Court backs Lagos residents in wall barricade dispute
Residents of Peninsula Garden Estate, Lekki have heaved a sigh of relief following the decision of Lagos State High Court, Igbosere to dismiss a N200million law suit filed against them by a Lagos lawyer.
Dispute arose when the residents erected a wall barricade on Ogombo Road, thereby restricting access to the road and allegedly forcing road users to use an unsafe, bushy and impassable road.
The plaintiff, Mr. Fredrick Chinedu Anaje, had contended, in the suit that his denial of access to the road through the wall barricade on Ogombo Road without approval from the state government violated his rights.
According to him, despite being issued with contravention notices by the state, the respondents restricted the residents’ access to the road by building the wall, thereby forcing them to use an unsafe, bushy and impassable road.
The plaintiff, who named Mr. Sulyman Bello, Olu Adewusi, Dr Maureen Igwe, Nicholas Adesina, Abiodun Ekeade, Funmilayo Ekeade and Femab Properties Ltd as respondents, asked the court for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents or their agents from taking any step that would infringe on his rights to movement and personal dignity.
He said he lives on a street in Ogombo town and that he uses the Ogombo Road, which he said was for the public, to access the Lekki-Epe Expressway.
Anaje therefore sought N200million in general damages against the respondents for violating his rights, as well costs of the action “on a full indemnity basis”.
But, the respondents, in a counter affidavit sworn to by Adesina, said Femab Properties bought the large expanse of land on which the estate and the road in dispute were situated.
He said the government later confirmed that the two roads leading to the estate were private, and that it advised other residents in the neighborhood to take steps to make other access roads motorable.
The respondents, through their lawyer Adebayo Adesola, argued that although contravention notices were issued, the wall was not demolished, which supports their claim that the government admitted that the wall was on a private road.
Ruling on the matter, Justice Wasiu Animahun dismissed the suit on the ground that the applicant’s rights were not violated.
The judge noted that Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution provides that every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person and shall not be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment.
To the judge, Anaje’s case is that the road’s blockage indirectly made him to commute through a road that was not motorable, which the lawyer felt constituted inhuman and degrading treatment.
“What the case reveals is that the applicant would not have complained of infringement of Section 34 of the Constitution if the other access road is motorable. It follows that infringement of the applicant’s right arose from the deplorable state of the road.
“It is my view that this head of claim is only maintainable against whoever made the road to be in deplorable condition,” the judge held.
The judge, after discussing what fundamental human rights entail, said he could not hold that a citizen has a fundamental right to use good roads.
“The conditions of roads vary. In some areas good roads are a necessity. In some, they are a luxury. In some other locations, motorable roads are not required. An example is the riverine areas.
“In other words, the right to a good road may be recognised in law but it is certainly not an inalienable right. It does not qualify for litigation under Chapter IV of the Constitution.
“It is a luxury in the class of economic, social and educational rights guaranteed in Sections 16, 17 and 18 of the Constitution and yet rendered unenforceable.
The judge also dismissed Anaje’s claim that his right to freedom of movement under Section 41 of the Constitution was violated.
“This appears easy. Once there is no confinement and there is an alternative route, there cannot be an infringement of freedom of movement,” he said.
Citing the case of Adeyemo vs Akintola (2004) 12 NWLR (PT 887) 390, Justice Animahun added: “The above implies that restriction of movement will not arise where the applicant is at liberty to use alternative routes.
“The restriction envisaged under Section 41 of the Constitution must be total. This is not the case here.
“In view of the above, I hold that the fundamental rights of the applicant were not infringed.
“The amended originating motion on notice dated 19/06/2017 therefore fails and is hereby dismissed.”