Son Battles Ojukwu Over Property

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The first son of former Biafra warlord, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Chief Diebe Odumegwu-Ojukwu and his two companies namely, Ogbonna Ojukwu and Associate and Silver Convention Nigeria Limited have slammed a N1.2 billion suit on his father and five others over the management of the family properties.

Others joined as co-defendants in the suit are: the family company, Ojukwu Transport Limited, three members of the board of directors of the company, Professor Joseph O. Ojukwu, Engr. Emmanuel Ojukwu and Lotanna Ojukwu.

A Lagos estate surveying company, Marssey Udegbe is also joined as a defendant.

In a claim filed before a Lagos High Court by a Lagos lawyer, Dr. Abiodun Layonu, SAN, on behalf of the claimants, Chief Diebe Ojukwu averred that sometime in 1995, the board of directors of Ojukwu Transport appointed his company to manage the property of the family especially the ones in Lagos. As a result of this, he had to sacrifice his police job.

However, he said one of the defendants, Emmanuel Ojukwu held almost half of the properties situated in Lagos.

In addition, the second defendant, Professor Joseph Ojukwu has today continued to appropriate to himself the Onitsha properties without any account to anyone, even using the large proceeds to educate his children and to benefit his in-laws to the detriment of the children of his father including himself.

He said the defendants did not at any time from the inception of the agreement make available to him any money for repairs, payment of statutory expenses like tenement rate, electricity bill and water rate in respect of the properties.

Therefore, he has to use his money to repair and recover some of the properties; whereby he spent about N292 million on the properties.

Aside this, he said he had been maintaining the properties. He said he had managed the properties for 15 years after which the agreement will be reviewed.

Therefore, he had to develop the properties. But the defendants are now pressuring him into prematurely handing over the said developed properties; knowing that he had not recouped his investment as per the agreement of 15 years.

He further averred that the total value of the entire development of the new bungalow offices at the back of Nnewi Building, Apapa is with an appraised value of N700 million as at the time of filing the action.

He alleged that the defendants except his father in their quest to dispossess him of the property have gone ahead to nominated Marssey Udegbe to take over the management of the property from him rather than see reason that the termination of the management agreement is unjust and equitable in the circumstance.

They went ahead to nominate the estate surveyor to take over the running of the property.

He went further at paragraph 39 of the statement of claim where he alleged malice and family vendetta, he said the actions of the defendants apart from his father in deliberately denying the claim ants (himself and his company) their dues and returns on investment is also activated by malice, ill-feeling and family vendetta against himself and his father as they expressed to him that he will not empower his father or otherwise by paying them their dues and claims, despite the fact that his father and himself are the only natural son and the natural eldest owner of Ojukwu Transport Limited, the late Sir Louis Ojukwu.

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He said he was practically raised by his poor mother and later fend for himself until he joined the Nigerian Police as a constable in 1970 and eventually rose to the level of a Superintendent of Police as well as qualified as a lawyer and called to the Nigerian Bar in 1986.

He claimed that over the years, he had been denied the estate of his grandfather by defendants except his father. He alleged that the 5th defendant, Lotanna Ojukwu had held grudges against him for refusing to give a loan to him to resolve the immigration problem of his daughter who was to be deported from the US on allegation of fraud.

He said he would have disbursed the loan but for the objection of Lotanna’s legal wife that he was going to use the money to support his children fathered out of legal wedlock. He said the defendant has declined the advice of his father and the one of Emmanuel Ojukwu that the matter be amicably resolved and that the claimants’ claims be resolved and settled.

He therefore urged the court to direct the defendants to pay the claimants N1.8 billion being the money for projected earnings and profits, money expended in improving and upgrading some of the properties and another N50 million as general damages.

He also asked the court to declare that by virtue of the management and subsequent investment in the family properties that himself and his company have vested interest and equitable interest in the said properties.

He therefore urged the court to order the defendant to renew or review the agreement.

However, the defendants and counter claims asked the claimant to prove that he is the first son of their father Ojukwu.

They said the properties were given to him to manage and that he will be paid 10 percent of the rent as his commission but Chief Debie Ojukwu had never paid a kobo he received as rent in a high brow area of Lagos to the Ojukwu Transport Limited and had been renting out the property and appropriating the rent alone as if the property belonged to him.

They claimed that that was why he could afford to join Lagos Island Club and acquire many titles and properties because he could dole out money that does not belong to him to any person or organisation.

As a result of the alleged breach of contract, Chief Debie Ojukwu was said to be owing Ojukwu Transport the sum of N595.8 million.

The defendants also said that Chief Debie Ojukwu, as a lawyer, was aware that his agreement has a tenure of 12 years from 1995 to 2007 which he deliberately flouted by renting out some of the properties for 14 to 18 years, knowing fully that he has no right to do so. So he appropriated all the rent he received from the said agreement without paying a kobo into the account of Ojukwu Transport Limited.

However, in answer to paragraph 39 of the statement of claim, the defendant averred that they will not enter into a mudslinging match with Chief Debie Ojukwu as the said paragraph has nothing to do with the management of the property of Ojukwu Transport Limited as the issue in the suit is the refusal of the claimants to surrender the property of Ojukwu Transport after the termination of his management agreement and his refusal to pay N595.8 million to Ojukwu Transport Limited.

In view of this, in their defence and counterclaims filed before the court by Chief Okochukwu Ugolo, SAN, the defendants while claiming N595.8 million, urged the court to dismiss Chief Debie Ojukwu’s claims with punitive and exemplary costs as the claims are totally frivolous vexatious and lacking in merit as the claimant is merely fishing for gold and seeking to reap where he did not sow by cornering Ojukwu Transport lucrative properties, most of which were acquired before he was born.

—Akin Kuponiyi

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