Apex court to deliver judgment in Malami, Offor Abuja property suit
The Supreme Court has fixed February 1, 2019 for judgment in the property suit involving Sokoto Prince and former Nigeria’s Ambassador to South Africa, Alhaji Shehu Malami and a business mogul, Sir. Emeka Offor on one hand and a retiree Nigerian-American, Mr. Imokhuede Ohikhuare, on the other hand.
In the suit Malami and Offor are urging the apex court to give them an Asokoro, Abuja property. Their appeal followed a unanimous judgment of the Court of Appeal, endorsing the Mr. Ohikhuare as the rightful owner of the choice property valued at N1billion.
And after several legal fireworks on technical issues, the Supreme Court led by Justice Mary Odili fixed the judgementally day at the last hearing of the matter.
Reactions that trailed the decision of their lordships at the last hearing date, showed that parties and litigants were caught unaware.
In fact, the Supreme Court Justices didn’t waste time to fix the judgment date, as Justice Odili and her four other justices briskly, firmly but fairly waded through motions filed by the lead counsel to Malami and Offor, Mr. Joe Agi (SAN), which put Agi on the spot and he opted to withdraw the said motions.
Thereafter, lead counsel to the first respondent (Mr. Ohikhuare), Mr. Paul Erekoro (SAN), also withdrew his counter-motions, which were made moot by Agi’s earlier withdrawals of his motions.The Supreme Court’s decision to do away with the case after nearly four years might not be unconnected with the bizarre drama that had characterized its hearings of the matter as the first appellant, Ambassador Malami who never disclosed to trial court that he sold the property to Emeka Offor in year 2005 before he commenced the case 2006.
Though Offor applied to join the case as interested party at Appeal Court, he, however, has consistently sought to dissociate himself from the appeal, insisting that he had not instructed Agi or any other lawyer to file the appeal on his behalf at the Supreme Court. In fact, media reports have it last year that Malami wrote a letter to Agi (SAN) and another lawyer, Jeff Njikonye, to stop claiming that he had briefed them to file the appeal at the Supreme Court or risk being reported to the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and other relevant authorities for disciplinary actions, which controversy remains unresolved till date.
Claiming that Malami had transferred ownership of Plot 1809, Asokoro to Emeka Offor before Mr. Ohikhuare built a two-wing duplex worth over N1 billion on the land, Offor, in 2006, forcibly took over the property purportedly on the order of Judge A.S. Umar of an Abuja High Court in a case instituted by Ambassador Malami. However, the Court of Appeal Abuja, delivering its judgment on May 28, 2015 on an appeal filed by Mr. Ohikhuare, set aside the judgment of the trial court by Judge A.S. Umar.
According to the Appellate Court, the trial court erred “when it held that the appellant was not a bona fide purchaser for value without notice;” that “the trial court was in error when it dismissed the defence of larches and acquiescence set up by the appellant, notwithstanding the admission of the 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.”
The Court of Appeal also held that “the appellant’s (Ohikhuare) right to fair hearing was breached by the trial court’s failure to consider his case by neglecting uncontroverted evidence when it failed to consider evidence from three witnesses that there was no fence on the land at the time the appellant bought it.”
The court also faulted the trial court, as it held that Malami “no longer had the power to initiate the proceedings at the lower court for himself; because it is settled that an Irrevocable Power of Attorney given for valuable consideration robs the donor of power to exercise any of the powers conferred on the donee.”