Malami, Offor’s appeal on Abuja property begins in Supreme Court
The contest over the ownership of Plot No 1809, Asokoro, Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, is essentially between a former Nigerian envoy to South Africa, Ambassador Shehu Malami and businessman, Sir Emeka Offor on one part and a Nigerian-American businessman, Mr. Imonkhuede Ohikhuare
THE Supreme Court of Nigeria has begun hearing of a choice Abuja landed property dispute involving a former Nigerian envoy to South Africa, Ambassador Shehu Malami and businessman, Sir Emeka Offor and a Nigerian-American businessman, Mr. Imonkhuede Ohikhuare, who are feud over the ownership of Plot No 1809, Asokoro, Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
While Malami is a Sokoto Prince, an elder statesman and Chairman, Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, Offor is the Chairman, Chrome Group and Enugu Electricity Distribution Company.
The duo have initiated the appeal seeking to upturn a judgment of a Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, in a case instituted against them by Ohikhuare, over ownership of a residential property, estimated to be above N1 billion.
The appellants are asking the Supreme Court to upturn the judgment of the Federal Court of Appeal delivered on May 28, 2015 in favour of Ohikhuare who claimed to have been forcefully evicted from his property on September 12, 2012 by an unlawful execution of the judgment of a High Court of Abuja delivered by Hon. Justice A.S Umar who then gave the properties to Malami.
Commencing the hearing, their lordships could not delve into the merit of the appeal, as they said there was need for all parties to be in court, which they said that is fair hearing.
They noted that, the absence of the fourth respondent, former Minister of Transport, Alhaji Habibu Aliyu, would be injustice, hence the matter was adjourned till May May 17, 2016.
According Ohikhuare, Aliyu had in 2006 sold the landed property to him.
Historically, in 2006, Ohikhuare bought Plot No 1809, Asokoro in dispute for the sum of N50 million, perfected all instruments on it and built residential apartments valued at about N1 billion on the land. Between he bought the land, built the apartments and moved in with his family – four years – the respondents did not lay claims to Plot 1809 Asokoro.
The fact of the matter is that the subject matter under contention was formerly known as plot No. 865 (now plot No. 1809) within the Cadastral Zone ‘’A04’’, situate in Asokoro, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
The first respondent, Malami, by an irrevocable power of attorney, appointed the fifth respondent, Offor to take possession, manage and administer the said property on his behalf.
Furthermore, FCT, the second, and FCDA, the third, FCDA respondents subsequently revoked the plot in favour of the fourth respondent, Aliyu.
At the appellate court, Ohikhuare distilled five issues on which the court decided the matter.
And in a recent judgment, their lordships including Justices Mohammed Mustapha, Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson, and Tani Yusuf Hassan, unanimously resolved four of the issues in favour of the appellant.
The court said that, after a thorough review of evidence before it and findings on the first issue for determination, we resolve this “in favour of the appellant and against the respondents.”
On issue two, the Court of Appeal stated: “The trial court was in error therefore, in the considered opinion of this court, in dismissing the defence of larches and acquiescence set up by the appellant at the trial; this issue is accordingly resolved in favour of the appellant and against the respondents.”
Making pronouncement on issue three, their lordships stated that it was “satisfied that the appellant’s right to fair hearing was breached by the failure of trial court to consider the evidence of the three defence witnesses, showing that there was no fence on the land in dispute” at the time the appellant bought it.
In answering whether there was a proper plaintiff at the lower court in favour of Mr. Ohikhuare, the Appeal Court ruled 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.”
But the court answered the fifth issue in the negative on the strength that there is no prove of allegation of fraud. According to it, “while there may have been misrepresentation” on the part of Malami in trying to assist Offor to “perfect his title and register his interest” on Plot 1809, “there is no evidence of fraud proved to the satisfaction of this court”. It therefore resolved the fifth issue “in favour of the respondent.”
Conclusively, the Appeal Court declared that Mr. Ohikhuare’s “appeal therefore succeeds, perforce, and is allowed; judgment of the trial High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja in Suit No: FCT/HC/CV/105/2010, and delivered by Honourable Justice M.S. Umar on the 17th day of May 2012 is hereby set aside, with N30,000 for the appellant, against the first to fifth respondent.”