The Supreme Court will on February 1, 2019 deliver its judgment in a case of property seizure involving Sokoto Prince and former Nigeria’s Ambassador to South Africa, Alhaji Shehu Malami and controversial businessman, Sir. Emeka Offor, who are both asking the Supreme Court to give them an Asokoro, Abuja property belonging to a retiree Nigerian-American, Mr. Imokhuede Ohikhuare, which the Court of Appeal, Abuja by unanimous decision had ruled lawfully belonged to Mr. Ohikhuare.
A panel of six Supreme Court Justices led by Hon. Justice Mary Odili fixed the judgment day at the last hearing of the matter on November 13, 2018, in a move that caught the litigants unaware on the day and which legal minds said signals that the Supreme Court Justices might have resolved to check the excesses of lawyers who come before them only “to play legalistic pranks in order to keep their flawed appeals on the Supreme Court Cause List sine die.”
When the matter came up for hearing last November, it took about 15 minutes for the Supreme Court Justices to fix the February judgment day as Justice Odili and her four other justices briskly, firmly but fairly waded through motions filed by the lead counsel to Malami and Offor, Mr. Joe Agi (SAN), which put Agi on the spot and he opted to withdraw the said motions. Thereafter, lead counsel to the first respondent (Mr. Ohikhuare), Mr. Paul Erekoro (SAN), also withdrew his counter-motions, which were made moot by Agi’s earlier withdrawals of his motions.
The Supreme Court’s decision to do away with the case after nearly four years might not be unconnected with the bizarre drama that had characterized its hearings of the matter as the first appellant, Ambassador Malami who never disclosed to trial court that he sold the property to Emeka Offor in year 2005 before he commenced the case 2006 (Emeka Offor who only applied to joined in the case as interested party at Appeal Court)has consistently sought to dissociate himself from the appeal, insisting that he had not instructed Agi (SAN) or any other lawyer to file the appeal on his behalf at the Supreme Court. In fact, media reports have it last year that Malami wrote a letter to Agi (SAN) and another lawyer, Jeff Njikonye, to stop claiming that he had briefed them to file the appeal at the Supreme Court or risk being reported to the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and other relevant authorities for disciplinary actions, which controversy remains unresolved till date.
Claiming that Malami had transferred ownership of Plot 1809, Asokoro to Emeka Offor before Mr. Ohikhuare built a two-wing duplex worth over N1 billion on the land, Offor, in 2006, forcibly took over the property purportedly on the order of Judge A.S. Umar of an Abuja High Court in a case instituted by Ambassador Malami.
However, the Court of Appeal Abuja, delivering its judgment on May 28, 2015 on an appeal filed by Mr. Ohikhuare, set aside the judgement of the trial court by Judge A.S. Umar on the following grounds: that the trial court was in error “when it held that the appellant was not a bona fide purchaser for value without notice;” that “the trial court was in error when it dismisses the defence of larches and acquiescence set up by the appellant, notwithstanding the admission of the 1st respondent (Malami) in court that he saw the development going on his land and did nothing to warn the developer of his interest on the land;” that “the appellant’s right to fair hearing was breached by the trial court’s failure to consider his case by neglecting uncontroverted evidence when it failed to consider evidence from three witnesses that there was no fence on the land at the time the appellant bought it;” and 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.”