A Chief Magistrate Court sitting in Anyigba, Kogi State on Monday, the 13th day of September 2021, upheld the defence of bona fide claim of right and discharged and acquitted two men, Salami Okolo and Hassan Ajeka, of the offences of criminal conspiracy, mischief and theft.
The 1st Defendant is a Gago while the 2nd Defendant is the son of a First Class Chief.
The case was brought via FIR and trial commenced in the year 2020. The prosecution called three witnesses while the defence also called three witnesses in addition to the defendants testifying for themselves. The defendants had both in their statements to Police and during their defence, raised the defence of bona fide claim of right over the land/building in respect of which the alleged offences were committed.
Delivering her judgment, the Presiding Magistrate, Mrs. Blessing Kabo, after a dispassionate consideration of all the issues raised and canvassed by both the prosecuting counsel, Kunle Tolufase, Esq., and the defence counsel, Arome Odoma, Esq., in their respective final written addresses, upheld the defendant’s defence of bona fide claim of right and consequently held that the prosecution failed to prove the alleged offences beyond reasonable doubt.
“The prosecution has not been able to dispel a lack of good faith or show that the acts of the defendants in seeking to repair the building was an unlawful one and I so hold. A bona-fide claim of right indeed avails the defendants in the circumstances. Thus, this issue, that is, whether the defence of a bona-fide claim of right avails the defendants is resolved against the prosecution and in favour of the defendants“, the Magistrate ruled.
Going further, Her Worship opined thus: “This court is one vested majorly with criminal jurisdiction in some criminal cases and a limited jurisdiction over civil claims for money; it lacks the jurisdiction to pronounce upon or award title to any portion of land whatsoever to anyone. The entire considerations and holdings in this judgement have not in the least way attempted to do so, and thus, no party is to leave the court with that mind-set. The court only considered the alleged criminal offences arising out of these conflicting claims of parties in relation to a bona-fide claim of right. Parties are at liberty after now to approach the proper forum that has the jurisdiction to pronounce on title to the land and property thereon“.
After the judgment, the Defence Counsel, Arome Odoma, Esq. commended the court for the industry and erudition demonstrated in the judgment. The Prosecution, on its part, also commended the Court for the well-researched judgment.