Ogun Community Accuses Methodist Mission of Obtaining its Land By Fraud


Tobi Soniyi

The Efure community, in Offin Sagamu has filed a suit against Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Association Limited seeking to set aside a ninety nine year lease of 54 acres of land on the ground that Methodist misled it into signing the lease agreement.

In the suit filed  by Mr Babatunde Oshilaja before the Ogun State High Court sitting in Sagamu on behalf Samuel Banjo, Emmanuel  Oladunni Adelesi, Kolawole Odugbesi for themselves  as members and representatives of Efure Community Offin, Sagamu, the plaintiffs asked the court to nullify the Deed of Lease dated March 15, 1931 on 53.94 acres of land kept at Ogun state land registry, Abeokuta alleging that Wesley Methodist Missionary Trust Association Limited was unknown to law.

Other defendants in the suit are; the Registrar of Titles, Ogun State; the Incorporated Trustees of the Methodist Church; Nigeria Sagamu Local Government; Vigilante Security Organisation; Oladega  Ajelana, Wasiu Asanko and Mrs. Abosede Dauda(members of Kajola Saw Millers); Wasiu Jebe, Alhaja Ganiyat Adebayo, Tunbosun Okubote, Yaya Okesola, Bolanle Adeboga and the Gospel Sabbatarian the True Church of God.

When the matter came up on Wednesday, the trial judge, Justice Justice Olatunde Oyajinmi adjourned it to April 2, 2020 for hearing following the request of counsel to Wesley Methodist Missionary Trust Association limited, Bonajo Badejo (SAN).

Badejo had informed the court that the 1st and 3rd defendants had filed an amended memorandum of appearance brought under order 9, rule 1(1) of the Ogun state high court rules and same had not been served on the claimants.

The plaintiffs have also asked the court  to declare Wesley Methodist Missionary Trust Association Limited as a none juristic personality that did not exist in law.

They also asked the court to determine whether Methodist Missionary Trust Association limited has legal status as an incorporated limited company in Nigeria.

The claimants in their 36-page Motion on Notice stated that only legal persons were capable of possessing legal rights and duties and since Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Trust Association limited was not a legal person registered under the Nigerian law as at March 15, 1931 or thereafter it could not acquire an interest in the leasehold land.

The community  added that that  Methodist Missionary Trust Association limited has no legal status as it was not an incorporated limited company, hence there was no execution of the Deed of Lease on the disputed land.

The claimants stated that as at March 15, 1931 the Wesley Missionary Trust Association Limited was not known to law was therefore not legally capable of exercising the powers and functions of an incorporated company including the power to hold the leasehold land.

They maintained that Wesley Missionary Trust Association Limited failed to comply with general conditions laid down in the Companies’ Ordinance of 1912, or the Companies Act of 1948 and failed to obtain registration and incorporation as a limited liability company. Besides, the claimants noted that by the provision of Section 54(1) of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) every foreign company which before or after the commencement of CAMA was incorporated outside Nigeria and having the intention of carrying on business in Nigeria shall take all steps necessary to obtain incorporation as a separate entity in Nigeria.

They averred that Wesley Missionary Trust Association Limited not being a registered limited liability company as expressed in it name as at March 15, 1931 lacked requisite legal capacity required to enter into leasehold contract.

The claimants added that the domicile origin of Wesley Missionary Trust Association is United Kingdom where it was liable to tax laws but illegally carrying out on business in Nigeria without obtaining registration/incorporation under Nigerian Company statutory legislation.

They argued that all the original rights of the lessors in the Deed of Lease are preserved to their successors and their predecessors who lived in 1931 are in law one and the same.

Consequently, the claimants are asking the court for an order vesting the entire 53.94 acres of land in the claimants as successors to the lessors as deemed holders of the statutory right of occupancy under section 34(2) of the Land Use Act.

However,  in its amended memorandum of appearance brough under order 9, rule 1(1), the 1st and 3rd defendants, (Wesley Missionary Trust Association Limited and the Incorporated Trustees of the Methodist Church) through their lawyer Bonajo Badejo SAN stated that the claimants were not known to the defendants and there was no relationship between them since 1931 when the land was acquired.

They argued that the claimants’ action has been defeated by statute of limitation, lacking reasonable cause of action and should be dismissed. They further stated that the claimants’ case has been defeated by laches and acquiescence (unreasonable and inexcusably delay) and liable to be dismissed.