From: Paul Osuyi, Asaba
An attempt by the Delta State Government to demolish about 8,000 houses on the disputed Ogbeowelle New Layout in Okpanam area of Asaba has been halted.
The order to discontinue the planned demolition was issued by the state High Court at Akwukwu-Igbo, Oshimili North Local Government Area of the state.
The government through the task force on land regularisation and reclamation had commenced demolition last week following the expiration of the deadline given to the affected landlords to regularise their land titles.
But the court, presided over by Justice Marcel Okoh, restrained the government and its agents from further demolition until the determination of the substantive suit, and adjourned the matter to February 21, 2017 for further hearing.
The Diokpa of Ogbeowele Quarters in Okpanam, Ogbueshi Fred Ogbogu and three others had dragged the state government to court.
The suit, filed on January 16, 2017 and marked Aku/1/2017, coupled with the Motion on Notice, dated February 13, sought an order of perpetual injunction, restraining the defendants, by any form, from tampering with any houses in the area.
Joined in the suit are the state Commissioner for Lands and Survey, Dan Okenyi, the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Peter Mrakpor and the task force headed by a former Commissioner for Environment, Frank Omare.
Appearing in court yesterday, counsel to the complainants, C. C. Uwakina objected to an attempt by the counsel to the state government, Mrs. Onwochei, who sought the leave of court to be properly briefed about the matter.
The controversial land, adjacent the budding Asaba Airport, and code-named Core Area IIA and B respectively, became a subject of controversy after former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan left office.
The state government had imposed a payment of N1.5, N2 and N3 million respectively on land owners in the area, depending on the size of the land of individuals, before it was reduced by 50 per cent respectively by Governor Okowa.
Landlords in the area include lawyers, civil servants, retirees, artisans, journalists, unions, including the Guest House of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT).
They were marked by the Task Force on Land Regularization and Reclamation inaugurated by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa four months ago for demolition.