By Dipo Olowookere
Property owners and residents of Diamond Estate in Ajah area of Lagos have sued the estate’s management at an Epe High Court.
They are alleging breach of agreement on provision of social facilities reached when they purchased land for their buildings.
Hearing of the suit was, however, stalled due to absence of the defence.
The suit was filed through a Writ of Summons by Mr. Faustinus Brai, on behalf of himself and other property owners and residents of Diamond Estate, Sangotedo, Lagos through their counsel, Johnson Bryant.
The second claimant in the suit before Justice Ganiyu Safari is Incorporated Trustees of Diamond Estate Property Owners and Residents Association.
The first and second defendants in the suit are Femab Properties Limited and Diamond Estate Limited respectively.
Although the suit was scheduled for mention, neither the defendants nor their counsel was present in court.
Counsel to the claimants, Paul Olaniyi told the court that he was surprised at the absence of the defence who he said promised to be in court or send a representative, having constantly reminded him of the date for hearing of the suit.
Olaniyi however drew the attention of the court to the issue of the ‘res’ which he said has been tampered with by the defendants.
“The defendants have tampered with the’res’ by leasing a part of the project to a network provider which has installed a mast at the site provided in the residential area.
“My Lord, the defendants have continue to trample on the rights of the occupiers and do not care for their welfare”, he told the court.
Asked by the court, Olaniyi said claimants have opted for trial, having concluded CMC and explored Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR ) without success.
The registrar, on enquiry by trial judge, said counsel to the defendants called him, seeking for adjournment of the matter to a date in January.
The claimants are asking the court for a declaration that the first and second claimants are entitled to all facilities represented by the first defendants and an order for the provision of all outstanding facilities detailed in the first defendant in its ‘offer prospectus’ and that the facilities shall comply with acceptable international standards.
In the alternative, they asked the court for an order appointing a project manager who shall be responsible for the appointment and supervision of contractors for the provision of the outstanding facilities in compliance with acceptable standards and for same to be at the full expense of the first defendant, Femab Properties Limited.
In addition, they asked the court for a declaration that the second claimant, as a trustee to the beneficial property owners and residents of the Diamond Estate, Sangotedo, Ajah, Lagos are at liberty to decide who manages the joint facilities in the estate and that the unilateral appointment of the second defendant by the first defendant, without the authority of the first claimant and other property owners is ab initio, null and void.
They asked the court for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the second defendant from providing estate management services for Diamond Estate directing and directing the company to vacate the facilities and the estate.
They also want the court to order the first defendant to give an account of all monies paid on behalf of and received from all members of the second claimant.
In their 28 paragraph statement of claim, they averred that the second defendant has consistently shown lack of expertise, ability and capability in managing the facilities in Diamond Estate and left a lot to be desired by the residents and that in a bid to ensure efficient management of the facilities and pursuant to their constitution, have indicated interest in taking over their management as trustees to its members.
Rather, they said the second defendant unilaterally sub-contracted the facilities management of Diamond Estate to Horty Benade Company.
They averred that they have been grossly disappointed and dissatisfied with the services offered by the second defendant despite meetings held with first and second defendants to register their grievances regarding their services and that in a bid to ensure accountability with regard to service charge for estate facilities maintenance, previously paid to second defendant, they resolved at a meeting, to pay the said service charge to the second claimant’s bank account.
They said that prior to that, the first claimant and other property owners had been paying their service charge to the second defendant through the first defendant.
They said that they allowed themselves to be persuaded by the first defendant to allow the management of the estate’s facilities by the second defendant notwithstanding its unilateral appointment and engagement by the first defendant.
According to them, the first defendant has till date continually refused and failed to provide most of the facilities as represented in its offer prospectus despite consistent entreaties made to this effect by the second claimant to the first defendant, while those provided are yet to be completed.
They contended that since their resolve to cede maintenance of the estate facilities to the second claimant, it has by virtue of its constitution registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission, reserves the power to manage the affairs of the estate.
However, the defendants, in their joint statement of defence and counter claims, while admitting the averments of the claimants in paragraphs 1, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11 and 20 denied paragraphs 2, 3, 8, 12 to19 and 21 to 26.
The defendants, challenged the claimants to produce the originals of the documents in their possession that are relevant to the suit in court.
They expressed surprise at the suit and averred that it was to embarrass and sabotage their business and contended that the claimants are not entitled to any of the relief sought from the court.
They contended that the action of the claimants “is frivolous, vexatious, embarrassing, unfounded, gold digging and should be dismissed with substantial cost.
They argued that contrary to the claims of the claimants, the right to manage Diamond Estate was irrevocably vested in the first defendant in line with code of conduct duly executed by all the property owners.
While contending that they have capacity and personnel to manage facilities provided in the estate prudently and efficiently, they also alleged that the claimants have been forcing the residents of the estate to be paying service charge to them and thereby frustrating their effort to meet its obligation to the residents.
The defendants claimed to have been transparent in its dealing with the residents with regards to spending of service charges received from them and rendering account to the property owners and residents consistently, even when they did not demand for them.
They denied ever holding any meeting with the second claimants but only with the residents of the estate to discuss issues of their welfare.
They averred that the first claimant registered the second claimant without their knowledge and consent and property owners of the estate.
They further averred in their counter claim that the name that was approved by residents of Diamond Estate to be registered at a meeting held November 2015 was Diamond Owners Association.
Justice Safari has adjourned the matter to December 5 for trial, having obtained the commitment of the claimants’ counsel to inform the defence of the new trial date.
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