Court hears suit against Methodist Missionary’s legal status April 2
An Ogun State High Court has fixed April 2, 2020, to hear an application filed by members of Efure community, Offin in Sagamu area of the state asking it to declare Wesley Methodist Missionary Trust Association limited as a none juristic personality that does not exist in law.
The court will also determine whether Methodist Missionary Trust Association limited has legal status as an incorporated limited company in Nigeria.
Justice Olatunde Oyajinmi adjourned the matter for hearing following the request of counsel to Wesley Methodist Missionary Trust Association limited, Bonajo Badejo (SAN).
Badejo had informed the court that the 1st and 3rd defendants had filed an amended memorandum of appearance brought under order 9, rule 1(1) of the Ogun state high court rules and same has not been served on the claimants.
The claimants, Samuel Banjo, Emmanuel Adelesi, and Kolawole Odugbesi had through their counsel, Babatunde Oshilaja asked the court to nullify the Deed of Lease dated March 15, 1931, on 53.94 acres of land kept at Ogun state land registry, Abeokuta alleging that Wesley Methodist Missionary Trust Association Limited is unknown to law.
Other defendants in the suit are; the Registrar of Titles, Ogun State; the Incorporated Trustees of the Methodist Church; Nigeria Sagamu Local Government; Vigilante Security Organisation; Oladega Ajelana, Wasiu Asanko and Mrs. Abosede Dauda (members of Kajola Saw Millers); Wasiu Jebe, Alhaja Ganiyat Adebayo, Tunbosun Okubote, Yaya Okesola, Bolanle Adeboga and the Gospel Sabbatarian the True Church of God.
The claimants in their 36-page motion on notice stated that only legal persons are capable of possessing legal rights and duties and since Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Trust Association limited was not a legal person registered under the Nigerian law as at March 15, 1931 or thereafter it could not acquire an interest in the leasehold land. The family added that Methodist Missionary Trust Association limited has no legal status, as it was not an incorporated limited company, hence there was no execution of the Deed of Lease on the disputed land.
The claimants stated that as at March 15, 1931 the Wesley Missionary Trust Association Limited was not known to law hence was not legally capable of exercising the powers and functions of an incorporated company including the power to hold the leasehold land. They maintained that Wesley Missionary Trust Association Limited failed to comply with general conditions laid down in the Companies’ Ordinance of 1912, or the Companies Act of 1948 and failed to obtain registration and incorporation as a limited liability company.
Besides, the claimants noted that by the provision of Section 54(1) of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) every foreign company which before or after the commencement of CAMA was incorporated outside Nigeria and having the intention of carrying on business in Nigeria shall take all steps necessary to obtain incorporation as a separate entity in Nigeria.
They averred that Wesley Missionary Trust Association Limited not being a registered limited liability company as expressed in its name as at March 15, 1931 lacked requisite legal capacity required to enter into leasehold contract.
The claimants added that the domicile origin of Wesley Missionary Trust Association is the United Kingdom, where it is liable to tax laws but illegally carrying out on business in Nigeria without obtaining registration/incorporation under Nigerian Company statutory legislation. They argued that all the original rights of the lessors in the Deed of Lease are preserved to their successors and their predecessors who lived in 1931 are in law one and the same.
Consequently, the claimants are asking the court for an order vesting the entire 53.94 acres of land in the claimants as successors to the lessors as deemed holders of the statutory right of occupancy under section 34(2) of the Land Use Act.
But, in its amended memorandum of appearance brought under order 9, rule 1(1), the 1st and 3rd defendants, (Wesley Missionary Trust Association Limited and the Incorporated Trustees of the Methodist Church) through their Badejo (SAN) stated that the claimants were not known to the defendants and there was no relationship between them since 1931 when the land was acquired.
They argued that the claimants’ action has been defeated by the statute of limitations, lacking reasonable cause of action and should be dismissed. They further stated that the claimants’ case has been defeated by laches and acquiescence (unreasonable and inexcusably delay) and liable to be dismissed.
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