The last is yet to be heard on the eviction of residents of Renaissance Estate in Port Harcourt, Rivers State as the homeowners are demanding reinstatement to the property or payment of N4 billion compensations by the First Trust Mortgage Bank Plc for rendering them homeless.
The eviction, which occurred last year brought hardship among members of the Renaissance Homeowners and Residents Association, as many of them were homeless and continued to count their losses.
That the property owners bought their houses located at Plot 96 Bimkol Close, GRA Phase 3, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, consisting of 16 units of four-bedroom terrace houses through FBN Mortgages Limited now First Trust Mortgage Bank Plc in February 2010 at the cost of N50 million per apartment.
A letter by the solicitors to the association, Adeniji Kazeem & Company, to the Managing Director, First Trust Mortgage Bank Plc, signed by Partner, Litigation & Alternative Dispute Resolution, Efe Ize-Iyamu, said: “Our client that sometime in February 2010 several units of four bedroom flats situate at Plot 96, GRA Phase 3, Port Harcourt, Rivers State were sold to the homeowners, who subscribed to the Renaissance Homes housing scheme, an initiative of FBN Mortgage Bank Plc now known as First Trust Mortgage Bank Plc.
“They have exercised undisturbed proprietary and possessory rights over their several units until March 1, 2022, when men of the Nigeria Police Force invaded the premises in a bid to execute a Supreme Court Judgment delivered sometime in January 2003 and ever since then the residents and homeowners have been homeless, dispossessed of their various belongings and have been living at the mercies of whoever may show empathy.”
The law firm accused the bank of gross negligence in investigating the title it acquired from Vestor, ignoring the potential encumbrance and foisting a defective title on the Renaissance Homeowners. A diligent follow up search would have revealed the existence of the Supreme Court Judgment even though not registered at the Lands Registry at the time.
“As on January 31, 2003 the decision of the Court of Appeal was already reversed by the Supreme Court and then in June 2003 Vestor bought the land from Ex-Squadron Leader Obiosa. First Trust Mortgage Bank Plc thereafter bought the land from Vestor in 2008.
“In the light of all these facts, a modest due diligence, going by a reasonable man’s test would have revealed that at the time your bank was about to purchase the property from Vestor in 2008, there was a court martial judgment registered on the property, that there was also a Court of Appeal judgment in furtherance of which Vestor then registered its interest, which would ordinarily arouse the curiosity in any one, especially your bank, to conduct due diligence on the status of the appeal to the Supreme Court.”
In response, the bank’s lawyers – Onyeke, Ideho & Ighomuaye LP, said “their client sympathises with victims over the sad and traumatic incident, which they find extremely strange, as it had no reason to doubt the credibility and validity of the title of its predecessors-in-titles, over the land.
“Our clients have commenced an in-depth investigation into the incident to understand, how a property over which it had valid titles spanning three different predecessors-in-title, could have been the subject matter of a court action, it was not aware of and/ or brought to its attention, up and until the delivery of judgment and execution of same.”
In another letter, the bank’s lawyers traced the history of the landed property and ownership, saying they intend to pursue some course of action that will lead to the recovery of the estate. “First, in conjunction with Vestor Properties Limited, to engage Chief Olusola Adekanola, the purchaser of the land from the Nigeria Airforce on an amicable resolution of the matter, towards a possible restoration of the possessory rights of the subscribers of the Renaissance Apartments.
“Secondly, to commence interpleader proceedings at the Rivers State High Court, Port Harcourt, before the same court that granted the warrant of possession, and contend before the court that Supreme Court judgment executed at the property, that the execution of the judgment by the Air Force on the order of restitution, can only be executed on the known and established property or properties of the judgment debtor.
Meanwhile, the association has already rejected the course of action by the bank. “Our client is not interested in your negotiation with Adekanola, the claimed beneficiary of our seized property from the Nigeria Air Force, who eventually evicted our clients and as regards restoring our client back to the same property. We rather advised it would be to the interest of your client to explore a room of settlement,” the lawyers wrote.
The estate’s association Chairman, Dr. Doyle Edeni, whose firm is into oil and gas services, claim to have remodeled and converted three four-bedroom facilities into a 13-bedroom facility with five sitting rooms, four-kitchens, onegym, game room, a 24-seater conference/training room and three offices, all furnished to international standards to accommodate and cater to the needs of international and local Nigerian teams.