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FIDELITY BANK OF NIGERIA PLC v. THE INCORPORATED TRUSTEES OF PENTECOSTAL GRACE WINNERS MINISTRIES INTERNATIONAL & ORS

(2018) LPELR-44655(CA)

In The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

On Monday, the 28th day of May, 2018

CA/OW/210/2016


Before Their Lordships

RAPHAEL CHIKWE AGBO Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

AYOBODE OLUJIMI LOKULO-SODIPE Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

ITA GEORGE MBABA Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria


Between

FIDELITY BANK OF NIGERIA PLC - Appellant(s)

AND

1. THE INCORPORATED TRUSTEES OF PENTECOSTAL GRACE WINNERS MINISTRIES INTERNATIONAL
2. BISHOP DR. GODWIN IHE
3. ELDER JOHN N. OPARAKU
4. ENGR. R.U. DURU
5. DEACON E. K. ACHOLONU
6. DR. CHINEDU NDULAKA
7. BRO JOHN IWUEKE
8. BRO STEPHEN IWUEKE
9. BRO BERNARD IWUEKE
10. PASTOR DAMIAN AMAJIOYI
11. EVANGELIST RITA IHE
12. PASTOR JERRY OGBODO
13. PASTOR PRINCE NNODIM
14. SISTER NGOZI EKE
15. ELDER LIVINUS UBOCHI
16. ELDER ENG. R. U. DURU
17. BRO FRED BUGBATEY
18. OLISAEMEKA JIDEONWU
19. JOHN UKAONU AHANON - Respondent(s)


Other Citations

; ;


Summary

INTRODUCTION:
This appeal borders on Civil Procedure.
FACTS:
The appeal is against the judgment delivered on 14/12/2015 by the Imo State High Court.

The Claimants are tenants to the 2nd Defendant at plot 269 Ikenegbu Layout, Owerri. 2nd Defendant dealt with them through the 3rd Defendant, his caretaker. The Claimant used the premises for their church activities from the year 2000 till 2007 when the 2nd Defendant sold the property to the 1st Defendant. Upon purchase of the property, the 1st Defendant rather than adopt lawful process to recover the premises occupied by the Claimants used thugs to demolish Claimants' Church building and other property. It was on this basis of this state of affairs that the Claimants filed the instant suit against the Defendants.

The case of the 1st and 2nd Defendants is that Claimants were never the tenants of the 2nd Defendant and the 2nd Defendant was not the owner of plot 269 Ikenegbu Layout but an Executor of the Will/Estate of the deceased owner, who was father of 2nd Defendant i.e. - late Chief Ifeanyichukwu Jideonwu. 3rd Defendant who was the caretaker of the premises never had the instruction to let same out as the Landlord thereto or at all. He hadn't the authority of 2nd Defendant to enter into any tenancy agreement with the claimants. That having not entered into any tenancy agreement, he - 2nd Defendant had no business giving statutory notice to anyone, least of all the 1st Claimant who are trespassers and illegal occupants. The OCDA (Owerri Capital Development Authority) physically marked the Claimants' structures and other containers and structures therein as illegal, to be mandatorily removed and for demolition as evidenced in Exhibits "C" - "C35". 1st Defendants' workers/contractors never sealed off the area where the 1st Claimant had been using for its prayer meetings and never prevented them from using the part of plot 269 Ikenegbu Layout, Owerri, occupied illegally by the 1st Claimant, on or around 10th - 11th day of October, 2007. While 1st Defendant's contractor's workers were at work, unknown and unverified persons purporting to be Government agents and believed to be of the Owerri Capital Development Authority and Imo State Environmental Transformation Committee (ENTRACO), during what appeared to be a routine demolition of illegal structures in Owerri stormed various areas in Owerri including plot 269 Ikenegbu Layout, Owerri and inter alia leveled the Claimants' illegal ram-shackle make shift premises and other unapproved structures thereon."

At the conclusion of trial, the trial Court delivered judgment in favour of the Claimants.

Being dissatisfied with the decision of the trial Court, the appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal.

ISSUES:
The Court determined the appeal based on the following issues for determination:
"1. Whether the Learned Trial Judge was right and had the jurisdiction to proceed to deliver the judgment on 14/12/2015 when the Final Addresses were made on 13/7/2015 being FIVE MONTHS after the final addresses were adopted in contravention of S. 294(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
2. Whether the Learned Trial Judge was right to have held that the 1st - 17th Respondents were forcibly and illegally ejected when there was no evidence or proof of same.
3. Whether the excessive award of N10,000,000.00 (Ten Million Naira) as General Damages for unlawful eviction was proper when there was No evidence to show that the 1st - 17th Respondents were in lawful and exclusive possession of the premises that they suffered and damages.
4. Whether the Learned Trial Judge was right to award the sum of N50, 000. 00 (Fifty Thousand Naira) as costs against only the Appellant when the case against the Appellant had not been proved.
5. Whether the Learned Trial Judge was right when he refused and failed to strike out and/or dismiss the suit for being an abuse of process having held that the 1st - 17th Respondents had embarked on a forum shopping spree."


DECISION/HELD:
In the final analysis, the Court of Appeal held that the appeal was unmeritorious. The appeal was accordingly dismissed and the judgment of the trial Court affirmed.


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