The Supreme Court has set aside Friday, June 23, 2017, to rule on whether a typographical error of date on a search report issued by the Abuja Geographical Information System (AGIS) constitutes fresh evidence in a disputed property in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Parties to the suit are Sokoto Prince and former Nigeria’s Ambassador to South Africa, Alhaji Shehu Malami and business mogul, Sir Emeka Offor, as appellants, and a Nigerian-American businessman in Diaspora, Mr. Imoukhuede Ohikhuare, who is the first respondent.
Before the typographical error came up in the matter at the apex court, both Malami and Offor had lost the case at the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division on May 28, 2015.
At the last hearing on the matter on March 28, 2017, counsel to both Malami and Offor, Joe Agi (SAN), had claimed before the Supreme Court that the error constituted fresh evidence in the legal tussle.
The AGIS document has been available to Malami and Offor when the case started at the Abuja High Court and the Court of Appeal.
When the apex court’s panel led by Hon Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour (JSC) asked Agi if he did not spot the typographical error through hearings at the High Court and the Court of Appeal, Agi said that he did not represent Malami and Offor at the lower courts.
But, one of the lawyers who appeared alongside Agi and deputises for him when he is absent from court at the Supreme Court, Mr. J. C. Njikonye, was on the Malami/Offor legal team from the inception of the case at the lower court headed by Justice A.S. Umar.
As a tradition, the apex court does not consider evidence tendered at the lower courts as litigants who appear before it only present fresh evidence hitherto unavailable at the courts below.
Before the case assumed this dimension Ambassador Malami had sought to withdraw from it through another lawyer, Mr. Shaka Awaliene, a move, Offor opposed.
While ruling on Malami’s bid to opt out of the appeal, the Supreme Court had accepted Agi as counsel to both appellants in the matter, insisting that the Sokoto Prince would have to appear in person before it to disown Agi and tell the court that he would rather abide by the Court of Appeal verdict on the case than continue at the apex court.
The disputed property, a N1 billion two-wing duplex is located on Plot 1809 Asokoro, Abuja. The appellants took possession of it from Ohikhuare four years ago based on the judgment of Justice Umar, in a suit filed by Ambassador Malami.
In a unanimous decision delivered on May 28, 2015, the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division restored the ownership of the property to Ohikhuare, a verdict which is now on appeal at the Supreme Court.
The Appeal Court had declared the High Court judgment legally deficient because Malami “no longer had the power to initiate proceedings at the lower court for himself because it is settled that an irrevocable power of attorney given for valuable consideration robs the donor of power to exercise any of the powers conferred on the donee.”