Ostensibly moved to protect vast landed property, said to be owned by six prominent families, the Apena family of Ojuwoye, Mushin, Lagos State, has instituted a fresh suit, at a Lagos High Court, seeking among others, judicial pronouncement over their inherited assets.
The new suit, which is still at its infancy, brought in a representative capacity for the Osu Apena family of Lagos, came few months after a Supreme Court of Nigeria in its judgment, stripped two members of the land owing family ownership claim to two plots of land within Mushin.
Specifically, Messrs. Ramonu and Jimoh Apena had lost ownership of the land to Oba Fatai Aileru and Alhaji Shittu Bakare, who approached the court as head and accredited representative of Ojuwoye community in Mushin respectively.
The verdict, it was learnt, has led to apprehension among the residents, while allegation of subverting justice by a section of the family to the detriment of others is becoming louder within the thickly populated environ.
But to put the record straight, six persons including Chiefs Gaffar, Tesilim, Nurudeen, Rashidi Apena and Princes Taiwo Ogundipe and Waidi Mudashiru for themselves and on behalf of the Osu Apena family of Ojuwoye Community, Mushin, Lagos, had sued Oba Fatai Aileru and Chief Mutiu Bakare for themselves and on behalf of Aileru family. Also named as defendants are Mr. Ganiu Akinliyi and Alhaji Aliyu Aganran for themselves and as representatives of Odu-Abore family as well as Ilu Committee all of Mushin, Lagos.
According to the claimants’ process in the fresh suit, the defendants in the instance case was alleged to have connived and obtained a consent judgment of the High Court of Lagos state in a suit No. ID/1640/2002 wherein “they claimed themselves as the owners of all the land in Ojuwoye Community, Mushin, Lagos, to the exclusion of other families…”
Representatives of Apena family said the whole stretch of Ojuwoye Community consists of six families including the Odu-Abore, Osu-Olowu, Ajose, Asesewon, Osu-Apena and Aileru, adding that the Supreme Court judgment by which both Aileru and Odu-Abore got affects two members of their family, who were not sued in a representative capacity.
They said each of the families owns and occupies its parcels of land in Ojuwoye community and within the context of the Ojuwoye survey plan No. A151 of 1943 reproduced to K1911, contending that the Osu-Apena family land within Ojuwoye community was by inherintance and settlement and were never at any point in time partitioned amongst the family members.
It is also their claim that that Osu-Apena family is still in occupation and control of two parcels of land within the Ojuwoye Community and each of the landed property exceeds 10 acres.
Claiming that the Odu-Abore and Aileru families have started tampering with the landed property belonging to all of them, the Osu-Apena family wants the court to restrain the duo and their representatives from trespassing, alienating, leasing, tampering and otherwise dealing with the allotments and interests of the Osu-Apena family and other families making up Ojuwoye Community.
Attempts by Aileru and Odu-Abore to deal with the unallotted communal landed property as their exclusive inherited property to the eclusion of others, particularly, the plaintiffs, should also be forestalled, the Osu-Apena seeks the court.
Also, the plaintiffs want the court to declare that the six families are the legal and valid owners of the communal land in Ojuwoye, while seeking an order of court to order the defendants render account for all moneys received and collected by them or any other person, who had acted or acting at their promptings in connection with the communal land.
Issues canvassed at the Supreme Court were whether te Court of Appeal’s decision that Aileru and Odu Abore families, and both families alone, constitute the Ojuwoye community, to the exclusion of all other families in Ojuwoye, in view of the Supreme Court judgments…
Also determined was whether from the totality of the evidence canvassed by the appellants, the Court of Appeal was right in assuming and concluding that the appellants derived their title from another “Ojuwoye community”, which was not the same with the respondents’ Ojuwoye community who were the descendants of Aileru and Odu Abore families whenboththe appellants and respondents relied on the plan tendered as exhibit “A” in suit No. 127 of 1944, confirmed and reinforced in consolidated suit Nos. 113 and 114/50. Did this assumption result in a miscarriage of justice?
Others are whether the appellants from the oral and documentary evidence adduced at the trial are members of the Ojuwoye community to justify their occupation and possession of the land in dispute and whetherthe respondents, who were plaintiffs in this suit, discharged the burden of proof placed on them in establishing that the appellants (defendants) were “trespassers” and not “allottees” to justify the claim in trespass, and injunction granted to them by the appellate court, in reversing the judgment of the High Court.”
It is however the view of the respondents, that two issues are relevant for the determination of this appeal. The two issues as formulated by their counsel are as follows: whether the Court of Appeal was right when they held that the plaintiffs/respondents were entitled to succeed on their claim for damages for trespass and injunction.
They also wanted to know whether the Court of Appeal was right when they held that the defendants/appellants failed to lead any evidence, as to the composition of his own Ojuwoye community and the source of title of the said Ojuwoye community in dispute.” I intend to be guided by the issues formulated by the appellants.
Reviewing the submission, Justice Okoro said that, in a civil case, the claim of the plaintiff is won and lost first on the pleadings and secondly on the evidence led in support of averments in the statement of claim.
Equally, he held that the defence of the defendant is based on the facts averred in his statement of defence and evidence in support thereof, adding that, the purpose of pleading was to give the other side at the earliest opportunity, the case the other side is to meet. It is important to state further that there cannot be a better notice of the case a party intends to make than his pleadings.
“It is a notice and can never be substituted for the evidence required in proof of the facts pleaded, subject however to an admission made by the other party. I need to emphasize also that evidence led at the trial, which is at variance with the pleadings goes to no issue and must be rejected or discountenanced.
“The sum total of all I have been saying above is that the appellants have failed to show why this court should upturn the judgment of the Court of Appeal in this matter. Accordingly, this appeal is devoid of merit and is hereby dismissed. I affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeal. I award costs of N100,000.00 in favor of the respondents.
This item originally appeared on Guardian news