BY AHURAKA ISAH, Abuja
The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting in Apo has commenced hearing in the N50 million fundamental right enforcement suit instituted by a group of land owners against the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, over the alleged forceful, illegal seizure and occupation of their properties and lands by the police till February 5.
The plaintiffs, Yusuf Goya and Aminu Isah, representing a group called ‘’Incorporated Trustees of Apo XK Extension Residents Association’’ made up of persons who were initially allocated over 200 plots of land in the XK Apo Layout, had in their suit filed on their behalf by their counsel, Valentine Offia, want the court to order the Nigeria Police to vacate the premises of their properties at XK Layout, Apo District, Abuja.
A 13-paragraph affidavit in support of the suit, averred that following the judgment of the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal delivered on 13th August 2014, the plaintiffs, in suit No. CA/A/462/2011 were adjudged to be owners of the property known as XK Layout, Apo District in Abuja.
In an affidavit of urgency deposed to by one, Florence Ebere Chukwudi, the court bailiffs and Policemen, in October 12th, 2017 enforced the judgment of the Appeal Court by evicting the judgment debtors from the property which was the subject of the dispute and handed same to the plaintiff, who were the applicants in the present rights enforcement suit before the Abuja high court.
According to the plaintiff, “From October 12, 2017, the applicants and other owners of the property occupied and resided in peace until the 28th of October, 2017 when the police invaded the property, ejected the applicants and forcefully occupied it on behalf of ENL Consortium Ltd adjudged as defaulters by the Court of Appeal.
“That in addition to the forceful eviction, the Nigeria Police locked the gates that serve as the entry points to the land to prevent the applicants and other house owners from returning to their homes.”
“That the applicants have incurred financial losses of more than N4 million because they had to provide accommodation elsewhere for themselves from the moment the illegal expropriation occurred till date,” it stated.
It added that the action of the police amounts to aiding the judgment debtors to contravene the judgment of the Court of Appeal.
But, when the matter came up during the weekend, the minister of Federal Capital Territory, Federal Capital Territory Administration, Federal Housing Authority and ENL Consortium Limited brought an application seeking to be joined as 2nd to 5th respondents in the suit.
In the application argued by their counsel, B. J Akomolafe, the parties said they will be affected in one way or the other by the outcome of the suit.
This is just as the plaintiffs’ lawyer argued that his clients’ suit is a fundamental right case and not a case for title to property as canvassed by applicant for joinder. Offia also urged the court to request the IGP to explain the interest he is there in Apo XK Layout protecting as he is rather giving cover to ENL Consortium Ltd for forceful illegal occupation.
Police Commissioner (Legal), David Igbodo, who represented the IGP said the police are there in XK Apo to prevent break down of law and order, just as Offia told the court that the police is rather taking side for an undisclosed interest.
The trial Judge, Justice Sylvanus Oriji, over ruled the objection of the counsel to the plaintiffs and granted the application for joinder and joined the parties as 2nd to 5th respondents in the matter.
The trial Judge then adjourned the matter till February 5, 2028 for further hearing.
Recalled that the Court of Appeal had, in a judgment delivered in May 18, 2017 set aside the decision of the trial court and declared the re-allocations of all the plots in the Apo XK Lay-out by the minister of the Federal Capital Territory and Federal Capital Development Authority to ENL Consortium Limited and Federal Housing Authority as illegal, null and void.
The appellate court also held in the judgment that the purported revocations of the titles of the plaintiffs to the land in dispute is illegal, and therefore void and ordered the Federal Housing Authority or their agents to abate the acts of trespass and remove all personnel or machinery from the land.
The Appeal Court also awarded a N2billion damages in favour of the appellants and were the plaintiffs in the instant suit before the Abuja High Court.