‘We have been rendered homeless’
Two years on, Badagry residents still cry for justice over demolition of their houses
IT was a sorrowful scene at the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal as residents of Mowo Phase 11, Araromi Ale and Atinporomeh Communities in the Badagry Local Council of Lagos State on Tuesday besieged the court premises, crying for justice over what they termed violation of their fundamental human rights by the Lagos State Government through its Task Force on Environment and Special offences.
The residents, led by their chairman, Chief Charles Edeha Adu, expressed worries that nearly two years after about 1,500 houses were demolished by the police on the order of the Lagos State government, justice still seemed to be far away from them.
According to Adu, not only was the demolition of December 16 and 17, 2013 carried out without notice, it was done when the matter was still pending in court.
He also regretted that the Lagos State government had refused to address their plight despite several letters written to it that their land did not fall within or near the land allotted to the Police Cooperatives, the reason for the demolition.
The residents, who consist of mainly retirees and women, also expressed dismay over the delay tactics being employed by the defendant to frustrate the case and render them perpetually homeless.
But counsel to the residents, Declan Kemdirim has urged for restraint, saying justice would soon prevail on the matter. According to him, the appellate court presided by Justice Sidi Bage has directed that hearing notices be served the respondents before the June 1 adjourned date, preparatory to the hearing of their appeal against the ruling of a Lagos High Court, Badagry, which declined jurisdiction on the matter and consequently struck out their fundamental rights suit.
The counsel regretted the absence of the defendants in court despite being served with all the court process since February 2015.
In the fundamental human rights suit filed by 22 members of the community on behalf of other residents of the community, the residents had demanded the sum of N100 billion against the respondents for alleged wrongful demolition of their houses.
The suit has the Inspector General of Police, Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Area Commander, Area K Police Command, Ministry of Police Affairs and Lagos Task Force on Environment and Special Offences Unit as respondents.
Other respondents named in the suit are Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Lagos State Lands Bureau, Attorney General of Lagos State and Attorney General of the Federation.
The plaintiffs are Charles Adu, Joshua Medepo, Godwin Ogungbe, Oluseyi Adeleye, Alao Alapanla, Johnson Adebiyi, Justice Ovemurai, Afolabi Olukoya, Ibrahim Adedeji, Kolawole Adewumi, Edun Talabi, Joseph Onwuka and Joseph Ibukun. Others are Adebayo Oke, Olanipekun Ayanleye, Sylvester Enebeli, Shittu Abdullahi, Afolabi Kehinde, Ahmeed Alade, Iwueze Emmanuel, Oladimeji Oluwaseun and Martha Adeogun.
But the defence, represented by Mr. Samuel Ajanaku, had in a preliminary objection questioned the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit arguing that the suit was incompetent since it ought not to have been commenced by way of fundamental rights enforcement procedure.
The trial judge, Justice Yetunde Adesanya in her ruling on July 10, 2014, upheld the argument of the defence and struck out the suit on the ground that it was wrongly commenced under the Fundamental Enforcement Procedure Rules.
However, the residents approached the appellate court seeking among other reliefs an order setting aside the ruling of the High Court at Badagry.
They are also seeking an order determining the case on its merits having regard to the fact that the suit can be determined by affidavit evidence as well as having regard to the fact that it is a fundamental rights action with urgency woven around it.
But at the hearing of the matter on Tuesday, the defendants were not represented in court, prompting Kemdirim to ask that he be allowed to move his application.
However, Justice Bage, who led other two Justices, ordered that hearing notices be issued to the defendants and adjourned till June 1 for the hearing of the appeal.