The Supreme Court will on Tuesday, March 28, 2017, hear the fresh appeal involving Sokoto Prince, elder statesman and former Nigeria’s Ambassador to South Africa, Alhaji Shehu Malami and businessman, Sir Emeka Offor in a dispute with Nigerian-American businessman, Mr Imokhuede Ohikhuare, over an Asokoro Abuja property.
On that day, the soundness or otherwise of a 2014 ruling in the Supreme Court by the new Chief Justice of Nigerian (CJN), Justice Walter Samuel Onnoghen, will be tested in the apex court.
In the ruling delivered on February 11, 2014 in suit Number SC/440/2012 involving Mrs Mojisola Edebiri (appellant) and Prince Omotayo Daniel and another (respondents), Justice Onnoghen had dismissed the appeal instituted by Edebiri on the ground that the “appellant haven sold or divested himself of any interest in the property, subject matter of the appeal, has no further interest therein to protect.”
The property being contested by Malami and Offor is a two-wing duplex property built on Plot 1809 Asokoro by Ohikhuare. It is valued at over N1 billion and was taken over from Ohikhuare based on a judgment delivered by an Abuja High Court Judge A.S. Umar in a suit filed by Ambassador Malami.
But, in a unanimous decision on May 28, 2015, the Court of Appeal, Abuja restored the ownership of the property to Ohikhuare on the grounds that Ambassador Malami “had divested himself of any interest in the property” through an irrevocable power of attorney he donated to Offor before he instituted the suit at the High Court.
Since Offor was not part of the High Court proceedings, the Court of Appeal further ruled that there was no proper plaintiff at the lower court, hence the verdict of the court below was invalid as it stood on nothing.
Since the Appeal Court ruling almost two years ago, Offor still occupies the property apparently because of the fresh appeal at the apex court.
Legal pundits believe that upcoming appeal will test Justice Onnoghen’s avowal to reform the Judiciary as the country’s new CJN, especially in upholding the rule of law, zero tolerance for impunity and timely dispensation of justice by reducing adjournments to the barest minimum.
The March 28 date is the third time, the case will be coming up at the Supreme Court. The last two adjournments in the matter were caused by the open disputes over whom among two young lawyers - J. C. Njikonye) and Shaka Awaliene – has Malami’s brief to represent him in the matter at the apex court.
While Njikonye claimed that he was appearing for Malami and Offor as joint appellants in the suit, Awaliene insisted that he had the elder statesman’s brief to represent him in the case, insisting that Malami has no interest in pursuing the matter at the Supreme Court and therefore wants his name struck off the suit.
Both Njikonye and Awaliene tasked the patience of the five-man panel of Supreme Court justices on Tuesday, November 15, 2016, when the matter came up for hearing as the duo traded claims and counter claims on holding brief for Malami.