Appeal court sets June date for Onitsha land suit
Further hearing on an appeal filed by Anambra State Governor and State’s Attorney General against the ruling of the High Court sitting in Onitsha in respect of industrial plots designated as plots IN/37/IN/39 and IN/41 in the Niger Bridgehead, Onitsha has been fixed for June 6, 2018.
A three-man panel of the Court of Appeal, Enugu led by Justice Helen Ogunwumiju, has fixed the date for hearing in the appeal, which has Semgraphics Company Limited and Raphson International Co. Ltd as respondents.
In the appeal, the appellants are arguing that they were not given fair hearing during the trial at the State High Court at Onitsha over the revocation of a building lease on the industrial plots designated as plots IN/37/IN/39 and IN/41 in the Niger Bridgehead, Onitsha.
The lease made on February 1, 1978 and registered as N0.72 at page 72 in Volume 981 of the Lands Registry in the office at Enugu, now Awka was granted to Segraphics Company Limited, the plaintiff, by Military Governor John Atom Kpera of Anambra States of Nigeria, for and behalf of the government of Anambra state for a period of 99 years from January 1, 1978.
But the state government had on March 18, 1982 five years after revoked the lease during the time of Governor Jim Nwobodo.
The plaintiff had through its managing director, Mr. James Ezike protested the revocation and having heard him on December 29, 1983, the revocation was annulled .
The plots were revoked again in August 9, 1991 during the time of Military Govenor Herbert Ezeh and was gazetted in the Anambra State of Nigeria official gazette of August 15, 1991.
The plots were also allocated to Raphson International Co. Ltd, the third defendant in the suit.
Irked by this, Segraphics Company Limited, approached the High court on April 6, 1994 seeking an order declaring that the purported revocation of its lease or interest on the land is invalid, null and void.
It also sought an order declaring the certificate of occupancy granted to the 3rd defendant over the land by the governor of Anambra state( first defendant ) and first appellate invalid, null and void.
The plaintiff also wanted an order declaring its lease over the land still valid and subsisting.
It further wanted the sum of N5 million for wanton trespass and perpetual injunction restraining the defendant, their agents, servants from continuing the trespass on the land.
The plaintiff argued that, no notice of the revocation of its leases or its forfeiture or the recovery of the land was given to it.
It is also material to the plaintiff’s case that the building lease granted to it was over state land and that the said land was not forfeited nor were the preliminary steps before any forfeiture under the law taken by the defendants.
The plaintiff submitted that it was not given a hearing before the purported reallocation of the land to Raphson International Co. Ltd, the third defendant in the suit and second respondent in the appeal.
But the Raphson international contended that before the second revocation of the plots granted to the Plaintiff , it had on June 24, 1991 applied to the Government for industrial plots to set up their glass plant and industry.
They alleged that they did not specify for any plot but required industrial plots within Onitsha as it was the specification of their foreign partners.
Having fulfilled all necessary requirements, they alleged that they were allocated the plots now in dispute and that they had no knowledge of any previous allocation .
After paying all necessary fees and sundry payments impose don them by the government , a certificate of occupancy was issued to them by the governor.
During the trial the appellants( Anambra state governor and the attorney general) were represented by one A.O Okeke, state counsel, but failed to file their statement of defence and took part in the trial of the suit.
The said Okeke, a deputy director in the ministry of Justice in the state was recorded as appearing for the appellants until judgment was given in favour of the plaintiff .
But the appellants argued that the lower court denied them fair hearing when it went ahead to deliver judgment after they filed a motion for adjournment to enable them open defence after judgment date has been fixed.
However , Segraphics Company Limited is urging the appellate court to strike out the appeal in its entirety for being incompetent and waste of court’s time as the appellant did not argue or frame any issue on its 3rd ground of appeal
In its preliminary objection, the first respondent urged the court to dismiss the appeal on the ground that it is based on the hypothesis that a certificate of occupancy was revoked where as it is common ground that what was granted to it was a building lease and not a certificate of occupancy.
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