The relationship between homeowners and the developers of Renaissance Estate has soured as the sale and purchase deal has encountered difficulties.

Renaissance Estate, located at Plot 96, Bimkol Close, GRA Phase 3, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, was developed by First Trust Mortgage and consists of 12 units of four-bedroom terrace houses. The houses in this estate were purchased by retirees and Diaspora Nigerians some years ago for N50 million per unit.

These homeowners lived in the houses they bought and enjoyed peaceful, undisturbed possession until the early hours of March 1, 2022, when Sheriffs of the Rivers State High Court under heavy Air Force security and fierce-looking young men invaded the estate and forcefully and brutally evicted them.

The eviction followed a court judgment cum order in a suit No. PHC/2642/CS/2021 between Nigerian Airforce and Ex-SQN Leader A. Obiosa, which the homeowners did not know about before buying. The eviction also followed a Supreme Court judgment that was delivered in 2003.

The homeowners, under the aegis of Renaissance Homeowners and Residents Association, are blaming First Trust Mortgage for failing to do the necessary due diligence before acquiring the land from Vestor Properties and subsequently developing the estate on the encumbered parcel of land.

The association at a press conference on Thursday, November 16, 2023, in Lagos, lamented the dire situation the eviction has thrown them into as well as the heavy losses they have suffered in terms of personal effects and other valuables.

George Uzonwanne, chairman of the association, said that as a result of the loss of their homes and other losses they have incurred, they were demanding N4 billion compensation from First Trust Mortgage.

Uzonwanne cited a demand letter written by their solicitors to First Trust which reads in part: “Take Notice therefore, that our Client has instructed us to demand and we hereby demand that you take urgent steps to reinstate our Clients on the property situated at Plot 96, GRA Phase 3, Port Harcourt, Rivers State within 14 days of the receipt of this notice.

Or, in the alternative, pay to our Client the sum of N4,000,000,000 (Four Billion Naira) being compensation for rendering them homeless, making them become ‘vagrants overnight’ due to your bank’s extreme negligence and carefree attitude towards executing a housing scheme.

Please note that where you forthwith fail to comply with our Client’s simple demand, within 14 days from the service of this demand notice on you, we shall not hesitate to perfect our Client’s’ further instruction.”

Though the homeowners have in a class action instituted a suit against First Trust Mortgage in Rivers State, Uzonwanne insisted that the homeowners needed to be compensated for the losses they have incurred by reason of their forceful and brutal eviction from their homes.

He stressed that the failure of First Trust to investigate the title it acquired from Vestor Properties was an act of negligence, adding that this has caused untold hardship to many people today who the mortgage bank offered defective title to.

“It is only reasonable and prudent for First Trust to have known if an appeal had arisen from the Court of Appeal decision. First Trust didn’t care about protecting subscribers of Renaissance Homes; as a matter of fact, First Trust did not register its interest in the property till today,” Uzonwanne said.

He noted that First Trust had put itself in a position where it had to indemnify the homeowners by reason of the Deed of Assignment that it executed with the subscribers where it covenanted to offer a good title. He recalled that they wrote to First Trust through their solicitors, demanding compensation for their members, and copied FBN Holding, the parent company of First Trust Mortgage.

“They wrote back through their solicitors to say that the judgment of the Supreme Court did not cover the land in question and the judgment was only registered in 2011 at the Land Registry after they had bought,” the chairman said.

Source: BusinessDay