By ONYEKACHUKWU MELUWA, Warri
There was wild jubilation on Friday as the New Jerusalem Church of God in Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State on Friday took possession of a disputed land situated at No. 49, Iyara Street after over twenty three years of legal battle.
The Court took possession of the land following a judgment by Court of Appeal sitting in Benin, Edo State on March 8,2019, AUTHENTIC News Daily reports.
The Court of Appeal had in a unanimous judgement by Justices, Helen Moronkeji Ogunwunmi, Philomena Mbua Ekpe and Samuel Chukwudumebi quashed a judgement delivered by Hon. Justice .A.P.E. Awala of the Delta State High Court just as it ordered the New Jerusalem Church of God in Warri to take possession of the land currently housing an Mtn mast, a car wash, a building under construction and several commercial shops.
Members of the Church were accompanied by Policemen and the Officials of the Court of Appeal effected the judgement today as they placed its “Seal” on the said property.
Members of the church danced under the heavy downpour which lasted barely an hour.
The church had filed a “Notice of Appeal” against one Madam Felicia Ereku substituted for Mr. Victor Omare Ereku.
But the Court of Appeal quashed the judgment by a Delta State High Court judge.
Part of Justice Helen Moronkeji Ogunwunmiju judgment reads thus,”There is in my view no evidence at all to support the grant of any declaratory relief to the Respondent by the trial Court.
“Anyone of the reasons, of lack of jurisdiction by reason of being statute barred, the incompetent process used by the Court to grant the claim of the Respondent and lack of proper service of process were enough to allow the appeal.
” I also considered the merit of the case at trial which forces me to conclude that the judgement of the trial judge cannot be affirmed.
“I am persuaded that there is merit in this appeal and that it should be allowed. The judgment of Hon. Justice A.P.E. Awala delivered on 19/5/2006 in Suit No.W/177/03 is hereby set aside. The claim at trial is statute barred and it is hereby struck out. N100,000.00 for the Appellants against the Respondent.”
Mrs. Charity Emuobosa Ekpiwhre Esq who claimed she was born and named in the church said the land was bought by from the family of the Respondent in 1968.
She noted that they had occupied the land without any opposition and harassment until suddenly a Court judgement was executed on the church by one Mr. Victor Omare Ereku twenty three years after.
“The church is not even aware of the Suit. The church was not served. They were actually taken aback. They moved everybody out.
While noting that there are three key areas in the judgment, Mrs. Ekpiwhre said, “The Appeal Court was able to make it very clear that we have been on this land for more than 23 years before that judgment.
” There’s what is called status of jurisdiction. Somebody is on your land, you have a limited time within the law to take action and if you don’t take action within this period, you can no longer fight for your right.
“Not serving the church, going behind them to get a judgment. That’s also given to us by the Court of Appeal.
” The judge who has been transferred been transferred and has become “suntu officio I.e, no longer have the right” came back from his promotion to give the judgment.
“These are all clear broad daylight robbery. We decided to fight it. It’s been a long battle since 2006 till date(13years now). At a point, it was suspended.”
Mrs. Ekpiwhre thanked God Almighty for the victory at the Court of Appeal saying,”We have come to reclaim what’s ours. I just give God all the glory. This is God’s battle. It is not man’s. It is not something you take the glory.”
While thanking God for the victory on behalf of the church, Apostle Felix Useh also thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for sanitizing the judiciary.
“The strength he has brought caused the change. That’s why this judgment that has been given to the church took place because the judiciary has been overhauled.
” Things that showed ills in the judiciary are gradually being wiped away. That’s the new strides of what we are seeing.”
He advised Nigerians to remove their hand from evil and follow the paths of righteousness saying,”That will make us live long.”
Elder Charles Bosah and Mrs. Queen Onyoroh, a senior mother in the church also neared their minds on the matter.
AUTHENTIC News Daily learnt that, Hon. Justice.A.P.E. Awala had on 19/5/06 delivered the said judgment in favour of one Madam Felicia Ereku(Respondent) and awarded the sum of five million Naira as “general damages” against the New Jerusalem Church of God, Warri(Appellant) in a land dispute which has lingered for over twenty three years.