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    Thursday, August 29, 2013

    Mother, Children Battle Father Over Property, Marriage Legitimacy

    Mrs. Virginia Okoye, along with her three children, wants a Lagos High Court in Ikeja to declare that she remains a legitimate wife of Mr. Collins Okoye, and that the children of the marriage are entitled to the man’s property in Lagos and Imo states.

    The claimants are, among other prayers, seeking the court, presided over by Justice Opeyemi Oke, to award N500,000 as damages against the father, who they claimed denied them access to his houses for “no just cause”.
    Mr. Yemi Omodele, counsel for the claimants, stated in the statement of claim, “The claimants aver that the defendant hated the claimants with contempt to the extent that he has refused to give them access to his property as his family members, despite the fact that they contributed immensely to the development of the property.”

    The row in the Okoye family came to a head, when, 72 years old Collins allegedly locked the wife and the children out of the family house, a two-storey building in Umuezike Village, Ozella town in Orlu West Local Government Area of Imo State.
    The other contentious house is located on Akuko Road, Off Ijaye, Agbado, Lagos State.
    The children, who are the second to fourth claimants in the suit, tagged, ID/950M/2011, are Emeka, 42; Benson, 38; and Mrs. Oluchi Ubabuike (nee Okoye), 36.

    The court papers they filed in the suit, which was initiated in 2011, showed that besides the dispute over the claimants’ right of entitlement to the property, the existence of a valid marriage between Collins and Virginia is also in dispute.
    Virginia claimed she was legally married to Collins in 1971 and that she had no knowledge of any other woman married to him as of then.
    Collins has countered the claim, saying he was never married to Virginia, but that they were only engaged in cohabitation which produced three children.

    He added that Virginia eloped and married another man from an apartment they used to live in in Oshodi about 12 years ago.
    He added that the house in Lagos was never his own but belonged to the woman he “is traditionally and legally maried to”, Lilian.

    Collins claimed to have married Lilian in 1968 but that the marriage was only solemnised in a catholic church in Ozara, Imo State, on July 12, 2003. He said the union produced five children.
    The court on December 10, 2012 ordered Lilian to be joined as the second defendant in the suit.
    Collins added that he was not entitled to provide shelter for  Virginia’s children, who he said, “are all adults, married and no longer under his control.”

    His statement of claim as filed by his lawyer, Mrs. J.C Nwadinma-Ohanyiri read, “The second (Emeka), third (Benson), and fourth (Mrs. Oluchi Ubabuike) defendants are all married and living with their respective families. The second claimant lives in Greece, the third claimant also lived in Greece before he was repatriated and the fourth claimant lives in London with her husband.”
    But Virginia urged the court to declare that she and her children were entitled to possess and inherit Collins property.”

    Further proceedings in the matter was adjourned till September 26.
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