From Noah Ebije, Kaduna
Moves by Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai and the family of late military Head of State Gen Sani Abacha to settle out of court over the Durbar hotel demolished by the El-Rufai administration broke down on Thursday.
Counsel to Abacha family Dr Reuben Atabo informed the Kaduna State High Court presided over by Justice Hannatu Balogun at a Thursday sitting that he was served a “Notice of Preliminary Objection” by the defendants saying that the court has no jurisdiction to hear the case.
Dr Atabo represented by Head of his lawyers, Folake Adeneye, told the court that ‘though the actual structure of Durbar hotel was destroyed, its Certificate Of Occupancy (C of O) still subsists. So, we are left with no option than to proceed with the case by asking for the setting aside the revocation of the hotel.’
Justice Balogun, however, asked: ‘I thought we are here today (Thursday) to hear a progress report about settlement?’
Adeneye informed the court that ‘the defendants actually approached us for settlement, but no meaningful step has been taken for possible settlement.’
On his part, the counsel to the defendants, who is the Kaduna State Director of Litigation in the Ministry of Justice, Sanusi Usman said: ‘It appears they are not interested in settlement any more. But we are interested. Do we take that the issue of settlement has broken down?.
The presiding judge adjourned the case to March 18 for a general hearing of preliminary objections.
In the Notice of Preliminary Objection, Usman insisted that the court has no jurisdiction to hear the case because the due process of law was not initiated, pointing out that ‘the present action discloses no reasonable cause of action against the 1st and 2nd defendants herein.
‘There is no actionable dispute whatsoever between the plaintiff and the 1st and 2nd defendants herein that warrant the invocation of the Judicial powers of this honourable court.
‘This honourable court cannot, therefore, exercise jurisdiction in this as same was not initiated by due process of law.’
Recall that at the December 2, 2020 sitting, Mr Atabo joined in the suit the Kaduna State Urban Planning and Development Agency (KASUPDA) and Kaduna State Geographic Information Service(KADGIS) as 3rd and 4th respondents respectively because ‘they are desirable parties to the determination of this suit.’
The 1st and 2nd respondents being the state Governor Nasir El-Rufai and the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Kaduna, respectively.
In his response, the counsel to the state government, Mr Leo Victor, who is the Deputy Director of Litigation in the Kaduna State Ministry of Justice, did not object to the newly joined parties in the suit.
Mr Victor did not also object to the fact that some unsuspecting persons wanted to sell part of the land, just as he added that, ‘there is still room for settlement out of court.’
However, Justice Balogun had fixed February 4, 2021, to hear a progress report of settlement by the parties, even as she advised that ‘people should not fight over land because if other places are opened up, there will be enough places for people to occupy.’