Ikorodu High Court Strikes out Gberigbe Land Case

-Confirmed Defendants in Suit No: IKD/52/2014 as owners of Gberigbe land

Kunle Adelabu

Jusice Funmilayo Atilade, Hon Chief Judge, Lagos State

Justice Funmi Atilade, Lagos State Chief Judge

A Lagos State High Court Judge, Justice Michael Savage, of the Ikorodu Judicial Division, has struck out a case filed by Ladera royal family over claim to some portions of land at Gberigbe in Ikorodu Local Government Area for abuse of court process.
In the matter in Suit No: IKD/52/2014, the judge cited many decided cases to establish that the case before him and between Chief Oluwasegun Ogunlana, Alhaji Moshood Andu Osikoya,Mr. Shamusideen Tijani Awo ,Mr. Fatai Olanubi Mayan,Prince Akeem Adeyeri Alogba for themselves and on behalf of Orelade/Ladera family of Gberigbe Orelade as Claimants/Respondents and Talemu Fasanya,Tajudeen Shokenu,Rashidi Karimu,Kolawole Kekeokuta,Korede Oluderu, Mudashiru Bisiriyu,Fatai Odus and Sunday Oshikoya as Defenedants/Applicants was an abuse of court process since same matter has been adjudicated upon by courts of competent jurisdiction.
The ruling of the Court was predicated on the Notice of Preliminary Objection raised by the Defendants lawyer un pursuant to Order 22 and 39 of the High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure Rules) 2012.
The Defendants had sought the Court Order to one, strike out the suit for lack of jurisdiction, two, strike out the suit for being an abuse of Court process and for any further orders the Court deem fit to make.
The four grounds upon which the Defendant’s lawyers by Olusegun Fabunmi brought their application on Monday, October 13, 2014 are:
1. That the claims in this suit had been determined in.
i. Suit No. 139/11-Akinshe & Odueke v. Odumeru as Baale of Agbowa & Anor.
ii. Suit No. LD/179/2000-Chief M. Mayan & Ors v. Mr. J. A. Oluderu & Ors.
iii. Appeal No. CA/L/360/2011-Mr Joseph Adeyinka Oluderu & Ors v.Chief Muriana Mayan & Ors.
2. The above three suits act as res judicata and estoppel against the claimants in this suit.
3. That this suit as presently constituted is an abuse of court process.
4. That this Honorable Court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the suit as presently constituted.
The application was opposed by the Respondents lawyer Kehinde Osibona who relied on Counter-affidavit.
After arguments and counter-arguments by both parties citing relevant decided cases and positions law, Justice Savage commended the parties for their insightful submissions.

Gberigbe Secretary

Chief Odubitan, Secretary, Gberigbe-Orelade Royal family

Delivering his ruling, the presiding judge stated in his ruling,‘In suit No. LD/179/2000 the claimants were granted declaratory judgement on the merits as in MKO1 at the High Court per Oke Lawal J (MRS) and entitled to possession of the piece of land situate, lying and being at Igberigbe-Orelade and bounded by Igbooku.The defendants however appealed and in Suit No.CA/L/360/2011, the Court of Appeal as in MK02 delivered on 16th May 2014 not only set aside LD/179/2000 but declared it a nullity’’.
“This action is in respect of the same Parties, their Privies and the same subject matter. In the case of Faleye Vs Otapo (1995) 3 NWLR (Pt 381) 1 Ogundare J.S.C of blessed memory said:
‘‘it is well established that the styling restyling and misstyling of parties in an action will not prevent a court from examining the proceedings in issue and determining whether the parties in earlier suit are the same or privies to the parties in an earlier suit and thus caught by the doctrine of issues estoppel or res judicata. This is because it is not uncommon for parties who have lost in a land suit to employ all manner of devices to resurrect the land case under various names and guises in a bid to becloud the issue of estoppels or res judicata.Once a matter or issue is finally settled in a previous suit by a court of competent jurisdiction-such a matter or issue so settled should never again on the principle of res judicata or issue estoppel, be raised or relitigated in subsequent litigation’’
‘’The Defendants however appealed the judgement of the High Court as shown in Exhibit MKO2 and in the judgement of the Court of Appeal delivered on 16th May, 2014, the judgement of the High Court Exhibit1 was not only set aside, but it was declared a nullity.’
Justice Savage thereafter holds that Exhibit MK03 constitutes estoppel per rem judicata, aqs certain issues of fact have been settled between the two parties. He then established that the three issues as:
1. That the people of Agbowa have been in possession of the land lying between Gberigbe and Gbokuta stream for years.
2. That it is not correct that the people of Agbowa crossed the Gbokuta stream to be farming on the land area between Gberigbe and Gbokuta stream.
3. That the Baale of Agbowa have been appointing Baales for the neighboring villages for several years including Gberigbe Orelade.
‘From the above findings in the judgement of the Supreme Court in Exhibit MKO3, which was never appealed against by the predecessors of the Claimants, the Defendants are the owners of Gberigbe Orelade land and constitute estoppel per rem judicata’
‘Based on Faleye v Otapo case, Supra, I am of the view that the Claimants ought to appeal the Court of Appeal decision particularly as the lower Court decision was declared nullity. I rely on UAC v Mcfoy Supra as you cannot put something on nothing’ Justice Savage submitted
He then ruled that, ‘I hold the parties in this instant suit and CA/L/360/2011 are the same or their privies, the Res constant and the lower Court judgement declaration a nullity’
While establishing that abuse of Court process is when a party improperly uses the judicial process to the imitation, harassment and or annoyance of the adversary (Arubo v Aiyeleru), Justice Savage then finally submitted ‘Finally, I uphold the Preliminary Objection and strike out this Suit as an abuse of Court Process.’
The case over Gberigbe land was first taken to Court in 1911 by Akishe & Odueko as Plaintiffs against Odumeru (Baale of Agbowa) and Chief Dagburewa of Idowa as Defendants in Suit No: 139/1911. In the then Supreme Court of the Southern Nigeria, the then Acting Chief Justice, His Honour J. Winsfield on 7, October, 1913 in his five page ruling stated
‘‘…it is admitted that the defendants are in possession of the land and that at present no ijede’s are there. The evidence of the defendants establishes that the Baales at Agemo, Orelade, Egunla, Ikola, Oke Lisa,Agbo Ogbokuta and Agbura are, and their predecessors for many years were Agbowas appointed by Baales of Agbowa.I find that the Agbowas have been in possession of the land and have exercised control over it for a time which is inconsistent with the claim of the plaintiff to ownership.’’
Justice Winsfield added that, ‘The plaintiffs have completely failed to prove their case. Judgment therefore will be for the defendants with costs to be taxed.’
In 2009, Chief Mayan M. & Others who are relations of Akishe and Odueko again went to Court to claim ownership of Gberigbe Orelade land that is bounded by Igbokuta, Enu-Owa, Oke-Agbo and Oke-Olokun delineated in Survey Plan No: LA/0611/2002/DS/001. On 14th December, 2009, Honourable Justice Oke-Lawal B.A., of the High Court of Lagos State, Lagos Judicial Division ruled in favour of the Claimants
A Court of Appeal in 2014 upturned the judgment of the lower court given in 2009 that was in favour of the Claimants. In the matter, Appeal No: CA/L/360/2011 before Justices Joseph Shagbaor Ikyegh, Chinwe Eugenia Iyizoba and Samuel Chukwudumebi Oseji and between Mr Joseph Adeyinka Oluderu, Mr Talemo Fasanya and Mr Tajudeen Shokenu and five others who are descendants of Odumeru and Dagburewa as Appellants against members of Orelade and Ladera and Odusanya families of Gberigbe, the Court ruled that, ‘That the judgment of the court below is hereby set aside for lack of jurisdiction’
In 2014 Chief Oluwasegun Ogunlana, Alhaji Moshood Andu Oshikoya and three others for themselves and on behalf of Orelade/Ladera family of Gberigbe (Claimants/Respondents) filed a fresh charge on the same matter before Honourable Justice Savage of the Ikorodu Judicial Division against Talemu Fasanya, Tajudeen Shokelu and Rashidi Karimu and five others who are descendants of Odumeru and Dagburewa (Defendants/Applicants).
Justice Savage ruled in favour of the Defendants who are descendants of Odumeru and Dagburewa who the Supreme Court established as the rightful owner in 1913.
Barristers Olusegun Fabunmi and Richard Oguntade, the Defendants lawyers while responding to the ruling at the court stated that, “the implication of the ruling today is that Gberigbe-Orelade family is the rightful owner of the land in question to the exclusion of other families that are laying claims.”
Chief Kayode Sokelu Odubitan, Secretary Gberigbe-Orelade royal family also commended the ruling and stated that, ‘The ruling is expected because our forefathers has been pronounced as the rightful owners of the entire Gberigbe land in 1913 by a court of competent jurisdiction and this has been reaffirmed by the erudite judge’
Attempts to talk to some of the Ladera family members at the court proved abortive.

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