Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
A High Court sitting in Neni, Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra State has dismissed a claim by the registered trustees of Onitsha Beer Dealers Association over a large expanse of land popularly known as Nwugo Park in Onitsha.
The declaration came after 18 years of legal tussle between the two parties.
While delivering judgement in an action brought against the Attorney-General of Anambra State and Ugochukwu &Sons Limited, the presiding judge, Justice G. C. Anulude, noted that the court has recognised and upheld the original Certificate of Occupancy, (C of O) issued to Ugochukwu & Sons Limited in 1978 by the then military government of old Anambra State, as the authentic and bonafide title holder with respect to the entire area of land measuring 5.388 hectares of land known as Nwugo Park.
In the judgement which brought to an end the court proceedings that spanned for over 18 years, Justice Anulude also awarded a N50,000 cost against the plaintiff (Registered Trustees of Beer dealers Association) in favour of the second defendant (Ugochukwu & Sons Limited).
The plaintiff had dragged the Attorney-General of Anambra State) to court in 2001 as first defendant in Suit No. 0/581/2001 and joined Ugochukwu & Sons Limited as second defendant in 2006 by order of the court, claiming the ownership of the large expanse of land in question (Nwugo Park).
In their statement of claim, the plaintiff averred that they (trustees of the Beer Dealers Association) entered into a pre-incorporation contract with a company known as CSJ Nigeria Limited for the lease of the land.
The plaintiff further averred that the pre-incorporation name utilised by some of their members then was Ochanja Beer Dealers, adding that it was in that capacity, through their representatives that they executed the said indenture and proceeded to pay a huge premium for the land, after their investigation revealed that the land formed part of a large expanse measuring 5.388 hectres which was originally granted the second defendant by the then Military Governor of Old Anambra State, Col. John Atom Kpera on May 13, 1978, by virtue of a statute C of O registered as No 41 on Page 41 in Volume 1016 in the land office at Enugu, now Awka.
But while testifying before the court, Chukwudi Ugochukwu, manager to the second defendant, Ugochukwu & Sons Limited, stated that they relied on the state government’s White Paper of 2001 which was released after a Commission of Inquiry set up by the then Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju’s administration which recommended that the deed of building lease in respect of the said allocation was executed between both parties (Ugochukwu & Sons Limited and Anambra State government on May 12, 1978 for a term of 99 years for the purpose of brewing and distribution of larger beer, soft drinks, aerated water and accommodation for factory engineers, staff, warehousing and storage.
Led in evidence by their legal counsel, the second defendant recalled that the government White Paper had specifically directed that interested parties in the land should approach Ugochukwu & Sons Limited, the bonafide owner of the land for any sub-lease if they could agree on terms for such.
In his reaction shortly after the judgement, Chukwudi, the second defendant’s manager, described it as a land mark verdict which is an indication that the judiciary is truly the last hope of a common man.