Appeal Court affirms N5m judgement against Deeper Life Church for trespassing on Celestial Church land
The Court of Appeal, Lagos Division has upheld the judgement of Justice Samuel Candide-Johnson of a Lagos high court, which ordered the Registered Trustees of Deeper Christian Life Ministry to pay N5 million as damages for trespassing on a parcel of land belonging to the Celestial Church of Christ (CCC).
Celestial Church of Christ had through its representative; Joseph Ebhodaghe sued Deeper Life Church over the disputed land measuring approximately 1055.864 squares situated at Mulero area of Agege and registered as No- 75 volume 2004T at the Lagos State land registry, Ikeja.
At the lower court, Justice Candide-Johnson had in his judgement delivered on January 17, 2014, declared the Celestial Church of Christ as the rightful owner of the disputed land, and awarded N5 million as damages against Deeper Life Church.
The court also granted a perpetual injunction restraining Deeper Life Church, its agents or servants from further trespass on the disputed land.
Dissatisfied, Deeper Life Church through its lawyer, Gabriel Akigbe appealed against the judgment, and urged the court to set the entire judgement aside on the grounds that the trial judge was perverse having regards to the documentary and oral evidence placed before the court.
But in a unanimous decision, the appellate court comprising of Justice Chinwe Iyizoba (presiding), Justice Yargata Nimpar and Justice Abimbola Obaseki-Adejumo held that the appeal is unmeritous and dismissed same accordingly.
In her lead judgment, Justice Abimbola Obaseki-Adejumo resolved all the six issues in contention in favour of the respondent.
Justice Obaseki-Adejumo observed that both parties traced their titles ownership to the Olalabi-Sulu family but held that the title presented by the Celestial Church is superior to that of Deeper Life Church.
The court pointed out that the respondent (CCC) obtained its title in 1973 as against that of Deeper Life Church which was obtained 1998.
The court held that ‘‘in resolving proof of title to land in a case of competing interest , it is beyond doubt that later in time of the two parties to obtain the grant maintain an action against the party who first obtained a valid grant of the land from such a common grant”.
Justice Obaseki-Adejumo held that the trial judge rightly interpreted the evidence led and applied the law when he held that the respondent’s title is superior to that of the appellant.
Beside, the appellate court held that the lower court judge judicially and judiciously carried out its duty to evaluate the documentary evidence as well as oral evidence presented before the court.
On the issue of N5 million damages, the court held ‘’I am unable to agree that damages awarded was excessive, having deprived the respondent the use of the land from 1995 till judgment and erected structures on the land. Coupled with consistent frustrating acts which are evident on the record.’’
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