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N36.8m suit against UBA: Easter vacation again stalls judgment

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Easter vacation has further stalled the delivery of judgment in a N36.8 million suit filed by a Lagos businessman, Alhaji Azeez Ayomumoye, against the United Bank for Africa (UBA) charged with breach of property lease agreement.

Justice Bola Okikiolu-Ighile of an Igbosere High Court, Lagos, had earlier fixed a date to deliver judgment in the suit but found out that there were “grey areas” in the parties’ addresses.

She, however, requested parties to appear in court for clarifications on the grey areas.

The judge had requested the parties to further address her on whether or not the court could not infer that an agreement existed between the parties even in the absence of a Deed of Sublease.

On Feb. 26, parties adopted their further addresses and after listening to the adoption of further written addresses, the judge fixed March 22 to deliver judgment in the suit.

However, on March 22, judgment was stalled again due to the absence of the judge and March 28 was fixed for the judgment which falls on Easter vacation for the courts. Judgment was shifted to April 10.

However, counsel to the defendant, Mr Collins Ogbonna, while addressing the court, argued that the Deed of Sub-lease which the claimant (Ayomumoye) sought to rely on had been rejected by the court.

Ogbonna said the Certified True Copy of the Deed of Sublease which the claimant presented from the Bar at the close of trial should not be considered by the court since the claimant’s witness had already testified in court.

While puncturing the defendant’s argument, Mr Qudus Mumuney, counsel to the claimant, argued that it was the responsibility of the court at the close of trial to look at the totality of the evidence before it both documentary and oral, to reach a fair judgment.

He said the dispute between the parties was not whether there was a Lease of Agreement between them.

Mumuney said: “The only contention of the defendant is that the demolition was done while the claimant stood by without stopping them.

“The law is settled that even if there is no written agreement between the parties, there is an implied covenant imposed by law on the defendant that they cannot alter the claimant’s property without his consent.

“In the absence of such written consent, UBA shall be liable in damages.”

Ayomumoye had claimed that a deed of sub-lease of Oct. 1, 2006 between him and UBA was breached by the bank on his building situated at Plot 15, Aina Lay-out at Dopemu on Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway.

Contrary to the deed of sub-lease, he said the bank “wholly demolished the property and erected a new structure in its place” without his consent and approval.

The claimant also stated that upon discovery of the agreement breach, he protested in writing severally to the bank, requesting for compensation but was ignored by the defendants.

Rather, he said, the bank fraudulently registered some new documents on the property which, according to him, were fundamentally different from what was executed by both parties in 2006.

In its earlier statement of defence filed by its counsel, Mr. O.U. Inneh on Sept. 1, 2009, the bank denied all the allegations, stating that “there were several collateral agreements between the two parties that the leased property would be demolished and re-built to meet the `corporate style structure’ of the defendants.”

In his final written address, Mr Bolaji Ramos submitted that the deed of sub-lease had already been placed before the court, stressing that the bank violated the law and breached the sub-lease agreement by demolishing his property without a written consent and approval of the claimant.

Ramos contended that it was a settled position of law that no tenant can demolish and re-build a rented property without the consent and approval of the landlord.

He recalled that the first written objection of the claimant was submitted to the bank in January 2007, stressing that he could not have expressly protested the bank’s actions if he had consented and approved of the actions.

Submitting his own final written address, the defence counsel, Mr Ogbonna, urged the court to dismiss the claims of the plaintiff, describing it as “vexatious, irritating  and an abuse of judicial process having consented to the property demolition.”

He claimed that the landlord was aware of the demolition and reconstruction plans of the bank after the lease of the property which, he added, was originally not designed for banking operations.

The landlord is claiming N36. 8 million as cost of demolition of present structure and erecting on the original structure, which was demolished by the bank without consent or authorization of the owner/claimant.

In the alternative, the businessman is demanding N24 million being cost of restructuring the present building to a multi-purpose building to the “corporate style” of the bank.