By Faith Ese
The Court of Appeal Division in Abuja has ordered an accelerated hearing of a property case lodged against a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. J.B. Majiyagbe.
At the commencement of the suit on Tuesday, a three-man panel of the appellate court headed by Justice Abubakar Yahaya, ordered Messrs Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume (SAN), counsel to the appellants and Dr. G. O. A. Ogunyomi and Oluwasegun Owa, lawyers to the 1st and 2nd respondents, to effect corrections on defective court documents so as to pave way for a seamless hearing.
The appellants, Messrs Samuel Nwosu and Chukwuemeka Anyaoha, had dragged the respondents, Mr. Majiya Agbe (SAN) and Skye Bank Plc, before a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court over the ownership of a property situated at Asokoro area of Abuja.
At Tuesday’s proceedings, 1st respondents lawyer, Mr. Ogunyomi drew the attention of the court to discrepancies in the appeal numbers that were assigned by the appellate Court’s registry; prompting the court to adjourn the matter till March 22, 2021, when the issues would have been sorted out.
In his submissions, Ume (SAN), urged the court to grant parties a short so as to rectify the errors.
“It is hereby ordered that parties in the suit go to the court’s registry immediately to sort out the anomaly in the court processes. The suit is adjourned till March 22 for hearing,” Justice Yahaha, the presiding judge held.
It would be recalled that the suit was instituted before Justice A. O. Ebong, who delivered a ruling on November 30, 2016, on an interlocutory issue that bordered on amending the court process to bring in an interested party.
According to the appellants’ brief of argument, Mr. Majiyagbe (SAN) is their tenant and allegedly owed a year’s rent.
However, “suddenly, Mr. Majiyagbe issued a letter to his co-tenants that he is now the landlord of the same premises and that the co-tenants should henceforth pay their rents to him,” this development triggered the legal battle, according to the appellants.
While the 1st respondent, Mr. Majiyagbe, claimed in his second amended statement of defence and counterclaim that “Sam Total owes N60 million to the 2nd respondent, Skye Bank PLC – that it was the forfeiture of mortgage that enabled the 2nd respondent to sell the house to him (Agbe SAN).”
As a result, the appellants urged the lower court (FCT High Court), presided over by Justice Ebong, to join the alleged debtor, Sam Total Trade Ltd, in order to give its own version of the said debt of N60 million, and for the appellants to inform the court of its version of the alleged Deed of Legal Mortgage already pleaded by the 1st respondent.
But the respondents, Mr. Majiyagbe and Skye Bank Plc, vehemently opposed the appellants desire to bring in the necessary party, alleging: “abuse of court process,” which Justice Ebong upheld.
In their grounds of appeal, the appellants pointed out that the trial court erred in law when it held that: “It is therefore the plaintiff’s claim endorsed on the writ of summons and statement of claim that determines who the necessary parties to the suit are…”
The appellants maintained that the court “misdirected itself” in several of its reasonings concerning the ruling.
In the appellants’ pleadings, they urged the three-member panel of the Appeal Court to declare that Mr. Majiyagbe has no right whatsoever to issue his co-tenants any documents purporting to claim that the defendant (respondent), is the landlord of the property situated at Plot 222 Shehu Shagari Way, Asokoro, Abuja.
“An order of injunction restraining the defendant either by himself or by his agent, assigns or any person howsoever claiming through him from asserting any right of ownership over the property Plot 222 Shehu Shagari Way, Asokoro, Abuja, or Plot 222 Cadastral Zone A4, Abuja or doing anything that derogates from the 1st and 2nd Plaintiffs (appellants) right of ownership of the property,” the appellants prayed the court.
Meanwhile, two related cases that were the offshoot of the legal dispute had been struck out by the Lagos State High Court in January, 2014.
In a certified copy of the ruling striking out the suits marked: LD/316M/2005 & ID/690/2005 before Justice K. O. Alogba, the court held the suits were “incompetent.”
In the said suits, Skye Bank Plc and Mr. Samson Akiode were the claimants, while Mr. Samuel Nwosu, an appellant in the appeal was named a defendant.
Delivering his ruling, Justice Alogba had held, “I have perused the affected originating processes in both suits. I agree that they are incompetent being in violation of Section 2(1) of the Legal Practitioners Act CAP L11 Law of Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
“The effect is that both suits are based on incompetent originating processes and so renders the case incompetent. Both suits are accordingly hereby struck out,” the court held.
It would be recalled that it was on the basis of these suits which were pending in 2005, that Mr. J.B Majiyagbe purportedly acquired the property located at Asokoro in Abuja, which allegedly belonged to Messrs Samuel Nwosu and Chukwuemeka Anyaoha, who are the appellants.