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Church denies claim of shooting its pastor, refusal to pay N500m damages

By Godwin Dunia
13 September 2022   |   1:23 am
Counsel to the Registered Trustees of Gospel Apostolic Church, Kehinde Fadayiro, has described as untrue, news making the rounds in social media about the church and one of its Pastors...

Pastor Obabueki (left) and counsel. Malachy Ugwummadu

Counsel to the Registered Trustees of Gospel Apostolic Church, Kehinde Fadayiro, has described as untrue, news making the rounds in social media about the church and one of its Pastors, who was alleged to have been shot by the church security.

He said, ”the church has not also refused or neglected to pay the sum of N500 million damages awarded against it by the court as being speculated by the (Pastor) victim, but has decided to exercise its constitutional right of appeal within the purview of the law.”

The victim, Pastor Obabueki Garuba, had alleged that the General Overseer of the Registered Trustee of Gospel Apostolic Church, instructed the Church’s Chief Security Officer (CSO) to shoot him at the Church’s armoury.

He also said that following a fundamental right enforcement suit he filed against the Church, the court awarded N500 million damages in his favour, adding that the Church has refused to comply with the judgment or enter into any post-judgement negotiation with him.

According to the counsel, the unfortunate incident happened on November 15, 2000, and was caused by the victim himself, when he fiddled with the loaded gun of the Chief Security Officer of the Church.

The counsel stated further: “By a letter dated September 25, 2012, the Oba of Benin, Omo N’oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, had invited the former General Overseer of the Church, the late Reverend Samuel Akinbode Sadela, who was then 112 years, to his palace over the said incident and the late rev. Safely, through a Senior Pastor painstakingly explained to the late Oba and members of the Council of Chiefs present.”

However, the late Oba in his wisdom pleaded on behalf of Pastor Garuba and asked the late General Overseer to forgive Pastor Garuba because he remains one of their brethren and should not be abandoned.

The counsel claimed further, “on October 11, 2012, being the next appointed date, the late General Overseer through his representative informed the Oba and his Chiefs that he has forgiven Pastor Garuba, and given him the sum of N600,000.

He said the Oba warned Pastor Garuba not to pursue the case any further and should also desist from denigrating the name and reputation of the Late General Overseer.

“Notwithstanding the warning from the late Oba, Pastor Garuba through his erstwhile solicitors; Messrs Chief Lanre Adeniyi & Co filed suit marked FHC/L/CS/1273/2013 on September 16, 2013, against The Gospel Apostolic Church and three others for the enforcement of his fundamental right to life.

“The originating processes in the said suit were never served on the Church to enable it to file a reply, but an affidavit of service was deposed to by one Onwuka Patrick; an ex-bailiff of the Federal High Court and was put in the Court’s file.

“Arising from the proof of service, the trial Judge, Musa Kurya, on March 12, 2014, entered judgment of N500 million against Gospel Apostolic Church and three other defendants in the case.

“Despite the forgoing judgment, Pastor Garuba through the same erstwhile solicitors again filed another suit number FHC/L/CS/2040 on December 30, 2014, in the same Court against the Registered Trustees of the Gospel Apostolic and three others, claiming the same reliefs as in the earlier suit marked FHC/L/CS/1273/2013.

“Initially, the Trustees of the Church in this fresh matter were not served with the originating processes, but were served with a hearing notice and the Trustees of the Church put up an appearance and consequently filed their reply on May 20, 2015.

“The trial Judge, Ibrahim Buba, after listening to the arguments of the parties and considering the evidence adduced before the court, dismissed the suit with a cost of N100, 000, describing it ‘as a fairy tale that sounds like fiction and fanciful.’

“Regardless of the above judgment in suit no:FHC/L/CS/2040/2014, Pastor Garuba and his present solicitors Messrs. Osagie Obayuwana & Co. on June 9, 2016, surreptitiously commenced a garnishee proceeding in court in respect of the judgement in suit no: FHC/L/CS/1273/2013, earlier abandoned and on November 28, 2016, Justice Hadiza Shagari granted an order nisi for the attachment of all the funds standing to the credit of the Gospel Apostolic Church and three others with their bankers,” the lawyer explained.

He stated that the Church only became aware for the judgment in suit FHC/L/CS/1273/2013 on February 22, 2017, when Ecobank Plc; one of its bankers informed it by a letter dated same day that a lien has been placed on the account of its former General Overseer, the late Sadela.

According to Fadayiro, having became aware of the judgment in suit no: FHC/L/CS/1273/2013, the Trustees of the Church through law firm took various legal processes both at the lower court and the appellate court in Appeal No: CA/L/43/2018 to set aside the decision without success.

In an attempt by the Church to attack the record of the lower court which states that the Church was served with the originating processes in Suit No: FHC/L/CS/1273/2013, he said, the Registered Trustees of the Church discovered to their utter shock and disbelief that the same ex-bailiff; Onwuka, who claimed to have served the Church had been dismissed from the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) on October 18, 2017, by the Commission for serious misconduct of false deposition of affidavit of service.

His words: “Upon the aforesaid discovery, The Trustees of the Church through their solicitor Mr Kehinde Fadayiro on November 30, 2018, filed Suit number FHC/L/CS/2005/2018 against Pastor Garuba and the Deputy Sheriff of the Federal High Court to set aside the judgement in suit no: FHC/L/CS/1273/2013 on the ground of fraud, gross misrepresentation and deceit and in the face of the overwhelming evidence before the court, including that of the ex-bailiff of the Court, who confessed in open court that he never served the originating processes in suit no: FHC/L/CS/1273/2013, Justice O.O Liman dismissed the suit on the ground that he does not have the requisite jurisdiction to entertain the case.

“The said judgment in suit No: FHC/L/CS/2005/2018 has since been appealed against on July 27,2022 and their counsel has been duly served.

“Their appeal is a continuation of the hearing of the case and until the appeal is dispensed with, the action is still pending in the court. Upholding a preliminary objection by the trial court does not necessarily translate that the Appeal Court would agree with the trial court based on the facts and evidence before the court, as the Appellate Court is entitled to look at the records before it and decide if the trial court was right or wrong.”

On the issue of armoury, Fadayiro said: “Firstly, at no time or period has the Registered Trustees of the Church maintained any armoury with loaded guns within its premises. Secondly, the loaded single barrel shotgun that Pastor Garuba fiddled with before it exploded and caused damage to his two eyes was principally used for the protection of the then General Overseer of the Church and the other ministers of God who lived within the premises of the Church at that time, as the nefarious activities of hoodlums terrorising Somolu/Bariga area of Lagos State was at its peak during that period of the year.

“In addition, Pastor Garuba indeed lodged a fictitious petition against the Chief Security Officer and the Registered Trustees of the Church at Zone 2 Police Command Headquarters, Onikan, Lagos in May 2008 where the Chief Security Officer was arrested, detained and later released on bail.

“After the conclusion of the investigation, the Chief Security Officer and the Registered Trustees of the Church were never charged before any court of law in Nigeria for the offence of unlawful possession of firearms or any other related offence whatsoever.

“Our client wishes to state firmly that it has not failed, refused and or neglected to pay the sum of N500 million awarded against it by the court as speculated by Pastor Garuba and his lawyer, but has decided and indeed exercised its constitutional right of appeal within the purview of the law.”