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Judge raps Lagos AG over destruction of Lekki property

“You wrote a petition and you did not serve any of the parties in the suit. This is not the way it should be done in a noble profession. This is not noble, it is dirty, it is not decent nor transparent".- Justice Daniel Osiagor

Justice Daniel Osiagor of the Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos yesterday said that there were distortions of facts in a petition written against him by the Attorney-General of Lagos State, stressing that the petitioner wrote without looking at the record of the court.

Justice Osiagor stated this at the resumed hearing of a suit filed by Admiralty Fleet Limited (BICS Garden), and Admiral Festus Porbeni (Rtd), against the Attorney General, Lagos State; National Inland Waterways Authority; and the Chairman, Lagos State Special Task Force.

Lagos state government had on November 11, 2021 asked Justice Osiagor to recuse himself from conducting any further proceedings in a suit filed by Retired Admiral Festus Porbeni.

In the application filed by a state prosecutor, Adebayo Haroun on behalf of the first and third defendants, the state maintained that it is not confident of getting a fair hearing before the court owing to the refusal of Justice Osiagor to hear its pending application.

Haroun argued that Justice Osiagor has refused to hear its application dated October 15, 2021, challenging the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, Lagos division to hear and determine “a matter pertaining to land”.

He submitted that while the application challenging the jurisdiction of the court was still pending, the judge decided to hear and grant an application for an injunction in favour of the Plaintiffs.

The lawyer also stated that on November 5, 2021, the court again ignored and refused to take either the pending application challenging its jurisdiction or the application for stay of execution pending the determination of an appeal filed by the defendants on October 22, 2021, but went on to further direct the defendants to vacate the land.

However when the matter came up for hearing on Wednesday, Justice Osiagor informed parties that following the petition written by the Attorney-General, Lagos State he would no longer like to preside over the matter any more.

“I will not want to continue with this matter. I will tell the Admin Judge that I would like to recuse myself. The Attorney General wrote his petition without looking at the record of the court. Either he was misled by his counsel in his ministry or they want to be mischievous. The Attorney General has distorted the facts and I will not want to continue with the matter. Whenever the Chief Judge writes, I will respond appropriately”.

Justice Osiagor stated that if the petitioner had taken time to look at the record of the court, he would have seen that the court refused an ex-parte application brought by the plaintiffs on the October 12, 2021 and ordered that the defendants should all be put on notice.

Despite being on notice, men of the 3rd defendants invaded the premises on October 14, 2021 causing more destruction to structures on the premises/ property than had been filed in the original suit.

Addressing, lawyer to the 1st and 3rd defendants, Justice Osiagor wondered why he did not serve his colleagues with copies of the petition.

“You wrote a petition and you did not serve any of the parties in the suit. This is not the way it should be done in a noble profession. This is not noble, it is dirty, it is not decent nor transparent. We are not fighting ourselves, but we should be guided by principles and integrity and not primordial sentiment. I have principles guiding me aside from being a judge.”

The judge however reiterated that the restraining order he made on October 18, 2021 against the first and third defendants still subsists and has not been set aside.

The court had on October 18, 2021, restrained the Attorney-General of Lagos State, and the Lagos State Special Task Force Unit (1st and 3rd defendants) from allocating any portion of a property located at B20, Wole Olateju Crescent, off Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase 1 in Eti-Osa Local government Area and/ or entering into the said premises/ property pending the hearing of the substantive suit.

However, Lagos State Government appealed against the order and followed it up by re-deploying the Lagos State Task Force police officers unto the site in breach of the order of injunction.

The first and third defendants allegedly brought a bulldozer onto the site at about 4 am on October 20, 2021, and demolished further structures on the site with the Lagos State Task Force policemen providing protection for those flouting the injunction.

Amazed by the conduct of the first and third defendants, the claimants commenced contempt proceedings against the Attorney General of Lagos State and sought for the Attorney General and The Chairman, Lagos State Government Special Task Force to be committed.

However the defendants denied the allegations. In an affidavit filed in support of the application and deposed to by Saka Agbedina, a litigation clerk in the Ministry of Justice, the state averred that the government or its agents are not and have never been on the land in dispute.

Agbedina stated that the only business the Lagos State Special Task Force had on the land in dispute was to remove the encroachers/land grabbers found on the land on October 24, 2021, by the Lagos State Property Protection Law of 2016

He also claimed that since the Lagos State Task Force on Land Grabbers handed over possession to Tetrazzini Food Limited neither the Lagos State Government nor any of its agencies have returned to the land.

Agbedina further stated that “the plaintiffs have continued to disturb the rights of the petitioner, Messrs Tetrazzini Foods Ltd to peaceful and quiet enjoyment of the land granted via Certificate of Occupancy issued by the Governor of Lagos State and registered as 24/24/1991AT dated 16th day of December 1991 and Deed of Rectification registered as 32/32/2073 dated 12th August 2002 both kept in the Lands Registry, Office Ikeja, Lagos State.”

But, Counsels to the claimants, Olatunji Oyeyipo SAN; Abiodun Olatunji SAN and Counsel to the 2nd defendants, NIWA, Adejare Kembi , told the court that they were surprised at the turn of events and complained that the Attorney General did not deem it fit to effect service of the said petition on them.

The plaintiffs had in their statement of claim stated that on December 4, 2008, the second applicant applied to the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) for permits to construct a jetty and boat club at Plot 6 BLK A15 off Admiralty Way, Lekki Lagos, which was approved.

They stated that on September 30, 2021, men and officers of the Lagos State 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.

They 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.

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