Justice Oluwatoyin Odusanya of the Lagos State High Court, Ikeja, has fixed January 23, 2024, to rule on the admissibility of a 1974 marriage certificate tendered by Mrs. Adenike Oluwayemisi Ajayi over the estate of her late estranged husband, Dr. Tosin Ajayi who died intestate in Lagos State on April 26, 2020.
Justice Odusanya adjourned for ruling after talking arguments from counsel to the Claimants, Mr. Kunle Adegoke SAN and that of the Defendants, Mr. Abiodun Owonikoko.
The Claimants, Mrs. Adenike Oluyemisi Ajayi, her children, Tomi Deru (Nee Ajayi Olumide Ajayi, Omolade Soetan (Nee Ajayi, Mayowa Okeowo (Nee Ajayi) and Bisola Ajayi had in suit number ID/3364LM/21 filed against Ms. Helen Davies, and her daughter, Tomisin Ajayi are praying the court for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the 1st Defendant from interfering in the management of the Estate of Dr. Tosin Ajayi.
In her evidence-in-chief yesterday, Mrs. Adenike Ajayi (1st claimant) told the court that she was a retired nurse and adopted her witness statement on oath dated 17th February, 2023.
She also tendered several documents including the death certificate of Dr. Tosin Ajayi, the funeral receipt, letter from Falana & Falana law firm, a Certified True Copy (CTC) of Counter Affidavit, Certificate of Compliance, and Photographs among others.
However, counsel to the Defendants, Abiodun Owonikoko, objected to the admissibility of of her Marriage Certificate dated 6th of July 1974 on the ground that the marriage certificate was not authentic.
Owonikoko, argued that the certificate was not qualified as a Certified True Copy of a public document, stressing that only copies made from the original can be administered by the court.
He stated that only a duplicate copy of the Marriage Certificate and not a photocopy could be admitted as part of the record of the court.
But, lawyer to the Claimants, Kunle Adegoke, submitted that a public document either original or a Certified True Copy was admissible in court.
He said there was no allegations of forgery or falsification and urged the court to admit it as part of the documents of the Claimant.
The Claimants in their statement of claim averred that the 1st Claimant was the only surviving spouse of late Dr. Tosin Ajayi, who passed on April 26, 2020.
The Claimants praying for a declaration that the 1st Claimant was entitled to the personal chattels absolutely and one-third of the Estate of Dr. Tosin Ajayi who died intestate in Lagos State on April 26, 2020.
“A declaration that the Claimants and the 2nd Defendant are entitled to apply and obtain Letters of Administration of the Estate of Dr. Tosin Ajayi who died intestate in Lagos State on April 26, 2020.
“A declaration that the 1st Defendant is not entitled to any share in the personal chattels and residuary Estate of Dr. Tosin Ajayi who died intestate in Lagos State on April 26, 2020.
“An Order directing the 1st Claimant to take the personal chattels absolutely and one-third of the Estate of Dr. Tosin Ajayi who died intestate in Lagos State on April 26, 2020.
“An Order directing the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Claimants and the 2nd Defendant to take an equal share of the remaining two-thirds of the Estate of Dr. Tosin Ajayi who died intestate in Lagos State on April 26, 2020.”
But, the Defendants in their statement of defence averred that 1st Claimant was no more than an estranged spouse of Late Dr Tosin Ajayi (the deceased), as parties were separated for about thirty-five (35) years before the demise of the deceased.
They stated that after the separation, the deceased spent the next 10 years living alone before he met the 1st Defendant.
The Defendants stated that after a period of courtship, the deceased expressed his intention of marrying the 1st Defendant and thereafter travelled to Port Harcourt to see her mother (1st Defendant’s mother).
Further to the deceased’s expression of interest, he carried out all requisite demands under the Kalabari custom (where the 1st defendant hails from) upon acceptance of his proposal by the 1st defendant’s mother (who was the only surviving parent at the material time) at her Kalabari homestead.
Furthermore, defendants averred that no form of traditional marriage rites under Yoruba custom was observed in the marriage by either the 1st defendant or the deceased, both having elected to adopt the Kalabari native law and custom as demanded by the 1st defendant’s mother in keeping with the promise made by the deceased.
Defendants averred that the standard incidence of unconditional marriage under Kalabari culture was that the wife enjoys the right of inheritance and the home of the husband along with children of the husband where he predeceases her (as in this case where the deceased predeceased the 1st defendant).
They stated that contrary to the averments in paragraphs 3 and 18 of the Statement of Claim, the 1st defendant and the deceased performed all the requisite Kalabari traditional marriage rites after the period of courtship to consolidate their marriage as husband and wife.
The matter has been adjourned till January 23, and 26, 2024 for ruling and continuation of trial.