An Enugu State High Court presided over by Justice Anthony Onovo has dismissed a suit brought by Chief Debe Odumegwu-Ojukwu challenging the right of Mrs. Bianca Odumegwu-Ojukwu to the estate of her deceased husband and Igbo Leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.

Debe had urged the court to declare that Ojukwu died intestate and that he was the first son of the Igbo Leader who was entitled to his estate.

The plaintiff had also sought an order restraining Mrs. Odumegwu-Ojukwu from interfering with the administration of the estate of the late Odumegwu-Ojukwu as well as a declaration that he was entitled to the Letter of Administration to the estate.

Though the Biafra leader died on November 26, 2011, Bianca and Mr. James Ezike were named as first and second defendants respectively, having also been named in Ojukwu’s will as trustees and executors of his estate.

Delivering the judgement which lasted for over two hours, Justice Onovo held that the plaintiff was unable to prove that he was acknowledged by the late Odumegwu-Ojukwu in his lifetime as his biological son.

The court held that it is the prerogative of a man to recognize a child allegedly born out of wedlock as his child, adding that acknowledgement of paternity could also be inferred from certain acts by a father towards a purported son. Justice Onovo held that such acts were not present in the instant case .

Though the plaintiff had averred that he had been recognized by groups, associations and other members of society as a son of the late Dim Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the court held that mere public opinion could not be the sole basis for determining the paternity of a child.

CITY LAWYER recalls that the plaintiff had also challenged the validity of the will on the basis of typographical errors and signatories, arguing that Odumegwu-Ojukwu died intestate. The court however disagreed and held that the will and codicil were properly and validly made.

Turning to the right of the children of the deceased plaintiff to challenge Ojukwu’s will, having substituted their father upon his demise in 2018, the court held that in order to have the locus to challenge the will, they must first prove that they are the grandchildren of the late Dim Odumegwu-Ojukwu and entitled to the benefits accruing from his estate.

Justice Onovo queried: “Since in the suit initiated by the plaintiff, their father, he was unable to prove himself to be a son of the Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, then on what basis would the children of the plaintiff be challenging the will of the latter? Having failed to prove this, they have no beneficiary interest through their father Chief (Dr.) Debe Odumegwu Ojukwu, in the estate of the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, and there is therefore no merit to this case.”

CITY LAWYER recalls that the matter was instituted by Debe in 2013 challenging the validity of the late Ojukwu’s will, moreso as he was not named in the will as Ojukwu’s son.

The court had distilled the issues to include: whether from the evidence before the court, the plaintiff had adduced enough evidence to establish that he was a son of the deceased and had been acknowledged as such by the deceased in his lifetime; whether the deceased’s will was properly and validly made, and whether the plaintiff, and by extension the children of the plaintiff, were entitled to benefit from the estate of the deceased Odumegwu-Ojukwu.

The plaintiff was upon his demise substituted by his two daughters, Nene Grace and Obianuju Sarah. Though their substitution was challenged by counsel to the defendants, Messrs Emeka Onyemelukwe and Ngozi Abafor, it was allowed by the court.

CITY LAWYER recalls that a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja had last July delivered judgement in favour of the former beauty queen and her children in a case involving the management and control of some assets belonging to Ojukwu Transport Ltd (OTL). OTL is the family company of which Ojukwu was a Director prior to his death.

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