over land?-Whether subject-farmers on that land bound to contribute to payment of debt.

Headnotes

Through litigation, the Achiase stool successfully re-established the right of certain of its subjects to farm on Nunya land, but thereby incurred a debt of G7,000. The stool requested the subjects farming on that land to contribute towards payment of the debt but they refused. Eventually, at the behest of the Town Development Committee, a compromise settlement was effected between the parties by the Juabenhene, and as a result some of the subject-farmers paid their allotted shares. The defendants continued to refuse to pay, alleging that they were not liable because they had no knowledge of the debt, and even if the debt had in fact been incurred, they could not pay without the prior approval of the Minister of the Interior. The local court found the defendants liable, and they appealed. [p.160]

Judgement

APPEAL from a judgment of the Kumasi East Division 1 Local Court delivered on the 2nd March, 1962. The plaintiff claimed a declaration that the defendants are liable to pay their allotted shares of a stool debt incurred in litigation over land, portions of which they farm. The local court declared the defendants liable and gave judgment for the plaintiff.

The plaintiff is the present occupant of the Achiase stool. That stool owns land at a place described as Nunya. It seems to be farm land and is normally farmed upon by subjects of the stool. The defendants are some of such subjects of the stool who farm on the land. The plaintiff testified that about two years ago, it came to his knowledge that while his subjects were farming on this land, they were driven away by the Ofoasehene. He said his subjects therefore authorised him to go to law with the Ofoase stool. The plaintiff said he did so and re-established the rights of his subjects to farm on that land unmolested. The plaintiff said he incurred in that action a debt in the aggregate sum of G7,000 and after the successful conclusion of the litigation, he held a meeting with such of his subjects as were farming on this land and requested them to contribute towards the payment of the debt. The subjects, however, declined to shoulder unaided the whole debt and refused to make payment unless and until the chief and his elders paid a portion of the debt.

The plaintiff said he took the position that as he fell upon his elders and got them to pledge their farms in order to raise moneys for the litigation, neither he nor his elders were liable to pay anything towards the debt. The subjects maintained their ground with the result that he instituted proceedings against four of them. After unsuccessful references to the Regional Commissioner and the District Commissioner for Juaso, a settlement was effected between the plaintiff on one part and the subjects on the other by Nana Juabenhene. This was at the behest of the Town Development Committee. The result of the settlement was that the chief and his elders agreed to pay G2,500 out of the debt and the stool subjects farming on the land were to pay the balance. It was said this settlement met with the unanimous approval of all the parties. Accordingly, on the faith of it, some of the subjects who had hitherto refused to make payment, paid their allotted portions. The first defendant, who represents all the defendants in this action, admitted that he was present at the settlement. [p.161]

The first defendant and his ilk contend that they were not liable to pay their allotted shares because they had no knowledge of the debt and that even if such a debt was in fact incurred, they were not liable to pay without prior approval by the Minister of the Interior. The trial magistrate held that there was a valid customary arbitration at which the liability of the defendants was established. He rejected the contention that the shares were not payable without the approval of the Minister of the Interior.

Against that judgment, the defendants appeal to this court and the sole ground argued on their behalf was that the judgment of the trial court was bad in law. The law against which the judgment sinned, was, according to counsel, the law relating to customary arbitration. Basing himself on the well-known case of Ankrah v. Dabra and Olaga1 counsel submitted that there was no voluntary submission to an arbitration by the persons who farmed on the land and there could, therefore, not be a binding award. It was also submitted that there was no prior agreement to be bound by the award. I accept the argument that what happened on the facts of this case was not an arbitration stricto sensu. It seems that the Town Development Committee in order to avoid what may well be a prolonged and expensive litigation sought the aid of Nana Juabenhene to mediate between the Achiasehene on one hand and the subject-farmers on the other. The evidence establishes clearly that the Juabenhene arrived at a compromise which was mutually accepted by both sides. On the faith of that settlement, some of the subject-farmers who had hitherto expressed opposition to the payment, gave in and paid their shares. I hold, therefore, that there was a negotiated settlement accepted by the parties. It is no less binding than a formal arbitration award.

Quite independently of any binding negotiated settlement, I should be prepared to hold as a matter of customary law that subject-farmers are bound to pay their quota of a debt incurred by the stool in litigation over land on which they farm. That is the equivalent of customary tribute which is normally payable by stranger-farmers. After all, the stool holds the legal estate in the land for the beneficial enjoyment of its subjects and it seems to me contrary to reason that they should be entitled to enjoy the beneficium sine onero. The defendants' contention that they are not liable to pay their allotted portion of stool debts without the prior approval of the Minister of the Interior is wholly untenable.

The judgment of the local court did not decree the payment of any specific sums of money by the defendants. It did no more than establish the liability of the defendants to pay such portion of the stool debt as is allotted to them. In my opinion, that judgment is right and ought not to be disturbed. The appeal fails and is dismissed with 30 guineas costs to the respondent.

Decision

Appeal dismissed.

Plaintiff / Appellant

D. S. Effah

Defendant / Respondent

S. Wiredu for Gyimah

Referals

Ankrah v. Dabra and Olaga (1956) 1 W.A.L.R. 89, W.A.C.A.
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