Court reassigns firms’ rent dispute suit
THE suit filed by an oil firm, West Africa Offshore Limited, (WAOL) before a Lagos High Court against Ojukwu Transport Limited (OTL), seeking legal intervention into disagreement surrounding N24 million rent paid on one of OTL properties has been reassigned to Justice Olatunde Oshodi and is awaiting a date for hearing.
The oil firm, in the suit marked as M/922/2012 before Justice Sybil Nwaka, is seeking an order directing the payment of the sum, which according to it, represents two-year rent from March 16, 2012 to March 15, 2014, in respect of the property situated at 30, Gerrald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, into the court.
WAOL started by Chief Bayo Kuku and late Dr Mudiaga Odje prays for an order of court directing the payment of the rent money into the court pending the resolution of disputes between the respondents in the suit. But court papers indicate that the actual tenant is one Mr. Uche Obilor.
The respondents beside OTL are Emmanuel Omuojine and Massey Udegbe as second and third respondents respectively.
The firm is also asking the court to direct that the said amount be lodged into an interest yielding account in the name of the Chief Registrar of the High Court of Lagos State for the collection of either of the respondents or as may be directed by the court.
The firm had stated that there were diverse claims and instructions as to title and who is authorised to collect the money subject matter of the suit.
It further stressed that there was an express intention to institute a suit against it if it fails to follow a particular instruction.
The oil firm, in an affidavit in support of the summons deposed to by its Finance Manager, Frank Iwelu, informed the court that in January 2007, it took a five-year tenancy of the property at the rate of N8 million per annum from the third respondent (OTL), with the first respondent acting as the agent of the third respondent, the owners of the said property, and that it paid the sum of N40 million to the first respondent as the agent of the third respondent in respect of the said property.
The oil firm also explained that the said tenancy did not take effect until March 16, 2007 when it was put in possession by the first respondent as evidenced by the first respondent’s letter dated October 15, 2007 to its solicitors.
But the respondents, in denying all the averments, stated in their counter-affidavit deposed to by one Lotanna Ojukwu, who is a director in OTL, that it had commenced the process of recovering possession of its property from the claimant as well as money for unlawful occupation.
The almost three year old case formerly handled by Justice Nwaka has dragged on according to the Ojukwu’s despite a failed attempt at amicable resolution in 2013. The Ojukwu’s said they are not happy with the delay in what they consider a straightforward matter. “For almost 3 years some of the money owed us is still in the claimant’s possession, denying us use and interest. Justice delayed is justice denied”, one of the directors who would not want to be mentioned stressed.
He revealed that though the matter is still before the court, they have given instructions to notify the Chief Judge (CJ) and National Judicial Council (NJC) of the delay and to consider legal action against Chief Kuku himself and Mr. Obilor.
The Ojukwu’s reiterated that the property never belonged to the Late Dim Chukwuemeka or his wife, Bianca and that any alleged lease is fraudulent. “The late Sir Odumegwu Ojukwu had a good friendship dating from the late Ogbeni Oja of Ijebuland Chief T. Odutola and had nothing against the current Chief Kuku. The peanuts paid as rent in the past few years was a huge joke”, he declared.