Court Adjourns Hearing in Land Tussle Between Company and Financial Institution

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Justice Safari Ganiyu of a Lagos High Court sitting at Badore, Ajah, Lagos has adjourned further hearing in a land tussle between a real estate company, A4 Realty Ltd and a commercial bank, Access Bank Plc till December 14, 2023.

The Court in its sitting recently also discharged an interim order earlier granted, restraining the defendants from disturbing the plaintiff’s possession rights pending the determination of the main suit. The trial judge, Justice Ganiyu Safari instead ordered all Parties to maintain status quo pending the determination of the Suit.

Defendants in the suit are the Nigerian Police Force, the Inspector General of Police, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC), Trebesak Ltd and DPO Ilasan Police Station.

The Court based on the application of the lawyer to A4 Realty Ltd/the Applicant, Mr Gbenga Ajala on the last adjourned had moved an application to join the last two Defendants, who are Trebesak Nigeria Ltd, the alleged company that previously bought the land from Access Bank, and SP Shem Olorunfemi, the Divisional Police Officer of Ilasan Police Station who was allegedly being partisan in the land tussle. The Application was granted by the Court.

The land in contention is situate at Plot 1, Block XXE, Ojomu Chieftaincy Layout, Ajiran, Eti Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State. The land measures approximately 5000 square meters.

The bone of contention on the land is that the plaintiff alleged that the first defendant, sold the land to the firm for N500 million sometime in 2021 and executed a valid deed of assignment and other titles on the land. But Access Bank on the other hand claimed that it sold the land to the plaintiff in error as it had earlier sold the same land to Trebesak Nigeria Ltd(now the 5th defendant in the suit) as far back as June 2018.

In a nine paragraph affidavit deposed to by Mrs Opelusi Olubukola, the company secretary of the claimant stated thus:

“Since the payment of the purchase price of the land known and being at Plot 1, Block XXE, Ojomu Chieftaincy Layout, Ajiran, Eti Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State, by the claimant to the first respondent, the first respondent have been taking some discrete steps to interfere with the constitutional right of the plaintiff over the property;

“Sometime in August 2023, I was in the property on inspection tour with some investors who are partnering with the applicant to develop the property and some group of men approached us claiming to be from the first respondent. The said men who refused to identify themselves claimed they came to inspect the land with a view to selling it to another buyer”.

Olubukola further averred that she briefed the Managing Director of the claimant who also confirmed that he had noticed a similar discreet move. Her fear was confirmed on October 3, 2023 when she visited the land in company of prospective investors and saw uniformed men suspected to be policemen on patrol on the land and its environ.

She averred further: “The applicant strongly suspects the first respondent’s act of gazumping must have resulted in the recent threat to take over the property of the applicant located at Plot 1, Block XXE, Ojomu Chieftaincy Layout, Ajiran, Eti Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State.

Based on these allegations, the applicant approached the court to enforce its fundamental human rights to own property pursuant to the Fundamental Human Rights(Enforcement Procedure) rules 2009, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999(as amended), and the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights(Ratification and Enforcement Act) cap A9 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.

However the first respondent countered the claimant’s claim, contesting that the sale of the land was done in error, having sold to the fifth respondent,Trebesak Nigeria Ltd, long before the sale to the claimant.

In a 24 paragraph affidavit deposed to by Felix Elugbadebo, a staff of the first respondent, they countered the pleadings of the claimant as “false and do not represent the facts of the case”.

The bank staff averred thus: “I know for a fact that the land measuring about 5,000 square meters situate at Plot 1, Block XXE. Ojomu chieftaincy family layout. Ajiran, Eti-Osa LGA, Lagos State (“the subject property”) does not belong to the applicant as same had been sold to Trebesak (“Trebesak”) having purchased the subject from the 1″ Respondent as far back as June 2018; I know for a fact that the subject property was sold to the applicant per incuriam”.

He stated further: “Sometime in 2009, a first Respondent’s Customer, Primewaterview Limited approached the 1st Respondent for a credit facility to finance the purchase and acquisition of 10 hectares of land at Maiyegun Beach from Westcom Technologies and Energy Services Limited, as well as the completion of the residential development situate at Plots 1 & 2 of Block XXE within Ojomu Chieftaincy Family Layout. Ajiran, Eti-Osa, Local Government Area of Lagos State;

 

The 1st Respondent on the strength of the request, granted a time loan facility in the sum of N4.5billion and a term loan facility in the sum of ₦3 billion. The time loan Facility as well as the Term Loan Facility availed to Primewaterview Limited, secured with the following:

i. Legal Mortgage over 10 hectares of land at Maiyegun Waterfront, along Lekki Epe Expressway. Eti-Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State;

ii. Legal Mortgage over property situate at Plots 1 & 2 of Block XXE within Ojomu Chieftaincy Family Layout, Ajiran, Eti- Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State; and

iii. Personal Guarantee of Mr. Tunji Ogunwusi, CEO of Primewaterview Limited.

d) The Deeds of Legal Mortgage over Plot 1 and Plot 2. Block XXE within Ojomu Chieftaincy Family Layout, Ajiran, Eti-Osa Local Government Area of State (collectively referred to as properties”) were registered at the Lagos State Lands Registry. Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos as No. 99 at Page 99 in Vol. 2027 and No. 100 at Page 100 in Vol. 2027 respectively. Copies of the said Deeds of Legal Mortgage are hereby attached and as “Exhibit 1A” and “Exhibit 1B” respectively.

However, at a point, Primewaterview Ltd could not defray the loan facilities it took from the bank and therefore offered to sell the land to a third party.

Elugbadebo averred further: “Primewaterview Limited upon realizing it could not defray its indebtedness to the 1st Respondent thereafter informed the 1″ of its intention to dispose of the mortgaged properties in a third party known as Vestril Limited with whom Primewaterview Limited was desirous of entering into a Joint Development Agreement;

Pursuant to this, the 1″ Respondent exercised its power of sale and sold the mortgaged properties to Vestril Limited for the sum of #5.9 billion which was paid into the account of the Primewaterview Limited to liquidate the debt;

However, sometime in 2017 Vestril Limited informed the 1st Respondent of its intention to withdraw from the sale due to the difficulty it faced in taking possession of the mortgage properties because of Primewaterview Limited’s refusal to grant it vacant possession of the mortgaged properties;

The 1st Respondent was constrained in the circumstance to reverse the sale to Vestril Limited and to look further in search of a new buyer. Consequently, a new buyer was found, and the mortgaged properties were sold to another purchaser. Trebesak for the sum of N5.86 billion. The proceeds realized from the sale of the mortgaged properties to Trebesak was applied in making the refund to the account of Vestril Limited”.

He said that despite the transfer of sale, Primewaterview could not execute a transfer to Trebesak which led to a litigation before a Lagos High Court. The judgment was in their favour and court bailiffs executed the judgment and handed over the land to Trebesak. The company according to the averment had been in possession since 2018.

However, Elugbadebo also acknowledged that the bank received N500 million from the applicant for the same property. “The 1st Respondent admits that the sum of N500,000,000.00 (Five Hundred Million Naira) was originally paid to it by the Applicant under the erroneous impression that the subject property was available for sale, whereas in fact, the title and possession in the subject property resided (and still

 

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