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Crime/Justice

On Issues Of Counter-Claim

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although a counter claim is a distinct action, and a separate decision would be given in respect of the counter-claim, it must be directly related to the principal claim and not outside and independent of the subject-matter of the principal claim. See Oyegbola vs. Esso West Africa (1966) 1 all NLR 170.
Awosanya vs. Federal Ministry of Environment, Housing & Urban Development and ORS.(2021) LCN/14971(ca).
Issue: counter-claim-Whether a court with subject-matter jurisdiction to hear a main claim can lack same to hear a counter-claim(Issue is mine)
Principle:
“I think the Appellant’s Counsel was only grandstanding, when he tried to fault the jurisdiction of the trial Court, on appeal, to entertain the counter-claim, on the allegation that the 4th Respondent was seeking “declaration of title to land and possession”, which is outside the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court. Appellant did not raise any such issue of lack of absence of jurisdiction at the trial Court, because, I believe, he knew the truth that the real issue in the case was the sale of the property to 4th Respondent by the 1st to 3rd Respondents, rather than to him, Appellant!
The case was never one for title to land, despite the inelegant couching of the reliefs by the 4th defendant at the trial Court. It could not have been issue of title and possession to land, because both Appellant and the 4th Respondent had acknowledged the Government (represented by 1st to 3rd Respondents) as the owner of property, No. 9 Mekunwen Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, and that the same was sold to the 4th Respondent, even when he (Appellant) was still on the property and wanted same to be sold to him (Appellant)! See the reliefs 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 by the Appellant in this case (earlier produced).
And so all the legal gymnastics/arguments and cases cited as to whether the trial Court (Federal High Court) had jurisdiction to hear and entertain a case seeking title to land and possession of land, were, in my opinion, completely unnecessary, and a distraction in this case, as the case of the 4th Respondent, was obviously, a counter-claim, to affirm the sale of the property to him by the 1st to 3rd Respondent and for the consequential orders for Appellant to vacate the property!
It is however conceded, that the couching of the reliefs sought by 4th Defendant’s Counsel in the counter-claim were quite inelegant, talking about declaration that 4th Respondent was the lawful owner and title holder of the property; and for possession of the said piece or parcel of land.”
I do not think the Appellant or any of the parties failed to understand the real issues before the trial Court, by the two sides, for determination, as earlier stated in this judgment, and so none can claim to have been misled by the said in-elegance in the drafting and presenting the claims (reliefs) in the counter-claim, nor by the findings and decision of the trial Court thereon. Courts are expected to pursue substantial justice, not technicalities.
It is also quite glaring, that the substance of the two cases questioned or sought, to justify the power of the 1st to 3rd Respondents to deal with the property, No. 9 Mekunwen Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, by selling same to 4th Respondent, and how the sale was made. While Appellant questioned the sale, the 4th Respondent justified it and sought an order for Appellant to vacate the property, and because the 1st to 3rd Respondents are Federal Government Agencies, which controlled and administered the property by virtue of Section 49 of the Land Use Act, 1978. The Section concedes to the Federal Government or its agency to hold title to land. The provision says:
“49(1) Nothing in this Act shall affect any title to land whether developed or undeveloped held by the Federal Government or any agency of the Federal Government at the commencement of this Act and accordingly, any such land and shall continue to rest in the Federal Government or the agency concerned.
49(2) In this section, ‘agency’ includes any statutory corporation or any other statutory body (whether corporate or unincorporate) or any company wholly owned by the Federal Government.”
Of course, Section 251(1)(r) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, as amended, says: “Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in this Constitution and in addition to such other jurisdiction as may be conferred upon it by an Act of the National Assembly, the Federal High Court shall have and exercise jurisdiction to the exclusion of any other Court in civil causes and matters;
(r) any action or proceeding for a declaration or injunction affecting the validity of any executive or administrative action or decision by the Federal Government or any of its agency and…”
There is no doubt that the action or decision of the 1st to 3rd Respondents (Federal Agencies) to sell the property owned by the Government, to the 4th Respondent is at the root of this case of the Appellant and the 4th Respondent. The trial Court (Federal High Court) is therefore the appropriate Court with requisite jurisdiction to determine the dispute(s), in my opinion. See the views of my Lord Okoro, JCA, (as he then was) in the case of Minister, Federal Housing Authority & Urban Development & Anor. Vs. Bello (2009) 12 NWLR (Pt. 1155) 345 at 364-365.
Certainly, this was not a land case, or one for declaration of title, since the parties had agreed that title was vested in the Federal Government, and which transferred the title to the 4th Respondent. Appellant only disputed the sale, saying it ought to have been to him! The trial Court was therefore properly located to pronounce on the sale, whether it was valid or not, and whether the Appellant was entitled to it or not.
I think that, even if the trial Judge/Court were not to have jurisdiction to entertain the 4th Respondent’s counter-claim because of the inelegance or wrongs in the drafting of the reliefs sought, that the striking out of the counter-claim would not affect the value passed to the 4th Respondent by the 1st to 3rd Respondents in the property, upon the dismissal of the Appellant’s case by the lower Court. The challenge of jurisdiction, in the circumstances, was not well thought out, in my opinion.” Per MBABA, JCA.
Astor wrote from N.Ngbea & Co Chambers, Makurdi, Benue State.

By: King Onunwor with
reports from James Astor

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Crime/Justice

Oil Wells Ownership Battle: S’ Court Fixes Nov 1 For Hearing

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The Supreme Court yesterday fixed November 1 for definite hearing in the legal battle between Rivers and Imo States over the ownership of 17 oil wells.
The apex court fixed the date after the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) as 1st defendant and Imo State as 2nd defendant formally made appearances through their lawyers, Remi Olatubura, SAN and Chief Olusola Oke, SAN, respectively.
Justice Kekere Ekun set the stage for determination of the suit instituted by Rivers State against its Imo State counterpart shortly after identifying some of the processes so far filed for and against the legal action.
Ekun who led a panel of seven Justices of the court in a short ruling ordered parties in the suit to file and exchange fully their respective processes between now and Nov. 1 when the suit would be heard.
At the proceedings, Imo State’s Lawyer informed the court that he had filed a motion on notice challenging the jurisdiction of the apex court to hear the suit as a court of first instance.
He predicated the challenge on the fact that the suit was instituted against actions of some federal government agencies and not the Federal Government itself and as such, the place to hear the matter is a Federal High Court and not the Supreme Court.
However, counsel to the AGF said he had filed a counter affidavit against the writ of summons of Rivers State.
Lead counsel to Rivers State, Mr Joseph Daudu, SAN, in his response demanded for seven days to file reply on points of law to the motions of the two defendants.
The apex court had on July 14 granted an order of injunction stopping the Federal Government and it’s agencies from ceding the 17 disputed oil wells located at Akri and Mbede to Imo State.
The order of injunction was granted to stop an alleged implementation of the ceding of the 17 oil wells to Imo State pending the determination of the suit brought before it by the Rivers State Government.
The Supreme Court had in a chamber ruling by an ex-parte application argued by Emmanuel Ukala, SAN, restrained the AGF and the Attorney General of Imo State from taking any further action on the ownership of the disputed 17 oil wells till the ownership disputes surrounding them are resolved.
It also barred the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and the Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, and the office of the Accountant General of the Federation from approving, implementing, or giving effect in any manner to a letter from RMAFC office, with reference number RMC/O&G/47/1/264 of July 1, 2021, which canceled the equal sharing of proceeds from the 17 oil wells by Rivers and Imo States.
Rivers through its Attorney-General had dragged the AGF and the Attorney General of Imo State before the Supreme Court praying for declaration that the boundary between Rivers State and Imo State, as delineated on Nigeria administrative map , 10, 11 and 12 editions and other maps bearing similar delineations are inaccurate, incorrect and do not represent the legitimate and lawful boundaries between Rivers and Imo States.
Plaintiff also sought a declaration that as far as Nigeria’s administrative map 10,11 and 12 editions and other maps bearing similar delineations, relate to the boundaries between Rivers and Imo, are unlawful and void.
The plaintiff also said the maps cannot be relied on to determine the extent of the territorial governmental jurisdiction of Rivers State and to determine the revenue accruing to Rivers State from the federation account, including the application of the principle of derivation and other revenue allocation principles as contained in the 1999 Constitution.
It further applied that the Supreme Court declare that the correct instrument maps and documents, to be relied on determining the boundary between Rivers and Im States, are those used by the plaintiff in delineating the boundary line between Rivers and Imo States.
Plaintiff also sought declaration that all the oil wells within Akri and Mbede communities are wrongly attributed to Imo State.
The plaintiff also said that they are all oil wells within the territory of Rivers state and form part of Rivers State and that it is only Rivers that is entitled to receive the full allocation of the distributable revenue from the oil wells on the basis of the 1390 derivation as contained under section 162 of the 1999 constitution.
Rivers State therefore sought order of mandatory injunction directing the AGF to calculate, to its satisfaction, and refund to it all revenue that have been wrongly attributed to or paid to Imo state on account of the limit or extent of their territories, including earnings due to it from revenue derived from Akri and Mbede oil wells.
The plaintiff also sought order of Injunction directing the AGF to withdraw from circulation its administrative map 10,11 and 12th editions and to refrain from relying on any of the said maps for the purpose of determining the boundary between Rivers and Imo state.
Rivers also applied for another order of mandatory injunction directing AGF to produce administrative map bearing the correct boundary between Rivers and Imo state.
A sum of N500,000,000 naira was also sought as cost of prosecuting the case.

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Crime/Justice

Court Orders Mortuary To Release Corpse For Burial

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A Customary Court sitting in Choba Community in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State has ordered Delight Mortuary and Home Service Limited, to release the corps of Late Rose Amah to her family for burial.
The two member Customary Court, headed by the Chairman, Ndamati, in their ruling on exparte application brought by the counsel to the claimants, E. Worlu sought the order of the court for the release of the corps for burial.
Friday Amah and Hope Amah who are claimants in the suit had asked the court to direct Achor Acheru, the son of the deceased and the mortuary management to release the corpse of their sister as directed by the court.
The Tide reports that the court, following report of the refusal of the first defendant to release the receipt for the corpse of the late woman and reporting the claimants to Ogbakiri Council of Chiefs, granted the exparte order requested by the claimants counsel which the court emphasised must be obeyed.

By: Akujobi Amadi

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Crime/Justice

Chef Jailed 28 Years For Killing Lawyer In Lagos Hotel

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An Ikeja Special Offences Court yesterday sentenced a 23-year-old chef, Joshua Usulor, to 28 years’ imprisonment for killing a 34-year-old lawyer, Mrs Feyisayo Obot.
The chef killed the lawyer on January 26, 2019 at the Citiheights Hotel, Opebi, Lagos, where both of them lodged in different rooms.
Usulor murdered Obot, an Abuja-based mother of two, by slitting her throat while robbing her in her hotel room.
The tide source reports that Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo sentenced Usulor after he approached the Lagos State Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) for a plea bargain agreement in which he would plead guilty to the crime.
The DPP had in the agreement, approved a term of 21 years’ imprisonment which would begin from the date of Usulor’s remand.
However, during Tuesday’s proceedings, the judge rejected the proposed prison term, saying that it was too lenient.
The judge said she would exercise the power conferred on her by Section 75 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law to increase the prison term to 30 years.
She eventually reduced Usulor’s prison sentence to 28 years, following allocutus (plea for leniency) by his counsel, Mr Spurgeon Ataene.
In the allocutus, Ataene told the court to temper justice with mercy.
He submitted that Usulor was remorseful, adding that he was a young man with a promising future.
While sentencing Usulor, Taiwo asked why he killed the lawyer.
“It was a mistake, I didn’t know what got into me,” he responded.
“Your mistake has cost someone her life,” the judge said.
The Tide source reports that the prosecution led by Mrs O.A. Bajulaiye-Bishi had said that Usulor, a resident of No. 30, Fadiya St., Ketu, Lagos, went into Obot’s hotel room to rob her in order to offset his outstanding hotel bills.
Obot, an employee of an Abuja-based non-governmental organisation – Save the Children – was in Lagos to write a project management examination.
She was killed on the day she was due to checkout of the hotel.
The prosecution was still presenting witnesses in the case when Usulor proposed a plea bargain agreement.
Prosecution witnesses who testified so far are – the hotel receptionist, Ms Lateefat Adebayo; the hotel Operations Manager, Mr Olabanji Ibitunde; brother of the deceased, Mr Ige Afolabi; and the Investigating Police Officer, Insp John Babalola.
Usulor was arraigned on a count charge of murder contrary to Section 223 of the Criminal Law of Lagos, 2015.
The law prescribes death sentence for any individual found guilty of murder.

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