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Court Awards Oyo State Government ₦500,000, Over Park Management Initiative

The case of Oyo State Government Vs. Moxharley Nigeria Limited, on alleged passing off and utilization of a proposal idea on the Park Management System without credit to the initiator of the idea was Monday dismissed in its totality for having no proofs and the sum of N500, 000 was awarded as cost of litigation in favour of the government.

A judgment on the matter delineated I/421/2020, the Chief Judge of Oyo State, Justice Munta L. Abimbola, stated that the facts given by the claimants are not satisfactory and reliefs asked were misconceived, in synopsis, the claim has no merit and all reliefs sought are entirely dismissed.

It will be recalled that On May 14, 2020, Moxharley Nigeria Limited and Olufemi Oniyide filed a suit against the Oyo State Government and four others; Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Chief Luqman Oyebisi Ilaka, the Chief of Staff, Commissioner for Public Works, infrastructure and Transportation and the state Board of Internal Revenue over the authentic ownership of the initiative and idea that birthed the Park Management System in the state.

They had asked that the court give a declaration that the launching of the Oyo State Park Management System on February 14, 2020, by the government as innate in a documented proposal that the company submitted on October 2, 2019, and a diversion acknowledged by the Commissioner for Public Works via a WhatsApp chat is wrongful and tantamount to a breach of trust.

The company mandated the court to proclaim that the act of setting up the Park Management System by the government is a breach of contract, wrongful and constitutes a common law tort of passing off against the submitted proposal and an act of retroactive ratification under the law of agency by government.

The company also sought for an order of perpetual injunction preventing the government from further executing the Park Management System and claiming it as their property, an order mandating the government to render an account of revenue generated from the implementation of the system till the judgment is given in the case and remit 30 per cent of the revenue to the claimants as well as the sum of N100m as special damages, N56m as general damages as well as the cost of the trial

In the particulars of damage, the claimants averred that the company is a limited liability organization and having taken time to prepare the proposal which he submitted to the Chief of Staff who allegedly forwarded same to Commissioner for Works and Board of Internal Revenue, government’s action hurt him, causing him hardship and creating the loss of goodwill among investors.

Government while defending itself stated that Moxharley Nigeria Limited is not an incorporated company and they had no discussion nor contract or business relationship with it or anyone on providing a prevailing solution to the NURTW menace in Oyo State.

The government further argued that it does not engage businesses or issues by public opinion but by approaching the State Executive Council where ideas are initiated and generated, adding that government did not receive the alleged project proposal from the company.

The government had stated that the idea for the park management is from the governor and government is not making millions on the project, adding that the company are lying about the amounts they said the government is making as revenue, further stating that the company’s claim is incomprehensible, exploitative and should be expelled.

Justice Abimbola, having taken into consideration the facts pleaded by the parties as well as the proof and documents tendered and having resolved issues of jurisdiction and practice procedure, stated that the onus lies on the claimants to prove their case with thorough facts and transparent evidence and not sheer claims, adding that claimants must prove without a doubt that the idea is unique to him.

The court held that the claimant has not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the governor got his proposal as his claims are devoid of facts and statistics that the government is aware of the proposal. Also, the court held that the document relied on is a proposal and not a trademark or exclusive service of the claimant.

“I am not satisfied that the document before me is exclusively what the government used to work on the Park Management System, the government’s takeover of the parks in Oyo State in May so the idea is not novel or exclusive to a claimant whose proposal was dated September. Documents before the court showed that the government already said it will engage consultants and if the claimant wanted to be a consultant, he was to apply as he did but it is government’s discretion to accept or reject.

“Government initiated the project by first proscribing NURTW in the state and decided to work with consultants. I hold that government is entitled to such decision, the claim that the project is passing off is not proved because it is a mere proposal, not a trademark and can be rejected. I refuse to hold any declarative reliefs; I refuse to hold that there is a binding agreement between the claimants and defendant, there is no evidence of retroactive ratification. No injunction can be given to claimants as no rights are proved. Relief is misconceived,” the court stated.

The government initially asked for N5m as cost of litigation, Justice Abimbola had said that cost for litigation is not a penal measure and cannot approve such sum. But the court awarded N500, 000 as cost of litigation in favour of the government.

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