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LAGOS STATE GOVERNMENT & ANOR v. BENEFICIAL ENDOWMENT LIMITED

(2018) LPELR-45779(CA)

In The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

On Tuesday, the 30th day of October, 2018

CA/L/669/2017


Before Their Lordships

TOM SHAIBU YAKUBU Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

UGOCHUKWU ANTHONY OGAKWU Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

GABRIEL OMONIYI KOLAWOLE Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria


Between

1. LAGOS STATE GOVERNMENT
2. NEW TOWNS DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY - Appellant(s)

AND

BENEFICIAL ENDOWMENT LTD - Respondent(s)


Other Citations

; ;


Summary

INTRODUCTION:
This appeal borders on Civil Procedure.
FACTS:
This is an appeal against the decision of the High Court of Lagos State in SUIT No. LD/1002/2009: BENEFICIAL ENDOWMENT LTD vs. LAGOS STATE GOVERNMENT & ANOR. In the said suit, the Respondent, as Claimant before the High Court claimed the following reliefs against the Appellants, the Defendants at the High Court:

"A. DECLARATION that the Claimant having paid the consideration specified in the letter of Allocation Ref. No. LU/Y2/ABIJO/BLK.9/PLT266, are the rightful owners of the right of occupancy over the piece/parcel of land lying being and known as Block 9 Plot 266 Abijo GRA Scheme Lagos.
B PERPETUAL INJUNCTION restraining the Defendants from interfering with the Claimants rights and enjoyment of the said right of occupancy.
Alternatively,
A. An Order that the Claimant do recover from the Defendants jointly and severally the sum of N1,500,000 being the amount paid as purchase price to the Defendants for the piece/parcel of land lying being and known as Block 9 Plot 266 Abijo GRA Scheme Lagos.
B. Interest on the said payment at the rate of 21. 50% per annum with effect from April 2002 until complete liquidation. 
C. Cost of this action."

The parties filed and exchanged pleadings and the matter proceeded to trial. After the Respondent has closed its case and on the date fixed for defence to open, the Appellants sought an adjournment. The High Court refused to grant an adjournment and proceeded to close the case for the defence and thereafter adjourned the matter for address. The Appellants later filed an application seeking leave of Court to reopen their case so that the matter could be determined on the merits. Even though the Respondent did not oppose the application, the High Court could not see its way clear in granting the application; it dismissed the same. The Appellants being dissatisfied with the decision of the High Court appealed to the Court of Appeal.

ISSUES:
Thee Court determined the appeal on this sole issue couched as follows:

"Whether or not the refusal of the (lower) Court to re-open the Defendants' (Appellants') case amounts to (a) denial of fair hearing."

DECISION/HELD:
On the whole, the Court found merit in the appeal and accordingly allowed same. The decision of the High Court was therefore set aside.  The case was remitted to the High Court for accelerated hearing de novo, before another judge to be assigned by the Honourable Chief Judge of the High Court of Lagos State, not being Kasali, J.


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