Property Law

Estate residents sue NRC over demolition of homes

Residents of Adisa Housing Estate along Murtala Mohammed Way, Ebute Metta Lagos whose houses were forcefully acquired to pave way for railway lines have filed an originating summons against the Railway Corporation of Nigeria, before a Federal High Court, Lagos over the demolition of their homes without notice of Government ‘s intention to acquire their property given to them, which is contrary to the provisions of Sections 43 and 44 of the 1999 and Article 14 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.

Five residents namely Alhaja Aisha Aminu Gwadabe, Justin Ajufo, Alhaja Sadiat Abdulazeez, Ayodele Joseph Ojo, and Oba Akinola Akinrera had approached the court, asking to declare as illegal, the forceful takeover and demolition of their properties without complying with the law on Government acquisition of citizens’ property. However, by an order given by Hon. Justice Y. Bogoro, dated November 9, 2021, all the cases were consolidated.

Joined as respondents in the suit are the Federal government of Nigeria, China Civil Engineering Construction Ltd (CCECC), Inspector General of Police (IGP), and the Attorney General of the Federation.

In the suit filed by the applicants’ lawyer, Akeem O. Aponmade, they asked the court to determine the following issues:

Whether the invasion, forceful and unlawful seizure and take over on 10 October 2018 of the Applicant’s property situate at Block E House 2, Adisa Housing Estate, No. 3088, Murtala Muhammed Way, Ebute Metta, Lagos by the 1st – 4th Respondents with more than 100 armed policemen who used force, threat and intimidation to prevent her from entering her property thereby subjecting her to ps ychological and mental torture, inhuman and/or degrading treatment is justifiable and/or lawful under section 34(1)(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended (‘CFRN”) and Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act Cap A9 LFN 2004 (‘ACHPR’).

Whether the invasion, forceful and unlawful seizure and take over on 10 October 2018 of the Applicant’s property situate at Block E House 2, Adisa Housing Estate, No. 308B, Murtala Muhammed Way, Ebute Metta, Lagos with more than 100 armed policemen without notice as required by law and deprivation of the Applicant of an opportunity to seek alternative accommodation before the forceful seizure and take over by the 1-4 Respondents, thereby subjecting her to psychological and mental torture, inhuman and/or degrading treatment
Whether the invasion, forceful and unlawful seizure and take over on 10 October 2018 of the Applicant’s property situate at Block E House 2, Adisa Housing Estate, No. 308B, Murtala Muhammed Way, Ebute Metta, Lagos with more than 100 armed policemen without notice as required by law and throwing the Applicant and her family out on the street by the 1st 4th Respondents, thereby subjecting her to psychological and mental torture, inhuman and/or degrading treatment is justifiable and/or lawful.
Whether the invasion, forceful and unlawful seizure and take over on 10 October 2018 of the Applicant’s property situate at Block E House 2, Adisa Housing Estate, No. 3088, Murtala Muhammed Way, Ebute Metta, Lagos with more than 100 armed policemen without notice as required by law and preventing her and her family from removing their personal effects and threw them and her family out on the streets without being able to recover their personal effects on that day and anytime thereafter by the 1-4th Respondents, thereby subjecting her to psychological and mental torture, inhuman and/or degrading treatment is justifiable and/or lawful.
Whether the forceful seizure and take over on 10 October 2018 of the Applicant’s property situate, at Block E House 2 of Adisa Housing Estate, No 308B, Murtala Muhammed Way, Ebute Metta, Lagos by the 1st – 4th Respondents with more than 100 armed policemen without notice whatsoever is not a violation of her fundamental right to own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria under section 43 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended (‘CFRN’) and Article 14 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act Cap A9 LFN 2004 (“ACHPR’).

Whether the forceful seizure, take over and demolition on 10 October 2018 of the Applicant’s property situate at Block E House 2 of Adisa Housing Estate, No 308B, Murtala Muhammed Way, Ebute Metta, Lagos by the 1st-4th Respondents with more than 100 armed without notice whatsoever is not a violation of her fundamental right to own immovable property

They also seek the following reliefs from the court:

A declaration that the forceful seizure, take over and demolition on 10 October 2018 of the Applicant’s property situate at Block E House 2 of Adisa Housing Estate, No 3088, Murtala Muhammed Way, Ebute Metta, Lagos by the 1st-4th Respondents with more than 100 armed without notice whatsoever is a violation of her fundamental right.
A declaration that the forceful seizure, take over and demolition on 10 October 2018 of the Applicant’s property situate at Block E House 2 of Adisa Housing Estate, No 3088, Murtala Muhammed Way, Ebute Metta, Lagos by the 1-4th Respondents with more than 100 armed policemen without any compensation whatsoever is a violation of her fundamental right.
A declaration that the purported compulsory acquisition of the Applicant’s property by the 1” Respondent and/or 2nd Respondent is null and void and of no effect whatsoever.

An order that the 1st-4th Respondents restore the property of the Applicant back to the state it was prior to 10 October 2018 OR ALTERNATIVELY An Order directing the 1st-4th Respondents to pay the sum of N30,024,000.00 (Thirty million, twenty-four thousand naira only) to the Applicant to restore her property at 308B Murtala Muhammed Way, Ebute Meta, Lagos to the state it was prior to 10 October 2018.

An order that the 1st 4th Respondents jointly and/or severally pay damages in the sum of 50,000,000.00 (Fifty Million Naira only) for the infringement of the fundamental rights of the Applicant.

An order of perpetual injunction restraining the 1st – 4th Respondents, their officers, agents and privies severally and jointly from disturbing the peaceful possession of the Applicant, her assigns or personal representatives over Block E House 2 of Adisa Housing Estate, No 308B, Murtala Muhammed Way, Ebute Metta, Lagos except in furtherance of lawfully permissible procedure done in accordance with a statute.

The office of the Attorney General of the Federation however dissociated itself and the Federal Government from the actions of RCN, saying both of them were not involved in the actions complained of by the applicants. In an affidavit deposed to by a litigation officer at the Federal Ministry of Justice, Akiniyi Ogundipe, representing the second and fifth respondents,, he said that both were not involved in any of the alleged activities complained of by the Applicants.

He averred that the 5th respondent was joined to this suit in his capacity as a representative of the two respondents and was not mentioned anywhere in the Applicant’s application as a part to the alleged violation.

He stated further: “The Applicant has not provided any fact or statement to show that the 2nd and 5th Respondents were involved in the alleged violation of his fundamental rights. The Nigeria Police is an Agency and a creation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and can therefore be independently sued in its own name particularly as the acts complained against in the depositions are directly against the Nigeria Police and its officers and men.

He added: That the reliefs set out in the Applicant’s Originating Summons are personal and beneficial only to the Applicant/Respondent as they are not of public benefit or interest. All parties responsible for the Applicant/Respondent’s application have been joined as parties to this suit and are capable of defending the matter as parties to this suit”.

However, in his written address, the RCN lawyer, M.A Akolade denied ever awarding the contract for the construction of the rail line that necessitated the demolition of the applicants’ buildings. “The first respondent deposed to various facts in its counter affidavit that it did not award a contract for the construction of the railway line and that it was never a signatory”. It stated that it was the Federal Ministry of Transportation that awarded the contract to the CCECC Ltd.

RCN further raised three issues for determination by the court.
Whether the Honourable Court has jurisdiction to hear this suit against the 1st respondent in view of the non-compliance with the issuance of pre-action notice by the applicant as required under the relevant provisions of Nigerian Railway Corporation Act and the nature of claims before the Court.
Whether the mode adopted by the applicant is proper in view of contentious facts contained in the applicant’s affidavit and reliefs sought by the applicant in this suit.
Whether by the evidence before the Court, the applicant is entitled to the reliefs sought before the Honourable Court.

Akolade submitted that the applicant has not fulfilled the condition precedent to the exercise of the jurisdiction of this court as their action was not initiated with due process of law. He cited Section 82 (2) of the Nigerian Railway Corporation Act which provides as follows: “No suit shall be commenced against the Corporation until three months at least after written notice of intention to commence the same, shall have been served upon the Corporation by the intending plaintiff clearly and explicitly state the cause of action, the particulars of claim, the name or his agent, and such notice shall and place of abode of the intending plaintiff and the relief which he claims.”

However, Aponmade argued in his respective Replies on points of law that the 2nd and 3rd cannot run away from liability on this matter as the 1st Respondent had even pointed an accusing finger on the 2nd Respondent’s Ministry of Transportation as being responsible for the railway construction. So, a cording to the lawyer the 2nd and 5th are proper parties to sue.

Replying to Akolade’s argument, Aponmade wrote that enforcement of fundamental rights is sui generis and does not countenance pre-action notices. He stated further that the rules for fundamental rights enforcement prescribed originating summons as one of the procedures by which an aggrieved Nigerian may ventilate his grievances. He pointed at the documents which the Respondents filed along with their Counter Affidavits and wrote that they did not include any Notice of the Government’s intention to acquire the Applicant’s property, meaning that it does not exist. He said that the non service of the Notice, in accordance with the law on Government acquisition of land, made the actions of the Respondents unconstitutional and a breach of the fundamental rights of the Applicant as enshrined in the Constitution. According to Aponmade, the Applicant is not contesting that the Government has the power to compulsorily acquire her property and that they have not come to court to demand for compensation. Rather, that the Applicant has sued because the Constitution protects her that if Government intends to compulsorily acquire her property, it must comply with the law on compulsory acquisition of property and that the extant law on that prescribes that a Notice of that intention must be served on the occupier and that none was served. He concluded that the non compliance made the acquisition completely unconstitutional.

Aponmade stated: “Nigerian citizens have a fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution not to have their lands compulsorily acquired without the acquiring authority complying absolutely with the law on compulsory acquisition and paying prompt compensation to the citizen. The Applicants are here because it is the law that where the fundamental right of any citizen, guaranteed by our Constitution, is breached, as in this case, the affected persons have been given a window through the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement) Procedure Rules 2009 to approach this Honorable Court;

The Applicant has not come to ask the Honourable Court to order the Respondents to pay compensation to her for the acquisition of her property. No Sir. Her position is that there was no compulsory acquisition recognized by law in the first instance. All that happened was that the 1- 4th Respondents engaged in crass lawlessness and brazen impunity to trample on the Applicant’s constitutionally protected fundamental rights. She came praying your lordship to declare that indeed she has fundamental rights guaranteed under sections 34(1)(a), 43 and 44(1)(a) of the Constitution and Articles 5 and 14 of the Charter and that the actions of the 1-4th Respondents amounted to a violation of those rights. Following from the foregoing argument, humbly made on behalf the Applicant, we urge your lordship, in the exercise of her powers in furtherance of the inherent jurisdiction of this honourable court to resolve the lone issue raised by the Applicant in her favour and to determine all the 8 (eight) questions raised on the face of the Originating Summons in the affirmative and grant all the prayers of the Applicant.”

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