By Funke Busari/Lagos
Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria Limited on Monday lost its bid to get an extension of time to reply to a Motion on Notice in a N10billion suit filed against it by a lawyer and former presidential aspirant, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite.
The bank had filed a motion against N10billion suit filed by the lawyer and former presidential aspirant.
The bank had filed a motion for extension of time to reply to Braithwaite’s Motion on Notice, but the court, presided over by Justice Doris Okuwobi, said the defendant’s prayers would not be heard because it was yet to pay a default fee to the court.
Standard Chartered Bank’s counsel, Oluwatosin Iyayi, asked for a short date when their application would be considered, by which time they would have paid the penalty for replying out of time.
The court granted the bank’s prayers.
Braithwaite had sought a declaration that the bank’s construction of a 14-storey building and a five-level car park at 142 Ahmadu Bello Way/Plot 142 Abutting Elias Close, Victoria Island, Lagos, is unlawful and damaging to his rights.
He asked for a declaration that the commercial building, which he claimed is now at its 10th floor, constitutes an illegal structure.
The claimant alleged that the defendant’s Development Permit is illegal, and that the building constitutes a nuisance to him, obliterating his access to light, air and linkages – rights he had enjoyed for 40 years while living in his house.
He prayed for an order that “the illegal commercial building” be “demolished and pulled down by the defendant at its cost.”
He also sought general damages of N10billion “for the nuisance caused and inflicted on the claimant by the defendant over a period of years.”
In a supporting affidavit, the claimant said he needed to make necessary amendment to his Writ of Summons, Statement of Claim and Written Statements on Oath because the events on the building have overtaken the earlier processes he filed.
Braithwaite said he would call three additional witnesses, adding that when his original suit was filed, the defendant was still proposing to build the house. Now, construction has gone to an advanced stage, he said.
“As at the date hereof…the defendant has now rushed the construction of its illegal structure to the 10th floor level in an attempt to steal a match on the claimant, which act makes it necessary for the claimant to amend his processes and the consequential reliefs being sought,” the claimant said.
Among others, Braithwaite claimed that he complained that the building, previously occupied by Reliance Bank Limited, had facilities which disturbed him.
According to him, the defendant’s predecessor had installed some giant electric generating plants directly opposite his house at Plot 158 (No. 9) Elias Close, Victoria Island, with a narrow road of nine metres separating the two properties.
He said the generating sets were “pumping gases into the living rooms of the claimant’s residence, and also causing deafening noise from the giant generators.”
Braithwaite said the 14-storey building infringes his fundamental right to access to light as a result of it being in excess of stipulated height, which he said contravened existing guidelines in its host environment.
The elder statesman averred that the development permit which the defendant purportedly obtained from the state government authorising a mixed development in the area was invalid and unlawful.
However, the bank in its defence, denied that the building would constitute any nuisance to the claimant.
The defendant contended that the action is frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of court process.
It urged the court to dismiss the action.
The bank said the Lagos State government reserves the power and authority, acting by itself or through its ministries, parastatals or agencies to designate/zone all areas within the state as residential, commercial and/or mixed uses.
It said it obtained the relevant permits from the state government before embarking on the construction.
Justice Okuwobi adjourned further hearing till April 16.