Court orders Judge to enter defence over N25m Abuja property suit against him

A judge of the National Industrial Court (NIC) has been ordered by a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), in Abuja, to enter his defence to n N25 million property case that was brought against him by an Abuja-based Estate Surveyor.

In a Writ of Summons marked CV/950/2021, the claimant, Mr. James Olobo, alleged that Defendant, Justice Jeremiah Essien, forcefully took possession of his (Olobo)’s property situated at Primasset estate, Lugbe, Abuja.

Olobo had in the suit he filed through his lawyer, Mr. Ataguba Aboje, told the court that Defendant had by a written contract of sale that was executed on May 4, 2020, agreed to purchase his 450sqm land together with a 4-bedroom fully detached duplex carcass for the sum of N25 million.

He told the court that it was an express term of the agreement that Defendant must complete payment for the property, on or before the end of November 2020.

“That on May 4, 2020, in pursuance of the Agreement, the Defendant paid a deposit of N20million out of the said purchase price to the Claimant’s solicitor’s account as an agent and not a stakeholder.

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“It was an express term of the Agreement that the balance of the purchase price of N5m was to be paid in four instalments to the Claimant”.

The Claimant told the court that contrary to the contract of sale, Defendant, paid only N500, 000. 00 before the agreement elapsed, and thereafter, forcefully took possession of the property.

In his statement of claim before the court, the Claimant stated: “What about the 13th of November, 2020, the Claimant discovered that the Defendant had taken possession of the property and was busy altering the property significantly.

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“The Claimant met several workmen working on the instruction of the Defendant and had to stop them from working. This was contrary to the Agreement as possession was agreed to occur only upon completion of payment and not before.

“The Claimant states that he contacted the Defendant to protest his trespass but he became abusive and threatened the Claimant not to interfere with his workmen and not to trespass at his property”.

The Claimant told the court that owing to the refusal of Defendant to complete the payment within the stipulated period, the purchase agreement was terminated, with a cheque issued for a full refund of the monies that were paid through his solicitor’s account.

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“Nearly two months after the Defendant received the Claimant’s letter and the bank drafts, the Defendant returned then to the Claimant’s solicitor’s office on February 26, 2021, using a courier company called Speedaf.

“The Defendant remains adamant that he is entitled to the Property and continues to exercise ownership rights over it unlawfully.

“The Defendant’s attitude to the Claimant despite his infractions is that he occupies a privileged and protected position as a judicial officer, a judge of a superior court of record and there is little or nothing the Claimant can do to him for the breach of the Agreement.

“Claimant states that on one occasion about February 23, 2021, while he was in the estate minding his business, the Defendant confronted him aggressively in the presence of several persons and abused him and called him a ‘bastard’.

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“He also taunted him saying ‘if you are a man come and collect the property, I am waiting for you.

“The Claimant states that after the termination of the Agreement he attempted to repossess the property from Defendant and advertised it for sale to other prospective buyers but the Defendant refused to allow it and continues to scare away potential buyers.

“He falsely reported the matter to the Police claiming that the Claimant criminally trespassed on his property and beat up his workmen in the bid to frustrate the sale of the Property to another buyer”.

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Consequently, the Claimant, is among other things, praying the court for; “A declaration that the Defendant’s forceful takeover and alteration of the Claimant’s property without an agreement or conveyance, amounts to trespass.

“An order awarding N50m against the Defendant for trespass.

“An order awarding N30m as general damages for breach of contract

“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the Defendant from interfering with the Claimant’s title and rights over the property.

As well as, “An order under Order 39 of the FCT High Court Civil Procedure Rules 2018 awarding 30% interest per annum on the judgement sums from the date of judgement until it is paid”.

Meanwhile, the case has been assigned to Justice Sylvanus Oriji who ordered Defendant to file his defence to the suit.

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