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Despite court order, Lagos demolishes retired Admiral’s property

By Joseph Onyekwere
25 October 2021   |   2:48 am
Barely two days after a Federal High Court, Lagos, restrained Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice from allocating any portion of a property located

Federal High Court, Lagos

Barely two days after a Federal High Court, Lagos, restrained Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice from allocating any portion of a property located at B20, Wole Olateju Crescent, Off Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase 1 in Eti-Osa Local Council, the state has commenced demolition of the disputed property.

Justice David Osiagor had on October 18, 2021, in suit No. FHC/L/CS/1384/21 filed by Admiralty Fleet Limited (BICS Garden) and Admiral Porbeni (rtd) restrained Lagos attorney-general and the Lagos State Special Task Force Unit (defendants) from allocating any portion of the parcel of land, building and appurtenances or entering into the disputed property pending the hearing of the substantive suit.

The plaintiffs, through their counsel, Messrs. Adetunji Oyeyipo (SAN), alongside Abiodun Olatunji (SAN), had in a motion on notice for interlocutory injunction urged the court to restrain the defendants from entering into the disputed property pending the hearing of the substantive suit.

The plaintiffs said the motion was brought pursuant to Section 43 of the 1999 Constitution 1999 (As amended); sections 1, 2 and 3 of the lands (title vesting etc) Act Cap. L7 LFN 200; sections 10, 11, 12 and 13 of NIWA Act Cap 47 LFN 2004 and Order 26 (1) (2) and Order 28 (1) of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules 2019.

Consequently, Justice Osiagor in his order restrained the first and third defendants from entering into the said property for the purpose of forcefully removing the plaintiff or any of the plaintiff’s equipment, machinery, structures, and boats pending the hearing and determination of the suit.

The judge also refused the request of the first and third defendants to consolidate the applicants’ motion on notice with the preliminary objection filed by the defendants, stressing that the preliminary objection was not ripe for hearing.

But Lagos State, in defiance of the court order, allegedly invaded the premises and demolished the property, and damaged some equipment.

An affidavit in support of the motion on notice stated that sometime in 1987, Admiral Porbeni (second applicant), acquired the disputed land measuring 1996.86 square metres from the Lagos State Government and was granted a Certificate of Occupancy dated December 3, 1987, and registered as No. 88 at Page 99 in Vol. 1987E at the Lagos State Land Registry Office, Ikeja.

Sometime in 1996, the second applicant acquired an additional parcel of land located at Lekki in Lagos Island Local Council measuring 3239.51 square metres from Lagos State and subsequently applied for and was granted a Lagos State Certificate of Occupancy in respect of the land.

Also, the second applicant in compliance with revenue payment advice received from the second respondent (National Inland Waterways Authority) on December 18, 2006, and on June 14, 2007, paid N356,500 and N120,000 for permit approval fee, inspection fee, shore utilisation and permit renewal, inspection fee and structure for waterways respectively.

It is averred that on December 4, 2008, the second applicant applied to the National Inland Waterways Authority for permits to construct a jetty and boat club at Plot 6 BLK A15 off Admiralty Way, Lekki, Lagos, which was approved.

The applicants maintained that they had consistently and as at when due paid all demand notices from the Lagos State Government through the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA) for a permit to operate a jetty on the waterways, even after the second respondent had inspected and confirmed that the property is situated along the Right of Way of declared Navigable Right of Ways territory under its full control and management.

It is further stated that the Court of Appeal, in a judgment delivered on April 14, 2011, in Appeal No. CA/L/10/09 affirmed that title to any land within 100 meters limit of the 1967 shoreline of Nigeria and all land reclaimed from or near a lagoon, sea or ocean are vested exclusively in the Federal Government of Nigeria by virtue of the Lands (Title, Vesting, ETC.) Act Cap L7 LFN 2004 and the (NIWA) Act Cap N47 LFN 2004.

The applicants honestly believed that the Lagos State Government had accepted the correct position of the law that it is the Federal Government that has title over the land in dispute until September 30, 2021, when men and officers of the Lagos Task Force without any prior notice or any valid court order forcefully entered the disputed premises and began marking its equipment, machinery, structures, and boats for removal within 48 hours.

The marking of the applicants’ equipment resulted in chaos, following which the Lagos State Task Force informed the applicants to come for a meeting on Monday, October 4, 2021.

The applicants stated that while they were preparing for the meeting with the Chairman, Lagos State Special Task Force, the Task Force invaded the disputed property with bulldozers, Black Maria vehicles, and trucks loaded with heavily armed policemen numbering over 50 without any valid court order and immediately proceeded to demolish structures, including boundary fences and staff quarters housing about 25 staff members and their families.

The officers and men of the Lagos Task Force destroyed the gate, damaged customer boats, machinery, and equipment ‘while carrying out their illegal and unconstitutional assignment’.

The task force also provided security and supervised workers of a third party to build a new perimeter fence over a portion of the land in dispute in their bid to immediately complete a total and forceful takeover of the land.

The applicants urged the court to declare the forceful entry and invasion of the 1st applicant’s premises amount to trespass and a breach of the applicant’s fundamental right to own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria guaranteed by Section 43 of the Constitution.

But, the Attorney-General of Lagos State and the Lagos Task Force in their Notice of preliminary objection filed by their counsel, Adebayo Haroun challenged the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit, arguing that the subject matter of the action is not one of the specific matters listed in Section 251 of the 1999 Constitution that the court is conferred with jurisdiction to entertain.

In the counter affidavit filed by the AG and the Task Force, the government stated that the land has been allocated to a third party, who has taken possession and the government only demolished the place because it was being occupied by squatters, miscreants and hoodlums.

The defendants stated that the suit by its nature is a challenge to the administrative actions of officials of Lagos State Government under a Law enacted by the House of Assembly of Lagos State and the Lagos State Property Protection Law.

They urged the court to strike out the plaintiffs’ suit as presently constituted.