Court Determines Legal Status of Methodist Missionary Trust Nov. 30

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Tobi Soniyi

An Ogun State High Court sitting in Sagamu will on November 30, 2020 rule on an application filed by members of Efure community, Offin in Sagamu, to determine whether Methodist Missionary Trust Association Limited has a legal status as an incorporated limited company in Nigeria.

The trial judge, Justice Olatunde Oyajinmi fixed the date after hearing counsel’s arguments in support and against the application.

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.

The community is locked in a legal battle against Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Association Limited over a ninety nine year old lease of 54 acres of land.

It wanted the court to set aside the lease on the grounds that Methodist misled it into signing the lease agreement.

In the suit filed by Mr Babatunde Oshilaja 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.

The claimants 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.

The claimants in their 36-page Motion on Notice stated that only legal persons are 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 family added 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 hence was 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 should 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 its name as at March 15, 1931 lacked requisite legal capacity required to enter into a leasehold contract.

The claimants added that the domicile origin of Wesley Missionary Trust Association is the United Kingdom where it is liable to tax laws but illegally carrying out 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 their 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) said 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 had been defeated by statute of limitation, lacking reasonable cause of action and should be dismissed.

They further stated that the claimants’ case had been defeated by laches and acquiescence (unreasonable and inexcusably delay) and should be dismissed.