From Magnus Eze, Enugu

A High Court, sitting in Enugu on March 27, ruled in favour of Bianca, widow of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, in a suit instituted by Chief Debe Ojukwu seeking to be declared the first son of the late Ikemba of Nnewi.

The plaintiff had also sought an order restraining the defendant, Mrs Bianca Odumegwu-Ojukwu from interfering with the administration of the estate of the  late Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu as well as a declaration that the latter died intestate. He also claimed entitlement to letters of administration of the late Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s estate.

The Biafra leader died on November 26, 2011. His wife, Bianca, who is the first defendant, as well as Mr James Ezike, the second defendant, had been named within his will, as trustees and executors of his estate.

But Debe who though claiming to be the first son of the deceased, the late Ojukwu did not mention or acknowledge him in his will as his son. The plaintiff then approached the court in 2013 challenging the validity of the late Ojukwu’s will.

The issues before the court presided over by Justice A.O. Onovo of the Enugu High Court, Enugu Judicial Division were; whether from the evidence adduced 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, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.

Related News

The plaintiff, Debe Ojukwu, died in 2018 while the matter was still pending in court. His two daughters, Nene Grace and Obianuju Sarah applied for substitution in the suit which, though challenged by counsel to the defendants, Messrs Emeka Onyemelukwe and Ngozi Abafor, was allowed by the court.

Delivering his judgement which lasted over two hours, the Hon. Justice Onovo held that from all the evidence presented before the court, the plaintiff was not able to prove that he was acknowledged by the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu in the course of his lifetime, as his biological son.  “It is the prerogative of a man to recognise a child born out of wedlock as his child.’  He maintained that acknowledgement of paternity could also be inferred from certain acts by a father towards a purported son, and these were not evident in the instant case.”

The plaintiff had averred that he had been recognised by groups, associations and other members of society as a son of the late Dim Ojukwu but the judge maintained that public opinion can not be the sole basis of determining the paternity of a child born out of wedlock.

The plaintiff also challenged the validity of the will of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, citing some typographical errors and signatories, and seeking for a declaration that Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu died intestate. The Court, with all the evidence presented before it, held that the will and codicil were properly and validly made, and therefore valid in the eyes of the law.

On the right of the children of the plaintiff to challenge the Ojukwu will, 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 Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, and entitled to the benefits accruing therefrom.”

“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 Debe Odumegwu Ojukwu, in the estate of the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, and there is therefore no merit to this case”, the judge concluded.