Appeal Court rebukes property developer over sharp practices

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By Edith Nwapi
The Court of Appeal in Abuja has slammed an Abuja property developer, Cecil Osakwe, over sharp practices, nullifying an earlier ruling of an FCT High Court in favour of Osakwe.

The Court of Appeal unanimously upturned a previous judgment of Justice Othman Musa of the FCT High Court which directed Osakwe, the Chief Executive Officer of Abeh Signatures Ltd. to refund N150 million to an investor, Ms Asabe Waziri.

The appellate court also slammed a fine of N500,000 against Osakwe.

The fine is to be paid to Waziri, a staff of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. Ltd (NNPCL), who reportedly bought a luxury apartment from Osakwe.

The three-man appellate court, headed by Justice Hamma Barka, vacated the high court’s ruling, describing the judgment as devoid of credible evidence and constituting a miscarriage of justice.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the FCT High Court had on Feb. 17, 2022, delivered a judgment, ordering Waziri to vacate the two-bedroom property she bought from Osakwe.

The property is located in Maitama, an up-market district of the FCT.

However, dissatisfied with the high court judgment, Waziri, through her lawyer, Mr Henry Eni-Otu, appealed the ruling.

Osakwe had in 2022 approached the lower court, asking for contract revocation in the sale of two luxury apartments, citing what he described as the mode of payment of N150 million by Waziri, the buyer.

The controversial developer had claimed that Waziri’s mode of payment in the transaction contravened the provisions of the Money Laundering Act.

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He also claimed that the buyer made a cash payment of $40,000.00 and bank transfers worth $100,000.00 through a bureau de change.

The developer also alleged that Waziri presented herself as a businesswoman, whereas she is a civil servant working with the NNPCL.

Subsequently, Osakwe offered to pay back the money earlier paid to him for the apartments in his bid to recover the apartments earlier sold to Waziri.

But Waziri had denied the claims made by Osakwe, saying that she only paid $5,000 from the N130 million agreed on the transaction and that Osakwe requested that he needed dollars.

She also presented evidence of all the transfers made to the property developer’s accounts.

Delivering judgment in the appeal, marked CA/ABJ/CV/246/2022, the three-man appellate court held that the judgment of the lower court was not supported by credible evidence.

The appellate court held that the trial court judge veered off the track in his reasoning and occasioned a miscarriage of justice.

“It is trite law that a party seeking declarative reliefs must establish his entitlement to such reliefs, based on the strength of the case and is not entitled to rely on the weakness of the case of the respondents, unless such weakness aids his case.

“The facts forming the respondent’s case before the lower court were contained in the affidavit in support of the originating summons.

“The appellant as defendant filed a counter-affidavit and therein sought to clarify all the material allegations made by the respondent in his affidavit in support to the originating summons.

“In particular with respect to the allegations of cash payments of $40,000 was part of the cost of building, thus offending the provisions of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.

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According to the justices, the defendant vehemently denied the averment, posting further that the only money she paid in dollars was $5,000 in cash made to the alter ego of the respondent on request.

“Surprisingly, on all the exhibits attached to the affidavit in support of the originating summons, none mentioned the fact of payment of $40,000 in cash in satisfaction of the sale agreement.’’

They argued further that in the same vein, the allegation of the identity of the appellant which the respondent relied upon as a ground to vitiate the concluded transaction was not substantiated with the appellant having joined issues on those facts.

“It behoves the respondents to lay facts of proof in support of those allegations.

“The respondent, apart from mere allegations made, failed to sustain it by producing tangible evidence to back up the assertion.

“On the contrary, the appellant not only controverted the allegations but went further to supply evidence through e-mail exchanges, details of accounts and evidence of payment to debunk allegations pertaining to her identity.

“It is clear that the respondent, having benefited more from the transaction, seeks to vitiate the contract possibly to further benefit from it.

“I agree with the appellant’s counsel that the appeal is destined for success and should be allowed.

“Hence, having resolved all issues in favor of the appellant, this appeal succeeds and is hereby allowed.

“The judgment of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja in suit No: CV/2435/2021, delivered on February 17, 2022, is hereby set aside and all actions taken consequent to the said judgment also stand vacated.

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“The appellant is entitled to costs assessed at N500,000 Appeal is allowed,” the Court of Appeal justices held.

On Feb. 17, 2022, Justice Othman Musa of the FCT High Court in his judgment, ordered that the Maitama properties be reverted to Osakwe.

He also ordered Osakwe to pay back the sum of N150 million, being money deposited by Waziri for the apartments.

Musa ruled that: “In view of the way and manner or mode of payment employed by the defendant in the purchase of the two flats at Abeh Court, belonging to the claimant, same as rendered the contract for the purchase of the properties void for violating money laundering laws. (NAN) ( )


edited by Sadiya Hamza

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