The case filed against the Oyo State Government by a company 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 on Monday dismissed in its entirety for having no merits and the sum of N500, 000 was awarded as cost of litigation in favour of the government.
In a judgment on the matter delineated I/421/2020, the Chief Judge of Oyo State, Justice Munta L. Abimbola, had held that the facts given by the claimants are not satisfactory and reliefs asked were misconceived, adding that in all, the claim has no merit and all reliefs sought are entirely dismissed.
Moxharley Nigeria Limited and Olufemi Oniyide had on May 14, 2020, 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 true 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 inherent 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 amounts to breach of trust.
The company had asked the court to declare 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 law of agency by government.
The claimants had asked for an order of perpetual injunction restraining government from further implementing the Park Management System and parading it as their own, an order mandating government to render an account of revenue generated from implementation of the system till 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 litigation.
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 had portrayed him in a bad light, caused hardship for him and created a loss of goodwill among investors.
Government in its defense had 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 procuring lasting solution to the NUTTW menace in Oyo State.
The government had argued further that it does not transact businesses or issues by soliciting opinion and reactions from people on the street but by tabling it before the State Executive Council where ideas are initiated and generated, adding that government did not receive the alleged project proposal from the claimants.
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 amounts mentioned as revenue by claimants are fictitious and the entire claims are frivolous, vexatious, unmeritorious, gold digging and should be dismissed.
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, Justice Abimbola held that the onus lies on the claimants to prove their case based on facts and evidence and not mere claims, adding that claimants must prove without doubt that the idea is novel to him.
The court held that the claimant has not proved beyond 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 idea is not novel or exclusive to 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 a 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 is proved. Relief is misconceived,” the court held.
Though the government had asked for N5m as cost of litigation, Justice Abimbola had held that cost for litigation is not a punitive measure and he cannot approve of such sum. The court awarded N500, 000 as cost of litigation in favour of government.