Presbyterian Church in 25 years legal dispute over land – Veloxnews

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From Godwin Tsa, AbujaThe Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, PCN, has been subjected to a land dispute before a High Court of Nasarawa State that has lingered for 25 years.In a writ of summons marked NSD/K87/97, a private firm, Nasbago Limited initiated the action against the Registered Trustees of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria and Habila Gbegbe (sued as the Administration of the Estate of Etsu Nyanya Gbegbe).At the center of the dispute is a portion of land situated at Maraba Gurku, along side the boundary between Nasarawa State and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), South of the Mobile Police check point.It is the claim of the plaintiff that sometime ago, he acquired the plot of land currently housing the church building from the Paramount traditional ruler of New Karu, Etsu Karu Ishaku Bulus, with intent to establish a processing factory.The company claimed that why the clearing of the land had commenced in preparation for development,  it was challenged by the Bawa family who dragged its Managing Director before an Upper Area Court, Keffi, claiming ownership of the land.The plaintiff however stated that the matter was amicably settled out of court and it there after took possession of the land by paying the Bawa family the sum of N152. 000.00.The company said after sometimes, the Church trespassed unto the northern portion of it’s plot and constructed it’s present building.It is therefore asking the court for an order that the church building on the said plot be demolished and materials moved off immediately for constituting an encroachment and trespass unto his plot of land.However, in it’s statement of defence, the Church stated that it acquired the land in dispute, measuring about 0.81 hectres,  from Mallam Gbegbe Bawa (who is sued as 2nd defendant), as described in the survey plan it attached it’s application for Certificate of Occupancy, which was subsequently approved and issued on June 16, 1988.According to the statement of defence filed by its counsel, Ichire Imo Okim, PCN said it also applied for the issuance of (Statutory) Certificate of Occupancy from the then Plateau State in application No: PL 14533 but it was pending approval before Nasarawa State was carved out of Plateau State.That the church has applied for the Statutory Right of Occupancy to Nasarawa State and that the application No: PL 14533 has since been used as the plot number of the land in dispute.That in the course of processing it’s application for statutory certificate of occupancy, the Bureau for Lands, Survey and Town Planning Area Office had while reacting memorandum reference No R of O PL 14533 dated March 29, 1999, distinguished the two lands and stated that the land claimed by the plaintiff is not the same land the 2nd defendant (Habila Gbegbe) alienated to the church.That the purported land described by the plaintiff in the Right of Occupancy No: 17063 and the survey plan is not the land in dispute.That Chief Nathaniel Bahago did not acquire any portion of land or the land in dispute from the then paramount traditional ruler of New Karu, Etsu Karu Isaku Bulus for any purpose, relating to the land in disputeThat Guffanti Nigeria Ltd did not acquire the land in dispute or any portion of land in dispute and it equally did not give the Etsu of Karu the land in dispute.The land in dispute was not deforested by (the Bawa family) and no member of the Bawa family  superintend the land in dispute or exercise any act of ownership on the land in issue.The original owner of the land in dispute is (was the late Mallam Ggbegbe Bawa) the 2nd defendant.The purported claring and subsequent disagreements leading to the said suit at the Upper Area Court, Keffi and judgment in suit No UACK/CN/46/93 is not in relation to the land in dispute.Meanwhile, Justice S. A Ayiwuku has threatened to close the case of the plaintiff, if it fails to produce the files it is relying on to prove it’s case.The judge was irked by the inability of the plaintiff to lay hands on those documents since 1997 when the case filed.On the last adjourned date, the plaintiff commenced it’s case with a suppeoned witness, Idris Mohammed, a civil servant with the Nasarawa State Ministry of Lands and Urban Development.Led in evidence by counsel to the plaintiff, Jim Gotom, Mohammed who said his duties include file recording and giving evidence in court, was only able to bring one out of the three files the plaintiff is relying on to prove his case.The witness told the court that he was unable to lay his hands on the remaining files and requested for more time to do so.Justice Ayiwuku had while adjourning the case to November 30 for continuation of hearing threatened to close the plaintiff’s case if the two files were not ready.The legal battle which started inn1997 has witnessed series of adjournments, at the instance of the plaintiff.



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