An octogenarian and indigene of Ndiulo, Amoffia village in Ngbo Autonomous Community of Ohaukwu LGA, Mr. Ede Onwe said to have been in a legal battle for the past 19 years with the immediate past Coordinator of Ngbo East Development Center, Hon (Chief) James Onwe has accused his opponent of suppressing truth with his connection in government and treating with unseriousness several court rulings delivered against him.
In a petition made available to Citizens’ Advocate by the old man, he stated that the piece of land in contention is situated at Ali Nzu in Umusoke, Amoffia village and was inherited by late Mr. Okwe Ogwa to late Eze Okwe to late Onwe Eze, his great grandfather, grandfather, and father respectively.
He disclosed that consequent upon his marriage as a young man then, the land was handed over to him for settlement. A gift, according to him, which was accompanied by a traditional rite of the planting of a tree called “ogbu” principally done to authenticate the event.
He said that he built some thatched houses where he lived with his family before the Nigeria civil war erupted, until in 1996 when he, being the eldest son relocated to their ancestral home as a result of his father’s death to enable him to replace the deceased and to look after the entire compound.
According to Mr. Ede Onwe, he was still making use of the property without anyone’s interference until in the year 1999 when the stone deposit was discovered and immediately Hon James Onwe invaded, used his might and chased him away from his inheritance.
He added that as soon as he encountered the problem, he then rushed and complained to Ogbo Obasi, titleholders of Ngbo, elders and some dignitaries of whom were His Royal Highness, Eze Chibueze Agbo, Chief Nwafor Odono among others, but when he stoutly ignored all the summons, he (Chief James) went to customary court and sued him.
In the report which was accompanied by the court’s judgment with the suit No.NCC/2/2011 dated 13th May, 2015 held at Customary Court of Ohaukwu Judiciary Division, Ngbo, presided by the chairman, Hon Onwe Ben Agbo alongside other members, Chief Ebenyi James Eze and Hon Ugwoke Emmanuel Ituma stated that Hon James Onwe and his witnesses could not give satisfactory account on how the 83 years old man lived in the said land in spite of history of occupancy which was found out to be the truth by the court.
It was ruled that since the land in dispute shares boundary with another land belonging to Mr. Ede’s witness and brother, Mr. Anthony Onwe, that makes the octogenarian’s claim most likely to be true, therefore, Mr. Ede Onwe and his witnesses are entitled to the customary right occupancy over the land in dispute followed by endless order granted, restricting Chief James Onwe, his witnesses and the entire household from entering into the said land illegally while N1,000 general damages were awarded against Chief James in favor of Mr. Ede.
In the second ruling with the suit No NCC/2/2011 dated 27th September 2017 before Hon Agbo Lazarus Agbo, the Chairman, Hon John Okpeye E, and Hon Edwin Ituma A, members stated that after the court had heard and weighed evidence of the two parties alongside their witnesses, made findings from the place where the cause of action arose coupled with references drawn from certain principles of law and reported cases thereby concluded and decided as follows: that in counterclaim for title, base on long possession that Mr. Ede Onwe and his witnesses succeeded in proving their claim of being in radical possession of the land in dispute and as a result the old man was declared entitled to the customary right ownership over the said land, perpetual injunction is ordered against Mr. James Onwe, his agents, other partakers, and workmen, no order for damages was awarded.
In the third ruling made in the Customary Court of Appeal of Ebonyi State, Abakaliki Judicial Division with the suit No NCC/2/2011, Appeal No CCA/52A/2017 dated 22nd November 2018, before their Lordships: Hon Justice Patrick U. Uhuo (presiding Judge), Hon Justice Ngele Gilbert Alo, (Judge who delivered the judgment) and Hon Justice Emmanuel N Nwibo affirmed the lower court’s evaluation on the evidences of both parties and their witnesses and thereby came to conclusion that the evidences of Mr. Ede Onwe are more likely to be true than the contradicting evidence of Chief James Onwe.
It was also stated that the Honourable Ngbo Customary Court, in considering the five ways of proving title stipulating that where oral tradition/history fails, possession is considered, the legal process by which Mr. Ede Onwe showed more radical act of possession on the land in dispute against Chief James Onwe whom according the judgment failed to prove his case.
It was learned that the Customary Court of Appeal had no reason to interfere with the scholarly decisions of the trial court and therefore stated that the appeal lacked merit and as a result it was dismissed, further in its entirety uphold the judgment delivered on 27th September 2017 in suit No NCC/2/2013 wherein they found in favour of the counterclaim of Mr. Ede Onwe.
In view of the above-enumerated court judgments and decisions delivered in favor of Mr. Ede which according to him had allegedly been fluttered smartly by his opponent, Chief James, he, therefore, called on the state Governor, Engr. David Umahi, Commissioner for Justice and Attorney – General of the state, Chief Justice of the state, members of Nigeria Bar Association, Ebonyi State Chapter and other good spirited individuals to come to his aid, so that his right of justice given to him would not be forcefully taken from him.
Hon. (Chief) James Onwe, in his swift reaction told our reporter that Mr. Ede is an alien in Ngbo Community who allegedly took undue advantage over incessant premature death experienced in his family during the olden days and seized seven pieces of their land.
He claimed that while he was at a tender age, many of his family members died prematurely then, a situation which he said gave Mr. Ede an ample opportunity to encroach on their land under caretakers but later, began to claim ownership of those properties.
He further said that why he decided to go for litigation rather than settlement from traditional institutions was to enable him to obtain justice but to his chagrin, became disappointed over the three rulings already passed following due legal processes which were not observed during the trials and based on that, he then took the same matter to Court of Appeal.
He queried, who is he to flout court judgments? Can an individual exercise power more than government? he asked rhetorically