Court dismisses suit filed by trustees of Gospel Apostolic Church, others over 500m award
Justice Mohammed Liman of a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has dismissed a suit filed by the Registered Trustees of Gospel Apostolic Church and others against Pastor Garuba Osah Obabueki and the Deputy Sheriff of Federal High Court.
Obabueki was the resident pastor at the Calabar branch of the Gospel Apostolic Church.
He was perceived to be disrespectful and critical of the General Overseer of the Church, who felt threatened by the courage of his conviction and left instructions with the Chief Security to “take care” of him.
This allegedly happened during a recess at the National pastor’s Conference of the church held in Lagos in 2000, when conferees, including Obabueki visited some of the significant recreational and attraction centers within the premises.
During the said recess, he was taken around the premises by the Chief Security Officer and shown many places, including, but curiously the Church armoury. It was at this place that he was pointedly shot by the Chief Security Officer, leading to the loss of his two eyes among other bodily harm.
After a long period of hospitalisation, operations and procedures and appeals for compensation and restitution to enable him pick up his shattered life failed, he filed a legal action in 2013, which ended in his favour, whereupon the pastor was awarded N500 million damages.
Not willing to pay on the premise that the pastor actually shot themselves while fiddling with one of the guns, the church instituted a fresh matter at the Federal High Court in suit No: FHC/L/CS/2005/2018.
The plaintiffs, Gospel Apostolic Church, Mr. Timothy Bamidele Abaderu and Nathaniel Sadela had sued for himself and on behalf of the beneficiary of the estate of the late Reverend Samuel Akinbade.
The plaintiff sued on the premise that the judgment delivered by Justice M.H Kurya in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/ 1273/2013, which was filed by Pastor Obabueki against Samuel Akinbade and three others was obtained by fraud, misrepresentation and deceit.
The plaintiff had therefore prayed the court through their counsel, Lanre Ogunlesi (SAN) to set aside the judgment, declare it null and void and restrain the respondent from executing the judgment while the defendant through his counsel, Malachy Ugwummadu had argued that the plaintiff’s suit is unlawful and illegal. He submitted that “the High Court and the Court of Appeal had find no reason to set aside the judgment. Thus the plaintiff cannot relitigate the same issue.
However, while delivering the judgment, Justice Mohammed Liman, who held that the parties in the suit are the same, noted that to allow fresh action on the subject matter in the circumstances will open a floodgate of litigation, which would not augur well for the administration of justice.
The judge held that a court of competent jurisdiction had earlier decided their case and that it cannot sit on appeal over the decision of the Court of Appeal, which had pronounced that there was proper service in the suit.
The judge further held that, their grouse that the judgment in FHC/L/CS/1273/13 was obtained by fraud, deceit and misrepresentation of facts and ought to be set aside cannot be considered by the Court.
“The court cannot determine the issue of fraud, misrepresentation and deceit in the instant suit, as it will amount to sitting on Appeal over the decision of the Court of Appeal, which had pronounced that there was proper service. Thus, entertaining this suit is tantamount to interfering with the decision of a Court of Coordinate jurisdiction in Suit No: FHC/L/CS/1273/13, and the decision of the Court of Appeal in Appeal No. CA/L/43/2018.
“This has been frowned upon in a legion of cases by both the Appellate and Supreme Courts. I will therefore not ply that route. Having said that, I hold that this Honourable Court is robbed of the requisite jurisdiction to entertain the plaintiffs’ suit, same being caught up by the doctrine of res judicata. Plaintiffs’ suit is accordingly dismissed,” the court ruled.