First Trust Mortgage Bank has been sued over forceful eviction of homeowners from Renaissance Estate in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
In 2010, the bank sold 12 units of 4-bedroom flats located at Plot 96 Bimkol Close, GRA Phase 3, Port Harcourt, Rivers State to the affected homeowners at the cost of N50 million per flat.
A decade later, those individuals were forcibly evicted from their property by individuals enforcing a Supreme Court judgment issued in January 2003.
In a letter by the solicitors to the homeowners, AK & CO, to the Managing Director of First Trust Mortgage Bank Plc, titled “Notice of demand to reinstate homeowners and residents of Renaissance Homes at Plot 96 GRA phase 3 Port Harcourt or payment of N4, 000,000,000 (four billion naira) as compensation for your bank’s gross negligence”, the aggrieved homeowners accused First Trust Mortgage Bank of gross negligent for failing to investigate the title it acquired from Vestor before transferring it to the Renaissance homeowners.
The letter read in part, “It is imperative that we state that as of 31st January 2003 the decision of the Court of Appeal was already reversed by the Supreme Court, and then in June 2003, Vestor bought the land from Ex-Squadron Leader Obiosa. First Trust Mortgage Bank Plc, thereafter, bought the land from Vestor in 2008.
“In the light of all these facts, a modest due diligence, going by a reasonable man’s test would have revealed that at the time your bank was about to purchase the property from Vestor in 2008, there was a Court Martial judgment registered on the property, that there was also a Court of Appeal judgment in furtherance of which Vestor then registered its interest, which would ordinarily arouse the curiosity in anyone, especially your bank, to conduct due diligence on the status of the appeal to the Supreme Court.”
According to one of the affected homeowners and Chairman of Renaissance Estate Homeowners’ Association, Dr Doyle Edeni, residents lost billions of naira worth of property and valuables during the sudden eviction.
He also added that some aged owners of the homes in the estate, like Green Elekedo, who was a retired civil servant of over 70 years, slept on garage floors in the home of a benevolent individual and was kicked out after a few months.