Since 2006, the pastor and his former wife, who lives in the U.S., were involved in a legal struggle, during which it is reported that he made no attempt to comply with child support proceedings. The court determined that the Pastor “willfully” failed to make his child support obligations by leaving the United States.
On Tuesday, November 18th, 2014 a high court in Ibadan served Pastor Elijah Taiwo Abiara a summons from the United States for possible contempt of a Florida State Family Law Court.
The charge: failure to pay ten years of child support, an amount in excess of approximately 140 million Naira (N140,25,0000). The equivalent sum in the United States hovers just under one million dollars at $809,524.
Pastor Abiara is accused also of fleeing the United States to avoid the obligation.
The court order was registered by a Lagos-based attorney, Mr. Kehinde Dada, on behalf of the plaintiff, Princess Adeyemi Onibokun. It was served at the defendant’s church, City of Faith, Agbala Itura’s Church, at New Ife Road, Olode, Ibadan, Oyo State. The church’s secretary was also served.
In Nigeria, the requirement for recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments is contained in the Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act, Cap 152, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990. Parties wishing to enforce foreign judgments in Nigeria must, as a first step, apply to have the judgment registered in the appropriate court.
The foreign judgment, under the Nigerian “Child’s Right” Act - Section 14 (2) of the Child Rights Act has further extended the child’s right by providing that the child’s right to maintenance by his parent or guardian can be enforced by the child in family court whether or not there is proceeding for a matrimonial cause. Orders for maintenance when made may not last beyond the child’s eighteenth birthday and when making financial orders under the Child Rights Act, the Court must also have regard, inter alia, to the income, earning capacity of the child and the parents, the child’s financial needs, physical and mental condition and education.
The plaintiff, Princess Adeyemi Onibokun, came under the umbrella of this Nigerian law and registered the Florida court summons against Pastor Abiara. Reports state that for many years between 1997 and 2005, Abiara and Onibokun lived together and have three children.
According to U.S. court documents, Pastor Abiara left the U.S. around April 2014 to take the position of Pastor in charge of revival and youth counseling with the CAC Agbala Itura, Ibadan.
The pastor’s three teenaged children, Esther Ayomide Christi Abiara (16), Naomi Anuoluwa Abiara (13), and Elijah Michael Abiara Jr. (10), without making financial arrangements to provide for these children.
Documents also state that on December 14, 2004, Duval County, Florida courts entered an order establishing child support payments ($1,150 monthly) while the parties were still living together. The order granted Onibokun custody of the three children.
Abiara and Onibokun separated around May 2005 and Onibokun filed a petition to modify the child support amount on or about June 1st 2005. Her petition was granted, entered legally on June 22, 2007.
Abiara filed a counter petition on February 1st, 2008. He then remarried and moved to London, England, later moved to New Jersey.
Since 2006, the pair was involved in a legal struggle, during which it is reported that Abiara made no attempt to comply with child support proceedings. The court states that Abiara “willfully” failed to make his child support obligations.
A final court order was rendered on June 7, 2007. Pastor Abiara was to make a $1,085 monthly support payment for his three teenage children.
The latest court documents indicated that the pastor has not made any payments in the last four years.
The Ibadan High Court’s recognition and enforcement of judgments rendered by courts of other jurisdictions has become an important tool of international trade integration. This case also serves as proof that the application and enforcement of the 2003 Nigerian law on Child Right Act to maintenance by his parent or guardian can be enforced in the Nigerian judicial system.
See some of the court documents below.