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Communities drag Cross River to court over N700b highway project

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courtCommunities in Cross River State have dragged the state government to court over the construction of the controversial N700 billion super highway project.

Mr. Joseph Oworoyama and two others on behalf of New Ekuri Village of Akamkpa Local Government Area of Cross River State in Suit No: HC/191/2016 and Chief Stephen Oji (Village Head — Old Ekuri) and four others on behalf of Old and New Ekuri villages in suite FHC/L/Cs/485/16 sued the state government and two others seeking a declaration that “the purported revocation by the 1st Defendant of the rights of occupancy of the Claimants to their ancestral lands without issuing and serving revocation notices on all land holders and occupiers is contrary to the provisions of Sections 28 (6) and 44 of the Land Use Act. 1978 and is therefore arbitrary, illegal, null and void and of no effect whatsoever”.

The state government had in a publication in Weekend Chronicle issued a public notice saying, “notice is hereby given that all rights of occupancy existing or deemed to exist on all that piece of land lying situate along the super highway from Esighi, Bakassi local Government Area to Bekwarra Local Government Area, covering a distance of 260km approximately and having an offset of 200metres on either side of the centre line of the road and further 10km after the span of the super highway government reserve and public institutions are hereby revoked for overriding public purpose absolutely”.

They also sought a declaration that “the purported revocation of the deemed rights of occupancy of the claimants to all their ancestral lands by the 1st Defendant (state government) is against the intendment of Sections 34 and 43 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended and it is unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.

“That the proposed construction of the superhighway through Ekuri intact rain forest with a land corridor of 20.4 kilometres wide as contained in the purported Public Notice published in the Weekend Chronicle of January 22, 2016 is capable of wiping out the entire Ekuri community intact rain forest which is against the spirit of Section 20 of the Constitution of Nigeria.

“That the Claimants and their individual Community members are still the rightful holders of the deemed right of occupancy of all their ancestral communal lands as there are no revocation notices issued and served on any individual ‘and holder in their communities as contemplated by Sections 28 (6) and 44 of the Land Use Act. 1978”.

Accordingly, the villages prayed for an order “setting aside the purported revocation of the Claimants’ deemed rights of occupancy to all their ancestral lands as the purported revocation notice published in the Weekend Chronicle a local newspaper and dated the 22nd of January 2016 is not in compliance with Sections 28 (6) and 44 of the Land Use Act. 1978.

“Perpetual injunction restraining the Defendants, their agents, privies, contractors, workmen with bulldozers, hirelings of whatever description from entering, remaining, use, occupation and trespassing on all the ancestral lands of the Claimants and carrying out any logging or farming anywhere on the Claimants ancestral lands”.

However when the matters came up in Calabar on May 9, the Judge, Justice Inyang Edem Ekwo ordered that the state government should be put on notice and adjourned the matter to May 25 for hearing.

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