A-three-justice panel of Justice AbdulkadirJega (presiding judge), Justice Joseph Tine Tur and Justice MoorenAdumein of the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, has cleared the way for the proper and accelerated hearing of a dispute over the ownership of a choice piece of land in highbrow Asokoro, Abuja on which a Nigerian in Diaspora, Mr. ImokhuedeOhikhuare, has built two duplexes, but which former Nigerian Envoy to South Africa, Ambassador ShehuMalami, claims ownership and claimed to have transferred to Sir EmekaOffor.
At the resumed hearing of the matter on Wednesday October 22, 2014 the Appeal Court justices acceded to a plea by Team of Counsel to the Appellant, Mr. Paul Erokoro (SAN), Mr S.I.Ameh (SAN) and Mr Femi Falana (SAN) to withdraw some applications they had before the court, which recent developments in the matter have made irrelevant.
However, the justices were pleasantly surprised and amused when Chief Udechukwu (SAN) lead counsel to Ambassador Malami and Sir Ofor informed the court that he has already filed an appeal at the Supreme Court ahead of the Court of Appeal hearing of the matter.
Evidently eager to get the hearing proper going, the justices of the Appeal Court also seized this opportunity to ask all parties to the case to consider all motions and applications tangential to the substantive matter before the court for possible withdrawal, in the light of the latest developments.
On December 13, 2013 Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Appellant to admit additional evidences into the case which were not disclosed to the lower court by the Plaintiff. In a painstaking process patiently and diligently handled by their lordships lasting nearly two hours, the justices were able to clear all motions and applications militating against hearing the substantive matter.
Consequently, the Appeal Court fixed January 21, 2015 for hearing of the appeal proper of the substantive issue.
Curiously, however, the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), which had sometimes last year asked the court to join the appeal, which plea was granted by the court, withdrew from the matter at this latest hearing.
In a preliminary submission while arguing to be admitted into the appeal, the FCDA had faulted the lower court’s verdict on the matter, contending that it has the legal powers to revoke the certificate of occupancy it initially issued to Ambassador Malami over Plot 865 (now Plot No.1809). And before now, the Appeal Court had thwarted a move by means of an application by Ambassador Malami and Sir Offor, to exit the case, which involving the forcible seizure of Plot 1809, Asokoro Abuja, on which the Appellant, Mr. Ohikhuare, has built a two-wing duplex residential accommodation and lived in for years. Sir Offor claimed ownership of the property on the strength of an irrevocable power of attorney purportedly given to him by Ambassador Malami. In 2006, Ohikhuare, a businessman, bought the land in dispute for the sum of N50 million and built residential apartments valued at over N1 billion on it. He was living with his family in the property until he was allegedly ejected with force, on the strength of a verdict by Judge A.S. Umar of the Abuja High Court. The ball, at the trial court, was set in motion by Ambassador Malami, who challenged the legality of the revocation of the Certificate of Occupancy issued to him on then Plot 865 (now Plot No. 1809) within Cadastral Zone A04) Asokoro, Abuja by the Minister of the FCT and the FCDA. At the trial court, Malami had claimed that the land was originally allotted to him in 1984, but was unlawfully revoked in October 2005 by the FCDA, which then assigned the same plot to Alhaji Mohammed Habib Aliyu, who eventually sold the land to Mr.Ohikhuare. Although the FCDA told the trial court that Malami’s right to the plot was revoked 21 years after the plot was allocated, the lower court gave judgment in favour of the plaintiff, without regards to the legal rights of Mr. Ohikhuare over the property, a verdict that gave birth to the current appeal by Mr. Ohikhuare before the appellate court.