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Court fixes August 3 for judgment in Abia land revocation case

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A High Court sitting in Uzuakoli Judicial Division, in Abia State, has reserved judgment to August 3, in a land revocation dispute between a community and the state government.

The trial judge, Adiele Ogbonna, had on July 7, 2021, fixed the judgment date, after parties adopted their written addresses.

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Claimants in the suit are Enwerem Chinyereze, Nwankwo Sunday, Innocent Okorie for themselves and on behalf of the entire members of Ngwu autonomous community in Uzuakoli, Bende Local Government Area of the state, while Abia State Government and Trademore International Holding Nigeria Limited are the two defendants.

The dispute started in 2013 when the then governor of Abia State, Theodore Orji (now Senator), approved the revocation of 40 hectares of land in Ngwu autonomous community of Uzuakoli, Abia State, pursuant to section 28 of the Land Use Act of 1977, which empowers the governor to revoke land for “overriding public purpose.

The community alleged that the State Government did not give it notice, therefore insisted that compensation must be paid for their crops, and other economic trees, in line with Section 44 (1) of the Constitution of Nigeria.

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The claimants also argued that out of N20 million the State Government accepted to pay as compensation, for the 39.476 hectares of land revoked, the 2nd defendant, Trademore International Holdings Nigeria Limited, paid N12 million, while N3 million was taken as agency fee.

The claimants also argued that the payment represents nothing because the 2nd defendant was a stranger to the revocation. 

The community further alleged that the 1st defendant issued Certificate of Occupancy (C of O), to the 2nd defendant in 2012, whereas it revoked the land in 2013.

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They also claimed that the State Government acquired additional 206.324 hectares.

The claimants’ counsel, Pedro Madukwe, in his originating summons, supported by a 58-paragraph affidavit and written address, cited judicial authorities to drive home his argument.

While the 1st defendant filed a 22-paragraph counter-affidavit, the 2nd defendant filed a 27-paragraph counter-affidavit.

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The applicants in a suit marked /HUZ/14/2020, had challenged the alleged revocation of the said hectares of land belonging to the community by the Abia State Government in 2012 for giving it to Trademore International Holdings Nigeria Limited, a private firm.

They insisted that the land was acquired without full compensation, arguing that the acquisition was “unlawful, unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect.”

While Abia State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Chief Uche Ihediwa, is leading two other counsels, E. E. Nkere and I. D. Amos for the 1st defendant, N. J. Kalu represented the 2nd defendant.

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The claimants’ prayers are that “the Abia State Government’s revocation of the Rights of Occupancy Order 2013, by which it acquired the Ohia Okata Ngwu land and the allocation of same to the 2nd defendant is unlawful, null, void and of no effect whatever.”

The claimants argued: “The Abia State Governors’ allocation of about 206.324 hectares of land in the same area, which he claims to have sourced for further allocation to the 2nd defendant for further development of a Housing Estate, which land he did not legally acquire nor own anywhere is unlawful, unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect.

“The respondents, their agents, servants or privies, are perpetually restrained from further trespassing into the applicants’ Ohia Okata Ngwu land, whether of the 39.476 hectares stated in the revocation of Rights of Occupancy Order, 2013 or of any further 206.324 hectares in the same area.”

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In reaction to the counter-affidavits, Counsel to the applicants said: “We are much persuaded that that is the justice of this matter, and so do very humbly but strongly urge the Honourable Court to rule according to the justice of this matter and rest assured that the heavens will not fall.”

Claimants’ counsel, Madukwe, cited 24 cases to support his argument. They include Ibrahim Vs. Mohammed (2003) 6 NWLR (Pt. 817) 615, Hart V. Military Governor, Rivers State (1976) 11 SC (reprint) 109, Ononuju V. A. G. Anambra State (2009) 10 NWLR (Pt. 556) 38, Okafor V. A.G. Rivers State (1988) 7 NWLR (Pt. 556) 38 among others.

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“In concluding this address, we choose to simply rely on the several evergreens and axiomatic statements of the decisions of the learned law lords of our apex court in the case of Orianzi V. A.G. Rivers State (Supra).

“Our choice of wholesome adoption and reliance on this particular authority is simply because of (i) it is locus classicus status on matters of revocation of the right of occupancy for public purpose and allocation of same to another private individual (ii) It is relatively a recent authority of the apex court (iii) It involved the court acting without sentiment or emotions as the Hon. Justices showed rare wisdom and boldness in separating law and justice, on one hand, and emotions and sentiments, on the other hand, where each belong…”, he argued in his written address.

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