By Mary BASSEY, Senior Investigator Correspondent Lagos/
LAGOS– AFTER a prolonged legal battle over ownership of a property situated along Alfred Rilwane Road Ikoyi, a Lagos High Court sitting before Justice Mrs. E. I. Alakija has finally ruled in favour of a Lagos based businessman, Felix Ezeamama. The learned judge in her lead judgment after going through the terms of settlement averred by the parties in dispute, ruled that the Chief Executive Officer of Web Towers Limited, Felix Ezeamama should reclaimed ownership of the contentious property situated on Number 41, Kingsway Road in the highbrow Ikoyi area of Lagos state after all evidences pointed to the effect.
The said property at 41 Kingsway Road (now Alfred Rewane Road), Ikoyi became a subject of controversy when negative reports pointing to a possible unscrupulous dealing involving Chief Ezeamama and one Alhaja Halima Abubakar surfaced online. Defamatory headlines and untrue statements were made without investigations into the truth with the intent to cause and actually caused reputational damage to Felix Ezeamama and he brought the case to the court.Earlier, the court heard that the property at 41, Kingsway Road Ikoyi, Lagos State is owned by Federal Government of Nigeria and managed by the Federal Ministry of Housing. Fourteen (14) Federal Government civil servants were resident in the property and referred to as the sitting tenants. In 2005, the Federal Government of Nigeria adopted a policy to sell Federal Government Landed Property in different parts of Nigeria including Ikoyi.
For the sale of the properties and the administration of the policy, the Federal Government Presidential Implementation Committee was set up. This policy vested in the sitting tenants the right of first refusal to buy the properties in which they are legal sitting tenants.
On 30th March, 2006, the Federal Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, by letter, informed the tenants of 41 Kingsway Road Ikoyi being civil servants in various Federal Government Agencies, of their intention to redevelop the property, and gave said tenants 30 days upon receipt of the letter to vacate the premises and hand over the keys to the Controller, Federal Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.
The legal sitting tenants of all other Federal Government owned properties were in like manner given notices to vacate the properties selected for sale in line with the policy, the fall out of this policy action was that many government owned properties were deserted and became abandoned particularly as civil servants who otherwise resided in Ikoyi had moved to Abuja following the move of the Federal Capital From Ikoyi Lagos to Abuja. In consequence, illegal occupants took over most of the properties that were in the process of being sold or selected for redevelopment.
At this, the occupants of the said property remonstrated the Federal Government to no avail, and on the 8th of July, 2008, the fourteen (14) sitting tenants entered into a Memorandum of Understanding, Deed of Assignment with a Power of Attorney to Web Towers Limited with respect to their rights over the said property.
By these agreements, Web Towers Limited was empowered to negotiate with the Federal Government Presidential Implementation Committee to secure Letters of Offer to buy the property or a replacement of the subject property for the tenants so that upon the success of that negotiation, the tenants would assign their right of first refusal over the property to Web Towers Limited in consideration of the sum of N7,000,000 (Seven Million Naira) as payment from Web Towers Limited to each of the sitting tenants. Alhaja Halima Abubakar having retired from the civil service ought not to be counted among the Legal Sitting Tenants but was in illegal occupation of the property.
In consideration of these Agreements, and as part payment of the N7, 000,000 (Seven Million Naira) agreed sum for the assignment of said rights/interests of each tenant over the property to the Company, Web Towers Limited paid N500, 000 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) to the 14 sitting tenants of the subject property. By so doing, the sitting tenants empowered Web Towers Limited to liaise with the Presidential Implementation Committee on all matters pertaining to the perfection of their interest in the subject property, and to endorse, execute, and receive on their behalf, all documentation in pursuit of its perfection. Web Towers Limited was also empowered to pay for the property, take possession and exercise control over the subject property.
The mater was adjudged by a court of competent jurisdiction in Lagos State who on the 10th of July, 2023 in Suit No. LD/2036GCMW/16 issued its judgment to the effect that, Alhaja Halima Abubakar upon the receipt of a compensatory sum from Web Towers Limited will, within 30 days of the payment of said compensatory sum, vacate the premises in 41 Kingsway Road Ikoyi as has been done by the other sitting tenants, and relinquish vacant possession of same to Web Towers Limited. The court’s judgment was obeyed and Alhaja Halima Abubakar vacated the premises.The court heard that only Alhaja Halima Abubakar remained in illegal occupation of a part of the property after the 13 other sitting tenants had vacated the property following the successful intervention of Web Towers Limited in negotiating, obtaining Offer Letters in their favor, and paying the full transaction price (for the property and those due to the legal sitting tenants) as agreed and contained in the Memorandum of Understanding and Power of Attorney executed between the company and the legal sitting tenants.