Appeal Court voids Malami, Emeka Offor’s claim to Abuja choice property
A NIGERIAN-American, Mr. Imokhuede Ohikhuare, has heaved sigh of relief, following a declaration by a superior court of record in the country that he is the owner of over N1billion residential property located at No 1809, Asokoro, Federal Vapital Territory, Abuja.
With the judgment, the claim by a former Nigeria’s Ambassador to South Africa, Alhaji Shehu Malami and a businessman, Sir Emeka Offor to the high-premium property can no longer stand, courtesy of a Court of Appeal, Abuja.
Except the Supreme Court upturns this judgment, if the losers can no longer lay ownership claim to a residential property. But, as at press time, it could not be ascertained if there is any pending appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal or not.
Unsatisfied with the conclusion of an Abuja High Court, Mr. Imokhuede Ohikhuare, who had built twin duplexes on the land, one of which was occupied by himself and his family, until he was allegedly and forcefully thrown out, sought Court of Appeal’s intervention.
He had named Ambassador Shehu Malami, Minister, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), Mohammed Habib Aliyu and Sir Emeka Offor, as first to fifth respondents.
Justice and the Nigerian Judiciary came to the rescue of a Nigerian-American, as the Court of Appeal, Abuja has ruled that he is the rightful owner of Plot which former laid claims to and had purportedly transferred ownership to another businessman, Sir Emeka Offor, via an irrevocable power of attorney.
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.
On the whole, the Appeal Court upheld the appeal and set aside the earlier verdict of the trial court. “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 respondents.”
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.
In his amended notice of appeal, asked the Court of Appeal to determine: Whether the lower court was right in its findings that the appellant was a bona fide purchaser for value without notice; Whether the plea of larches and acquiescence was not available to the appellant against the first respondent (Malami) having regard to the conduct of the first respondent and all the circumstances of this case;
Whether the learned trial judge’s failure to evaluate and consider key pieces of evidence favourable to the appellant did not amount to a denial of fair hearing; Whether there being no proper plaintiff, the trial court had jurisdiction to determine the matter and, whether the proceedings and judgment of the court were not vitiated by fraud, the plaintiff having falsely misrepresented in his pleading and testimony that he was claiming the land for himself; when, as subsequently revealed by Exhibit IM06, IM07, IM08, IM09, IMO10 and IMO10A, he was not.”
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.”