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AEDC boss withdraws appeal in N1b Asokoro property feud

By Emmanuel Badejo   |   10 October 2016   |   4:17 am
The disputed property in Asokoro, Abuja

The disputed property in Asokoro, Abuja

The over N1b two-wing duplex located within the eye-brow of the Federal Capital Territory, Asokoro, Abuja, built by a Nigerian-American has been in the eye of the storm for some time, but with recent development, there are signs that the legal battle may soon end

Fresh facts have emerged that a Nigerian-American businessman, Mr. Imokhuede Ohikhuare, who had built a two-wing duplex located within the eye-brow of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Asokoro, Abuja, valued at over N1billion may soon repossess his property, as a major impediment against that bid, an appeal before the Supreme Court of Nigeria, may soon be withdrawn.

The appeal was the response of the Chairman, Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC), Ambassador Shehu Malami, against the judgment of an Abuja Court of Appeal, which had favoured Ohikhuare, but refused Malami and Chairman, Chrome Group, Sir Emeka Offor’s ownership claim of the exotic home.

Months after Malami, a Sokoto Prince and Elder Statesman, filed a notice of appeal, challenging the Court of Appeal verdict, he has sought the apex court’s permission to withdraw his intention to negate the last appellate judgment.

Malami, made his intention known in an open court through his counsel, Mr. Shaka Awalience, who informed the court that, his client was no longer interested to prosecute the appeal, saying he had filed affidavit before the Supreme Court to withdraw a notice of appeal to that effect.

This move came to the fore during the second hearing of the matter at the Supreme Court.

But, soon as Awalience, announced his representation and Malami’s position, a mild drama ensued, which also shocked the panel of Supreme Court Justices made up of Messrs Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, Clara Ogunbiyi, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, John Inyang Okoro and Amiru Sanusi.

Also, Mr. Joe Agi (SAN), who had earlier announced his appearance as lead counsel for both Shehu Malami and Emeka Offor, alongside a retinue of lawyers, was dumbstruck.

Besides, the development also rattled the audience in the court, who could not hide their feelings, as Agi, had just told their lordships that he had come to argue the appeal on behalf of Malami and Offor respectively.

Confronted with this confusion and the adamant position of Awaliene, who insisted that he had Malami’s mandate via the sworn affidavit to discontinue the appeal, counsel to the respondent, Ohikhuare, Ameh, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, urged the Supreme Court to focus on the sworn affidavit before it from Ambassador Malami as the credibility of the entire appeal depended on its content.

While their lordships agreed with Ameh’s submission, however, they directed Agi to sort out the issue of Malami’s legal representation between himself and Awaliene. Thereafter, the Supreme Court adjourned the matter to November 15, 2016 for further hearing.

In the sworn affidavit, Malami is asking for the leave of the Supreme Court to discontinue the appeal before it, with the implication that he would abide by the unanimous decision of the Court of Appeal, Abuja in Suit No CA/A/370/2012 delivered on Thursday May 28, 2015.

In that landmark judgement delivered by the appeal court Justices including Mohammed Mustapha, Tinuade Akomolafe Wilson and Tani Yusuf Hassan, their lordships sitting in Abuja, resolved four of the five issues for determination in favour of the Appellant, Ohikhuare.

The Justices of the Appeal Court “submitted for the appellant that one of the legal consequences of exhibit IMO6 and IMO10A is that there was no plaintiff in the suit at the lower court, because the plaintiff on record, i.e. the 1st respondent Shehu Malami, had sold the land in dispute to a third party, before commencement of the suit as per Exhibit IMO6, the letter by the plaintiff stating that he was not the real plaintiff in the suit, the actual plaintiff being Sir Emeka Offor.”

Malami claimed at the Appeal Court that he sold the land in question and gave an irrevocable power  of attorney to Emeka Offor in 2005 before he (Malami) instituted and started a case at the FCT High Court as plaintiff, a claim the Court of Appeal found spurious and untenable, hence entered judgment against the elder statesman and Offor.

The Appeal Court Justices declared “The trial court was in error when it dismisses the defence of larches and acquiescence set up by the appellant, notwithstanding the admission of the 1st Respondent (Malami) in court that he saw the development going on his land and did nothing to warn the developer of his interest on the land.”

Consequently, the Court of Appeal declared null and void the forceful eviction of Mr. Ohikhuare from his property on September 12, 2012 on the basis of an unlawful execution of the judgment of an FCT High Court of Abuja delivered by Justice A.S. Umar.

Following the facts of the unlawful execution of the FCT High Court judgment, legal icon, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), has filed two petitions against Justice A.S. Umar before the National Judicial Council (NJC).

The Appeal Court, also restored ownership of the property to Ohikhuare, a 66-year-old Nigerian-American businessman who built the billion-naira worth duplexes as his retirement home in Nigeria.

Though the judgment is still subsisting, it is alleged that Offor, Chairman, Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC), continues to hold on to Plot 1809 Asokoro, Abuja.

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