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Methodist Church Counsel Absent As Hearing Continues Over 54-Acre Land Dispute
The absence of counsels to the Methodist Church, Nigeria, allegedly accused of trespassing on a land measuring over 53 acres in Sagamu stalled proceedings at a High Court in Sagamu, Ogun on Thursday.
The Efure Community, Offin in Sagamu had dragged the Trustees of the Methodist Church, Nigeria before the High Court for alleged illegal occupancy of land measuring 53.94 acres.
The suit, numbered HCS/270/2017, had initially been mentioned on April 16 before Justice A.A. Babawale sitting at the High Court.
The claimants, identified as Samuel Banjo, Emmanuel Adelesi, Kolawole Odugbesi and Mansur Baruwa-Banjo had sought injunctive reliefs against the defendants.
The suit was instituted against a foreign company, Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Trust Association Ltd, the Registrar of Titles in Ogun State, the Methodist Church of Nigeria, the Sagamu Local Government Council and five other defendants.
The claimants are seeking an order to compel the church, the council and others to refund monies due them as the owners of the land after the enquiry.
They alleged that the defendants not only unlawfully occupied their land but let part of it to other persons from whom they collected rents and revenue for several years.
Addressing the court, Counsel to the Claimants, Mr Babatunde Oshilaja, said in spite of proofs that the originating process and the summons for the account had been served on all the defendants, they had yet to file their defence.
“We have a summons before the court dated Jan. 23 and filed same day.
“The fourth defendant, Sagamu Local Government, on the appearance of April 16 compelled the court to study and regularise their defence to the summons which was granted.
“The third defendant, Methodist Church, have kept silent and not reacted at all while they keep abusing the rights of lease of the claimants.
“The third and fourth defendants mentioned earlier are strangers to the lease term. They just occupied the land and engaged it to their personal use my lord.
“We need an order of court for them to file an affidavit attaching the statement of accounts possessed and declaration of all assets on the land.
“This will enable the court to establish the actual amount we are owed,” Oshilaja stated.
Counsel to Sagamu Local Government, Jadesola Oresanya, pleaded with the court for more time to file their defence stating that the delay was due to circumstances beyond their control.
The judge, Babawale, said she will study the application of the claimants and adjourned the case for further hearing till July 3.
It could be recalled that the Efure Community claimed to have entered a 100-year lease with the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Trust Association Ltd in 1931 for their land at the rate of one shilling per annum.
The original terms of the lease agreed upon the building of boarding facilities for schools and residential apartments for principals.
The terms of the lease is claimed to be allegedly breached by illegal transfer and commercialisation of the property.