A Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja has delivered judgment in the long-drawn litigation over the management and control of some of the assets of Ojukwu Transport Ltd, OTL, in favour of Ambassador Bianca Ojukwu, widow of the late Igbo leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, and her two children.
The late Ikemba Nnewi was a director of OTL, a family company, before he died in 2011.
The suit, LD/1539/2012, filed by Bianca on behalf of the claimants, her two sons, Afamefuna and Nwachukwu, who were infants at the time, against OTL and seven others (brothers of the late Dim Ojukwu, their sons and property agent) before the court, was over alleged move by the defendants to take possession of claimants residence at No. 29 Oyinkan Abayomi Drive, Ikoyi, Lagos, as well as some of the company’s property in Lagos, which were under the management and control of their late Biafran warlord.
The defendants in the suit filed in 2012 are OTL, Prof Joseph Ojukwu, Engr. Emmanuel Ojukwu, Lotanna Putalora Ojukwu, Dr. Patrick Ike Ojukwu, Arch. Edward Ojukwu, Lota Akajiora Ojukwu and Messrs. Massey Udegbe (doing business under Massey Udegbe & Company).
The claimants stated that at about August 4, 2011, while their father was sick and hospitalized in London, the 4th-7th defendants attempted to forcibly take possession of their home at No. 29 Oyinkan Abayomi Drive (formerly Oueens Drive), Ikoyi, Lagos, claiming that after the death of their father and soon after his burial, the 2nd-7th defendants went on to appoint a property agent, the 8th defendant, to take over, not only their father’s residence at Oyinkan Abayomi Drive but also other property under the possession, management and control of their father, namely No. 13 Hawksworth Rd (now known as 13 Ojora Rd) Ikoyi; No. 32A Commercial Ave, Yaba, Lagos; No. 30 Gerard Rd, Ikoyi, Lagos and No.4 Macpherson Avenue, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Delivering judgment on June 24, this year, the court presided over by Justice A. M. Lawal, after considering all the evidence adduced by the parties in the course of the proceedings spanning about 10 years, ruled that the claimants being biological children of the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu by that virtue are entitled to the estate of their father, as well as his entitlements as a deceased director and shareholder of the Ist defendant.
Justice Lawal stated that “equity is fairness and fairness is equity,” adding that as a court of equity, the court would not allow the dispossession of the claimants who are children of a foundation director of the company while other directors are in hold and control of other property of the Ist defendant and deriving benefits from the same.
“Therefore, the claimants are entitled to possess and control what their late father possessed and controlled in the company, OTL, when he was alive,” he ruled.
The judge stated that the fact that the 1st defendant allowed the family of the company to live on, and derive income from the assets of the company all these years was a decision of the company by conduct.
He noted that the 2nd defendant who had refused to surrender the property under his control for joint management cannot now lead the battle of having the deceased director’s children hounded out of possession of the property that was managed by their late father.
The counterclaim instituted by the defendants was struck out for lack of competence as the court declared “That the claimants are entitled to the possession and occupation of the property known as No. 29 Oyinkan Abayomi Drive (formerly Oueens Drive), Ikoyi, Lagos, until the harmonization of the management of the assets of the Ist defendant;
“That the threat of forceful ejection of the claimants from No.29 Oyinkan Abayomi Drive, Ikoyi, Lagos, by the defendants is illegal;
“That the claimants are also entitled to the possession of the properties known as No 13 Hawkesworth Rd, Ikoyi (now known as No 13 Ojora Rd, Ikoyi); No. 32A Commercial Avenue, Yaba, Lagos; No. 30 Gerard Rd, Ikoyi, Lagos and No. 4 Macpherson Ave, Ikoyi, Lagos, which were some of the properties that were under the possession of the late father of the claimants from the time the properties were released from government acquisition.
“That the 2nd-8th defendants are restrained either by themselves or through their agent or privies from interfering with the claimants’ possession and control of the 5 listed properties, being the subject matter of the suit.”
Present as the judgment was delivered were the Ist, 5th and 8th defendants, with the 5th defendant, a director of the Ist defendant representing the Ist defendant.