After 13 years of legal battle over the ownership of Winners Chapel, the Accra High Court has dismissed a suit by Winners Chapel International (WCI) which sought to evict Winners Chapel Ghana (WCG) from the church premises and claim all properties belonging to the church.
The court, presided over by Mr Justice K.A. Ofori-Atta, held that WCI, headed by Bishop David Oyedepo, was not duly registered in Ghana, as prescribed by the Companies Act, 1963 (Act 179) and, therefore, it had no legal basis to operate a church or any other business in Ghana.
“I conclude that all the acts purported to have been done by the plaintiff in breach of sections 27, 196 and 197 of Act 179 are illegal and invalid,’’ it stated.
It, however, held that WCG, headed by Bishop George Adjeman, had been registered in accordance with the law and, therefore, had the legal backing to operate.
“On the available evidence, I am satisfied the name Winners Chapel Ghana has been duly registered for business in the country,’’ Mr Justice Ofori-Atta said.
Sharing of properties
The court was of the view that although WCI was not duly registered and, therefore, could not lawfully claim any properties being contested, it had members who contributed to the acquisition of those properties.
In that regard, it ordered that any property acquired between 1996 and 1997 when the church was established until 2004 when WCI and WCG went their separate ways be valued and shared among the two bodies.
It, however, said after the valuation and sharing of the properties, WCG should buy out those allocated to WCl, since WCG had been in possession of the properties since 2004.
The presiding judge, however, refused to award costs against WCI, saying that “the parties are of the household of God and I shall not award costs.’’
In 2002, Bishop Adjeman, who was a pastor of WCI in Nigeria, was transferred by the church to head its branch in Ghana.
According to the documents filed by lawyers for Bishop Adjeman in the case, when he came to Ghana, he realised that the church was not being run properly.
The church, he claimed, had no structures in place to ensure that its books were properly audited and also every aspect of its operations was being done without recourse to the law.
He claimed that the church had not appointed an auditor, it had no certificate to commence business and its finances and general administration were being managed badly.
Court documents showed that in 2004, the Registrar-General’s Department asked all companies that had registered with it to update their records.
Bishop Adjeman, the court document revealed, used the opportunity to “properly register the church’’ and named it WCG and broke ranks with the mother church in Nigeria based on his assertion of gross mismanagement.
Not happy with the development, on July 14, 2004 some members who owed allegiance to the mother church in Nigeria dragged Bishop Adjeman and nine other members who formed the executive council to court.
The plaintiffs wanted a declaration from the court that all properties of WCG remain the “bona fide properties of WCI.’’
They also wanted an order for recovery of the church, located at the Industrial Area in Accra, as well as any other branch of the church in Ghana.
The plaintiffs further wanted an order that would allow them to take possession of a house belonging to the church which is located at East Legon in Accra.
Other reliefs sought by the plaintiffs included an order restraining Bishop Adjeman and his congregation from using any property of the church for worship or any other activity, as well as an order for Bishop Adjeman to pay any amount that was due the mother church in Nigeria.
The WCG, in its defence, argued that WCI was not duly registered and as such it could not claim to legally own any properties in the country.
The WCG’s case was upheld by the court in its judgement.
According to the court, WCI “was not duly incorporated as a legal entity and, therefore, cannot own any property, including the name “Winners Chapel.’’
By: EMMANUEL EBO HAWKSON