Justice Jumoke Pedro of a Lagos High Court sitting in Lagos has dismissed the preliminary objection raised by Murhi International Limited against the locus standi of Jukot Ventures, owned by businessman and former commissioner for information in Ekiti State, Kayode Otitoju, to sue over the demolition of his events centre on the land by the Green Zone in Lekki Phase One in Lagos.
In suit number LD/2625LM/16 dated May 31, 2016, counsel to Murhi International had sought the court to dismiss the suit brought before the court by Otitoju’s Jukot Ventures claiming that it had no locus standi to institute such suit in the first place.
It could be recalled that the events centre, on which Otitoju had invested over N22 million, was demolished purportedly on the orders of Lagos State ministry of physical planning even when a subsisting case had been instituted against such action.
The plaintiff, Murhi International, owned by businessman, Alhaji Gbadeyanka, asked the court to strike out the proceedings instituted by the claimant because he had no locus standi to challenge the decision to demolish his event centre in the Lekki Green Zone.
However, in her ruling, Justice Pedro, while painstakingly going through the motion and counter-motion, said “the issue of locus standi is a fundamental jurisdictional issue which can be raised at any time.”
The judge said the counsel to plaintiff had argued that while he admitted that there was a tenancy by the claimant on the said land, the tenancy had since expired and what the claimant had there could be termed as trespassing. But the court admitted that even if the tenancy had expired, a tenant-landlord relationship was still existing between Lagos State government and Jukot Ventures since the tenancy was on the verge of renewal.
But the counsel to the claimant argued that even if tenancy had expired, that did not give right to the owner of the property to take over the said property through self-help since there were laid down procedures for reclamation of properties.
The judge, however, ruled that the legal right to sue under any situation was a fundamental right of the claimant. She added that he could do this if he felt his legal or civil rights were being impinged or were in the process of being impinged.
“The court must be bear in mind that his judicial powers are being invoked and the matters in which judicial powers could be exercised are by provisions of Section 66b of the then 1979 constitution which expressed stated to extend all maters between all persons, authority in Nigeria as to the civil rights and obligations of that person,” Justice Pedro ruled.
The judge said from the position adopted by the claimant, he had averred that he was the rightful owner of the land which was the subject matter of dispute. The judge was quick to add that she was not in any way saying he was the true owner of the land, but he had averred so and that he was granted development permit by the Lagos State government subject matter of this suit.
“I am of the humble opinion that the claimant has disclosed sufficient interest and legal propensity to institute this suit,” Justice Pedro declared. While admitting that it was not a question of rightful ownership, but averment, the claimant had every locus standi to institute legal proceedings over the land. And on that note, the judge dismissed the objection to Otitoju’s locus standi on the matter.