Court resumes hearing in 28-year-old property case November 5
A Lagos High Court, Ikeja will on November 5 hear a motion by a family seeking to stay proceedings in a property dispute between it, an old generation bank and two others, 28 years ago.Justice Doris Okuwobi fixed the date after dismissing the family’s application to amend pleadings and re-open their case, 15 years after both parties had closed their cases.
The 1st to 4th plaintiffs in the suit are Miss Biodun Ajibola, Dr Rukayat Ajibola, Hakeem Ajibola and Kabiru Ajibola, suing on behalf of themselves and other members of the late Alhaji Kazeem Ajibola’s family.The 1st to 3rd defendants are Union Bank Plc, Mr. J. T Bamkefa and Mr. Gerald O. Duru.
In the suit filed by the late Alhaji Ajibola on September 27, 1990, the plaintiffs are challenging the Bank’s authority to sell a property located at No 26, Sopeju Street, Shogunle, Ikeja, to the 3rd defendants.The late Ajibola used the property as security for a loan from the bank on June 20, 1973.Following his default in repayment and based on an agreement between late Ajibola and the Bank, the property was sold to Duru, for the bank to recover its money.
But dissatisfied with the sale, the late Ajibola filed the suit at the Ikeja High Court and, after his death in the course of litigation, the plaintiffs inherited the suit.The suit was dismissed on March 20, 1996, but after a counsel revived it in error, it was dismissed again on September 17, 2004.The plaintiffs appealed, following which the Court of Appeal, in a November 2016 ruling, ordered that the case be re-heard on its merits.
On July 20, 2017, the plaintiffs filed an application seeking an order granting them leave to re-open their case by calling Chief Sunday Omoteosho as an additional witness and another granting them leave to file Chief Omoteosho’s statement on oath.They also sought leave to amend their writ of summons and statement of claim and other accompanying processes as well as an order of the court compelling all parties to comply with Order 3 Rule 2 of the High Court of Lagos State Civil Procedure Rules 2012 by filling all accompanying documents.
Their application was supported by a 16-paragraph affidavit deposed to by Mr. Hakeem Ajibola. But the respondents opposed the application. Counsel to the Bank and Bamkefa, Mr. Patrick Odozi, deposed to a 20-paragraphs counter-affidavit challenging the plaintiffs’ motion. Odozi argued that the amendment sought to be effected by the plaintiffs is strange to law practice. “It is clear as a fact that the plaintiffs only want to frustrate the expeditious prosecution of a case filed since September 27, 1990.
“It has been the attitude of Hakeem Ajibola and his supporting counsel at all the stages of this proceeding to truncate and frustrate all our efforts to bring this case to a logical conclusion.“The respondents will be greatly prejudiced by the grant of this strange application as the bank has effectively recovered the security in the mortgage since 1990, and has effectively passed titled to the 3rd respondent (Duru)”, Odozi said.
According to him, the plaintiffs’ application are not for amendment per se but to re-open a case closed since March 4, 2004 over 15 years ago, to call additional witness not considered since inception of the suit.He contended that trial in suit was concluded on December 17, 2003 and the court had ordered filing of written addresses and adjourned for adoption to March 4, 2004 before the matter went on appeal, which was not disposed of until September 17, 2014.
He noted that the Court of Appeal in its final verdict on the appeal directed that the matter be remitted to the lower court for conclusion on its merit. Odozi added that the plaintiffs, who had the benefit of reading the addresses of the respondents, were out to re-open their case to introduce facts, which were never in the original case filed by them, adding that the plaintiffs application is not in tandem with what Order 24 Rules 2 and 3 of the court.
“Where any substantial amendment is required it ought to have taken place either during Case Management or during trial and not after close of case of parties,” he insisted and prayed the court to dismiss the application.
Justice Okuwobi in her ruling, consequently upheld Odozi’s prayer.
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