Thu. Sep 23rd, 2021

Supreme Court Returns Property To Late Desbordes Family After 28 Years Of Legal Warfare

The Returned Property

Supreme Court Returns Property To Late Desbordes Family After 28 Years Of Legal Warfare

The country’s Apex Court, Supreme Court of Nigeria, has grant the possession of a landed property lying and situated at 12, Sabiu Ajose Crescent, Surulere, Lagos, to the family of Late Grant Desbordes.

Apart from granting the said land to Late Grant Desbordes’ family, the five man-panel, Pillars Nigeria limited, also ordered that the suit brought by the appellant lack in merit and dismissed same.

The five man-panel also awarded a cost of N1 million against Pillars Nigeria Limited, the appellant in the suit marked SC.105/2010.

The five Justices of the Supreme Court, who includes; Olabode Rhodes-Vivour; Musa Dattijo Muhammad; Helen Morenikeji Ogunwumiju; Abdu Aboki and Emmanuel Akomaye Agim, in an unanimous decision, upheld an Appeal Court judgment in the suit, dismissing” all the issues raised by the appellant against the judgment of Appeal Court for “have no useful purpose and lacking in merit”.

The legal battle over a landed property  which commenced on May 3, 1993, wherein the family of Late Grant Desbordes who includes his widow, Hannah and his two sons, Louis and Albert had dragged the the company, Pillars Nigeria Limited, before a Lagos High Court, for a declaration that having failed to erect and completely finish a dwelling house as agreed in a written between their late father and the company as par agreement dated October 24, 1977, are in the fundamental breach of the said written Lease/agreement.

Desbordes family in a Writ of Summons dated May 10, 1993 and marked LD/1484/93, had also asked for the forfeiture by the company’s of the said Lease/agreement dated October 24, 1977, by virtue of the said fundamental breach of agreement. 

They also asked for an order that the family immediately recovers possession of all the property which was registered under title Number MO8834, at the Lagos State Land Registry, Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria.

But the defendant, Pillars Nigeria Limited, had objected to the suit and urged the court to dismiss same on the ground that the plaintiffs are not entitled to all the reliefs sought.

In determined the suit, Justice Dolapo F. Akinsanya, in a judgment delivered on December 8, 2020, ordered the forfeiture of the lease while also revert the possession of the landed property to the Late Grant Desbordes’ family.

Justice Akinsanya also awarded a cost of N20, 000, against the company in favour of Late Grant Desbordes’ family.

Dissatisfied with Justice Akinsanya’s judgment, the company, Pillars Nigeria Limited, approached the Lagos Division of Appeal Court in a suit marked CA/L/859/2006, wherein he urged the court to upturned the judgment in its favour.

However, the three man-panel, who includes Justice Raphael Chikwe Agbo; Justice Adzira Gana Mshelia and Reginal Obiageli Nwodo, dismissed the appeal for lacking in merit and upheld the judgment of Justice Akinsanya against the company.

Appeal Court also awarded a cost of N30, 000, against the company and in favour of the Desbordes’ family.

Still not satisfied with the Appeal Court’s decision, the company, approached the Supreme Court for the reversal of Appeal Court decision.

In urging the Supreme Court for the reversal of the judgment, the company formulated four issues which were: “whether the Court of appeal was right in affirming the decision of the trial court that respondents pleaded and proved service of statutory “Notice of Breach of Covenant “(Exhibit E) and “Notice of Quit” (Exhibit G) as required by the law. 

“Whether it was proper for the lower court to deviate from the original dispute before it and decided the appeal on an entirely different issue raised suo motu without giving the parties the opportunity of addressing it on the new issue raised at the hearing of the appeal. 

“Whether the lower court exercised its discretion judiciously and judicially by striking out issue numbers 3. 0(b) and (c) raised by the defendant/ respondent i in its Brief of Argument in the lower court against counsel’s application for merger of “Issues A & B”. 

And whether the plaintiffs/respondents have waived their right to forfeiture by demanding and collecting rent up to 1995 before the purported Notice to ‘Quit (Exhibit a) was allegedly issued in line with the averments in paragraph 22 of the defendant/ appellants’ statement of defence. 

The Desbordes’ family however raised two issues for determination as follows: “Whether based on the concurrent findings of both the trial court and the lower court, this Honourable court is bound to dismiss the appellant’s appeal. Relating to Grounds 1, 2, 3 and 5 of appeliant’s Notice of Appeal. 

“Whether the lower court was right when it struck out issue 3(b) and C raised by the defendant/ appellant in its brief of argument”. 

In determined the issues raised by both parties, Justice Emmanuel Akomaye Agim held that: “the issue the appellant raised for determination from this ground of appeal is different from the complain in the ground. 

“While the issues raised for determination is whether the respondents waived their right to forfeiture by demanding and collecting rent up to 1995 before the notice to quit (Exhibit A) was allegedly issued, ground 5 from which the issue is derived complains that the Court of Appeal erred in law when it held that the trial court rightly found that at the time the suit was instituted on 13/5/93 the appellant had paid his rent up to 21/12/91. 
“As it is, issue No 4 is not derived from ground 5 or any other ground of this appeal. It is therefore incompetent and is accordingly struck out. 

“In any case, the issue and even the Ground 5 of this appeal to which it purports to relate cannot be validly argued for the following reasons. One of the specific findings of the trial court with which the above decision of the Court of appeal generally concurred with is that “defendant deliberately falsified the years for which rent has been paid, since this case was brought to court’ in 1993”. There is no ground of this appeal against the Court of Appeal concurrence with that specific finding. By not appealing against the concurrence with that finding, the appellant accepted it as correct, conclusive and binding upon it. Also in his appeal against the judgment of the trial court, the appellant did not complain against that finding in any of the 4 grounds of the appeal to the Court of Appeal. 

“Having accepted as correct the finding that it deliberately falsified the years for which the rent has been paid, the appellant cannot validly argue that the Court of Appeal erred in law in concurring with the finding of the trial court that at the time the suit was instituted on 13/5/1993, the appellant had paid his rent up to 21/12/1991. As it is the arguments under issue No 4 have no value. 

“In the light of the foregoing, I resolve issue No 4 in favour of the respondents. 

“In the light of my determination of Issues Nos. 1 and 4, no useful purpose would be served determining issues No 2 and 3. On the whole, this appeal fails as it lacks. merit. It is hereby dismissed. 

“The appellant shall pay costs of One Million Naira to the respondents”.

There was no dissenting judgment from other four members of the panel.