AFTER reaching a conclusion that both the appellant and the first respondent were entitled to the administration of the estate of their father, a Court of Appeal, Enugu Division, has voided letters of administration issued by the Probate Registrar, Anambra State Government to a section of the family of late Mr. Gregory Mgbodu.
Control over the estate of the late Gregory Mgbodu had pitched two brothers, Willie Kanayo and Peter Chikezie at each other, leading to litigations between them and the state.
The appellant, Willie and the first respondent, Peter, are two of the male children of late Gregory Mgbodu who died in 1967.
Gregory Mgbodu married Maria Mgbodu, under the Marriage Ordinance in a Catholic Church. The appellant was one of the products of that marriage.
While his marriage under Marriage Ordinance was still subsisting, Gregory Mgbodu also married Rebecca Ekenma under Native Law and Custom. Peter is one of the products of that marriage.
Gregory Mgbodu in his lifetime built a six’ bedroom bungalow in a compound he established on a land purchased by him. He had another landed property apart from the six’ bedroom bungalow.
It was on record that while their father was alive, the appellant and the first respondent knew each other and lived together as brothers. It was also on record that 14 years after their father’s death, they jointly sold a land, which belonged to their father.
However in 1990, Willie, as the plaintiff instituted suit No. A/213/90 against the Peter, as the defendant before Anambra State High Court Awka division and urged the court to declare that he is the person entitled to the six room bungalow house, premises and compound of late Gregory Obiekwe Okonkwo Mgbodu. He also sought an injunction restraining the defendant, his agents, servants and privies from interfering with the property and the premises and/or locking out the plaintiff and his mother from the said premises.
After hearing both parties, the court entered judgment Willie’s in favour.
Peter was dissatisfied with that judgment and filed an appeal. According to the parties, the appeal is still pending.
Then, in 1996, during the pendency of suit A/213/90, Peter, as the plaintiff instituted suit No A/125/96 against Willie, his mother and the Probate Registrar as defendants and claimed a declaration that he, as the plaintiff is the first son and heir of the late Gregory Obiekwe Okoronkwo Mgbodu. He asked the court to set aside the Letters of Administration of the personal property of Gregory Obiekwe Okonkwo granted to Willie, his mother by the Probate Registrar on 29th June 1990.
He also urged the court to hold that he is entitled to be granted Letters of Administration of the personal property of Gregory Obiekwe Okolonkwo Mgbodu late of Abagana and general damages of N500,000 (five hundred thousand naira) jointly and severally against the first and second defendant.
After hearing both parties, the court in a considered judgment delivered on 20th June, 2007 granted part of the first respondent’s claim and dismissed the other part as follows:
‘‘In the final analysis and in view of the decision in suit No. A/213/90, exhibit B, on the status of the six-room bungalow house, this action partly succeeds. I say this because exhibit B, has taken away a specific part of the Estate of Gregory Mgbodu, which the plaintiff wants to be declared heir. Even at that, the issue of heir is not appropriate in this case in the light of the subsisting holding of the court in exhibit B, concerning the six-room bungalow house and the interest of the plaintiff and first defendant therein.
Consequently, I find merit in this action. I therefore declare that the plaintiff is the first son of Late Gregory Mgbodu of Umudunu Village, Abagana. I also hereby set aside the Letters of Administration of the personal property of Gregory Mgbodu granted to Maria Mgbafor Mgbodu and Willie Kanayo Mgbodu on the 29th day of June 1990, which is exhibit A in this proceedings.
Furthermore, the judge said, in view of the submission of both counsel, I quite realize that while a court has no jurisdiction to grant more than the claim of a party, it certainly has the power to grant less. I therefore declare that the plaintiff and the first defendant (now Maria Mgbodu is dead) are entitled to be granted Letters of Administration of the personal property of Gregory Mgbodu (deceased).
I refuse to grant any general damages or award any cost for the simple reason that the parties are brothers and being an Estate matter, such costs are usually borne by the estate.”
The appellant being, dissatisfied with that judgment filed this appeal against the judgment on four grounds.
Not being able to convince their lordships to discountenance the earlier verdict, Willie lost the appeal, which the court unanimously dismissed.
Delivering the leading judgment, Bolaji-Yusuff, after considering the pleadings of both parties, the evidence led and the relevant law… the inevitable conclusion that the court was bound to reach was that both parties are entitled to participate in the administration of their father’s estate, adding that, it was the duty of the court to ensure that further litigation was avoided.
The court was on a firm ground and indeed had the duty to make the declaration that both parties are entitled to be granted Letters of Administration… In conclusion, this appeal fails and it is hereby dismissed. The judgment of the lower court is hereby affirmed. No order with regards to cost” Justice Bolaji-Yusuff held.