Covenant University In Land Tussle As Family Seeks Possession Order

This may not be the best of time for a reputable World Mission Agency Incorporated, popularly known as Winners Chapel, owner of Covenant University, located along Idiroko Road, Ado-Odo/Ota, Ogun State, western Nigeria, as a land owning family is presently seeking an order of the court to repossess portion of the landed property housing the leading University in Nigeria.

And barring any unforeseen circumstances, that may necessitate a change of court’s programme, legal fireworks are expected to resume on Monday, March 9, 2020 before Ota Judicial Division, Ogun State High Court.

Before the court are Messrs. Monsuru Ogunseye, Alani Ogunseye, Madam Muinatu Ogunseye and Rasheed Dada suing for themselves and on behalf of Arigedibe Matori Oko family of Ota, Ogun state.

Specifically, they sued the Registered Trustees of World Mission Agency Inc and Bishop David Oyedepo.

Their suit before the trial court, among others, is seeking eight prayers.

They include: That the trial court should declare that by virtue of the judgment of the Court of Appeal delivered on 13th July, 2017 in Appeal No: CA/1/264/2010, the claimants are the owners of and entitled to possession of an area of 13 acres of land out of a total area of 508.996 acres of land described and shown on the survey plan attached to the certificate of occupancy No. 23693 dated May 7, 1998 and registered as No 41 page 41 Volume 562 at the Lands Registry office, Abeokuta issued in favour of the first defendants – Registered Trustees of World Mission Agency Inc.

The claimants are also seeking an order of the court directing them to take possession forthwith of the said area.

Alternatively, the claimants are asking the court to make an order that the defendants to pay them the sum of N1.4b being the current market value of the 13 acres of land on the basis of a valuation reports prepared by Lekan Akinwunmi &Co, a firm of estate surveyor and valuer.

Also, the land owing family are seeking a declaration that they are entitled to damages for occupation and use of their land from 1998 -2018 in the sum of N60m, which they alleged is in tandem with the valuation reports by Lekan Akinwunmi & Co.

Similarly, the claimants are seeking an order that the defendants pay to them the sum of N60m being the assessed value of the occupation and use of their land by the defendants from 1998 – 2018 and thereafter at a pro-rated N3m per annum among others.

Although, the defendants acquired a large expanse of land from different families, the subject matter in the suit is a large expanse land covering 13 acres measuring 52,611 square metres and form part of the land accommodating World Mission Agency Incorporated popularly known as Winners. It is a part of land area of the 84 acres measuring 339,948 square metres land of the Arigedibe Matori Oko family out of which 71 acres was conceded to the World Mission Incorporated by the judgement of Court of Appeal, Ibadan Judicial Division, Oyo State.

This land with other appurtenances situate within the fenced premises of World Mission Incorporation, which is located in a larger enclosure of Winners’ Chapel/Living Faith Church headquarters, Covenant University popularly known and addressed as Canaanland, along Idiroko Road, Ota, in Ado/Odo Local Government Area of Ogun State.

Coming from Ota axis and driving towards Idiroko, the subject land is westerly located within the fenced premises of Canaanland, immediately after Bell-University by Canaanland Bus Stop.

Driving down through Canaanland gate into the premises, an eastern turning leads to the Covenant University.

The neighborhood is a mixture of residential, commercial, industrial, institutional and agricultural precincts.

Prominent features within the vicinity of the premises include Kingdom Heritage School, Faith Tabernacle, among.

Landmark features in the neighborhood include NNPC filling station, Bell University of Technology, May and Baker Nigeria Plc, Pharma Centre, Nigeria Building and Road Research Institute (NBRRI) among others.

Municipal facilities available in the neighborhood include telecommunication services, electricity supply from the mains and network of tarred motorable roads.

While the entire site is firm and well drained, it has a land area of approximately 339,948 square metres out of which 52,611 square metres is actually the area under contention.

The entire premises are fenced round with sandcreet blook walls with access through the university main entrance gate.

According to the claims before the court, the claimants, Adegedibe Matori Oko family said that in judgment delivered by Justice A.A Akinyemi, on March 12, 2007, the court refused substantially their claims, having held that the sale of 71 acres out of the 84 acres of their land to the first defendant was valid on the grounds that the plaintiffs, upon becoming aware of the alleged sale ratified same by their collection of the sum of N500,000, as part payment of the purchase price paid by the first defendant to the Ikotun Matori family.

On the remaining 13 acres of land, the family said the court ordered that the first defendant to pay a sum of N3.7m to the plaintiffs at the court imposed rate of N50,000 per acre less than the sum of N500,000 already received by the plaintiffs.

Following the plaintiffs’ dissatisfaction with the judgment, an appeal was lodged with the Court of Appeal, Ibadan, which in its judgment invalidated the portion of the trial court’s verdict ordering that the claimants’ 13 acres of land be sold to the first defendant at the ‘arbitrary’ rate of N50,000 per acres.

According to them, the Court of Appeal directed that parties negotiate a re-sale of their 13 acres of land, if it is agreeable to both parties.

Following Court of Appeal’s verdict, the family opened up negotiation process through letters to the counsel of the defendants and consequently several correspondences had been exchanged between the parties.

In one of the correspondents, specifically via a letter dated October 5, 2018, defendants’ counsel wrote to advise that their client was proposing to pay a sum of N7.8m for the 13 acres of land at the rate of N600,000 per acre, but said no reference was made to the demand for rent from 1999 – 2018.

The claimants rejected this offer but wrote to advise that their clients had engaged professional estate surveyors and valuers to come up with a valuation report, which can be used on their part as a basis for negotiation.

In their joint statement of defence, the defendants vehemently denied committing any acts of encroachment and, or trespass on their claimants’ land, contending that, demand for N1.4b was spurious, specious, baseless, and gold digging.

According to the defendants, the purported valuation report prepared by the firm of Lekan Akinwunmi & Co was unrealistic, baseless and self-serving of the claimants’ spurious claims, adding that, the valuation report has no bearing or any regard to the actual value of the land, which is the subject matter of the suit.

The defendants said the claim for possession is outside the scope of the judgment of the Court of Appeal, contending that, the claimants are not entitled to possession.

To them, the claim for rent is also outside the scope of the said judgment and therefore, the claim is baseless and unfounded and consequently denied.

Similarly, the defendants said the claimants are not entitled to damages of the sum of N60m or any sum at all, contending that, that claim is outside the scope of the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

“Whereof, the defendants state that the claimants are not entitled to any of the reliefs sought… and that, the suit is frivolous, vexatious, gold-digging, premature and lacking in merit. Consequently, the defendants will respectfully urge this court to dismiss the suit in its entirety with very substantial cost.”

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