Court vows to accelerate hearing in suit challenging Methodist Missionary’s legal status

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An Ogun State High Court has vowed to give accelerated hearing in the suit filed by members of Efure community, Offin in Sagamu area of the state praying the court to nullify the Deed of Lease dated March 15, 1931 on 53.94 acres of land kept at Ogun state land registry, Abeokuta.

Members of Efure Community had through their lawyer, Babatunde Oshilaja alleged that Wesley Methodist Missionary Trust Association Limited is unknown to law.

When the matter came up, Justice Olatunde Oyajinmi urged parties in the suit to file all necessary documents and avoid unnecessary delays.

The judge warned that once the hearing of the substantive matters begin, he would not entertain superfluous applications warning that “a moving train waits for no one”.

Earlier, in his ruling, Justice Oyajinmi dismissed an application brought by the cliamants praying the court to determine whether Methodist Missionary Trust Association limited has legal status as an incorporated limited company in Nigeria.

The court held that dermining the juridistic personality of Methodist Missionary Trust Association limited at an interlocutory stage would amount to going into the  merits of the case.

The claimants, Samuel Banjo, Emmanuel Adelesi and Kolawole Odugbesi had asked the court to nullify the Deed of Lease dated March 15, 1931 on 53.94 acres of land kept at Ogun state land registry, Abeokuta alleging that Wesley Methodist Missionary Trust Association Limited is unknown to law.

Other defendants in the suit are; the Registrar of Titles, Ogun State; the Incorporated Trustees of the Methodist Church; Nigeria Sagamu Local Government; Vigilante Security Organisation; Oladega  Ajelana, Wasiu Asanko and Mrs. Abosede Dauda(members of Kajola Saw Millers); Wasiu Jebe, Alhaja Ganiyat Adebayo, Tunbosun Okubote, Yaya Okesola, Bolanle Adeboga and the Gospel Sabbatarian the True Church of God.

The claimants in their 36-page Motion on Notice stated that only legal persons are capable of possessing legal rights and duties and since Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Trust Association limited was not a legal person registered under the Nigerian law as at March 15, 1931 or thereafter it could not acquire an interest in the leasehold land.

The claimants added that Methodist Missionary Trust Association limited has no legal status as it was not an incorporated limited company, hence there was no execution of the Deed of Lease on the disputed land.

The claimants stated that as at March 15, 1931 the Wesley Missionary Trust Association Limited was not known to law hence was not legally capable of exercising the powers and functions of an incorporated company including the power to hold the leasehold land.

They maintained that Wesley Missionary Trust Association Limited failed to comply with general conditions laid down in the Companies’ Ordinance of 1912, or the Companies Act of 1948 and failed to obtain registration and incorporation as a limited liability company.

Besides, the claimants noted that by the provision of Section 54(1) of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) every foreign company which before or after the commencement of CAMA was incorporated outside Nigeria and having the intention of carrying on business in Nigeria shall take all steps necessary to obtain incorporation as a separate entity in Nigeria.

They averred that Wesley Missionary Trust Association Limited not being a registered limited liability company as expressed in it name as at March 15, 1931 lacked requisite legal capacity required to enter into leasehold contract.

The claimants added that the domicile origin of Wesley Missionary Trust Association is United Kingdom where it is liable to tax laws but illegally carrying out on business in Nigeria without obtaining registration/incorporation under Nigerian Company statutory legislation.

They argued that all the original rights of the lessors in the Deed of Lease are preserved to their successors and their predecessors who lived in 1931 are in law one and the same.

Consequently, the claimants are asking the court for an order vesting the entire 53.94 acres of land in the claimants as successors to the lessors as deemed holders of the statutory right of occupancy under section 34(2) of the Land Use Act.

But, in its amended memorandum of appearance brough under order 9, rule 1(1), the 1st and 3rd defendants, (Wesley Missionary Trust Association Limited and the Incorporated Trustees of the Methodist Church) stated that the claimants were not known to the defendants and there was no relationship between them since 1931 when the land was acquired.

They argued that the claimants’ action has been defeated by statute of limitation, lacking reasonable cause of action and should be dismissed.

They further stated that the claimants’ case has been defeated by laches and acquiescence (unreasonable and inexcusably delay) and liable to be dismissed.

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