…Big shots count losses as bulldozer demolishes buildings
Raphael Ede, Enugu
April 28 was indeed gloomy in several homes and offices following the demolition of buildings in a choice estate around the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.
The high and mighty, mainly indigenes of the state, had since 2010 been embroiled in a protracted tussle with one Jonathan Emejulu, an architect who in 2008, allegedly purchased the said large expanse of land from the Umuenwene Iji Nike Community in Enugu East Local Government Area.
The claimant accused some people in government of trying to use government power to dispossess him of his property having demolished the 25 buildings under construction there.
Fortune, however, smiled on him as court judgment eventually came in his favour. Following the ruling, a bulldozer moved into the place with the full protection of police and began demolition of buildings worth several millions of naira belonging to mostly well-placed individuals who had allegedly trespassed into the said land.
It was learnt that the Enugu State Government had originally wanted to create transit terminal of free trade zone in partnership with ENpower Group, promoted by an influential businessman from the state, in the area, but the court allegedly said there was nothing like free trade zone since the land purportedly mapped out for the project in Emene was actually in Umuenwene Iji-Nike.
Emejulu arrived the Airport Road Layout, Phase IV and V, Enugu, with a truck load of mobile and regular policemen, and a bulldozer, as early as 6.30am, and commenced execution of the Enugu State High Court judgment.
Once the bulldozer went into action, calls started going round and before long, some of the big people with interest in the land stormed the place with their official security personnel. They were shocked by the large detachment of police on ground to enforce the judgment, hence, there was little or nothing they could do at the period.
While speaking to newsmen on the spot, Emejulu said he bought the layout containing more than 300 plots from Umuenwene Iji Nike community in 2008, and that the property was gazetted by the state government before some people started laying claim and trespassing into it.
He alleged that some powerful individuals in the state tried to use government connection to wrest the layout from him. He further alleged that those behind the land grab had two years ago, under the guise of government revocation, entered the land and demolished more than 25 buildings he erected and started building theirs, which prompted him to head to court to prove that the purported revocation was a hoax after all.
“As a law abiding citizen, I had no other alternative than to recourse to the law. So, I went to court to obtain judgment. What you are seeing here is execution by the court; it’s court of law, High Court of Enugu that is doing this.
“In 2008 I acquired two layouts at the Airport layout phase iv and v from Umunenwe Iji Nike community in Enugu East LGA. After some time, Edward Ubosi, current speaker, Enugu State House of Assembly and Cornelius Nnaji, former chairman, Enugu East Local Government Area got into government. The duo approached me to give them half of the layout, that since I bought it at a very cheap rate from the community, that I should part with half of it. They threatened that failure to do their bidding, they will use government apparatus to take away that land from me. I bluffed them because I did not steal the land, rather I bought it with my hard earned money,” Emejulu narrated.
His allegation was that Ubosi and Nnaji colluded with the Commissioner for Lands, Solomon Onah and his Transport counterpart, Vitus Okechi and went into the land claiming that the administration of Sullivan Chime which gazetted and approved the layout had revoked it in 2010 and designated it for a free trade zone.
“I had to go to the Federal High Court and at the court; it was obvious that these government officials wanted to use the instrumentality of the state government to take over my land. I went to court of competent jurisdiction and by the grace of God, I obtained a judgment that explicitly bestowed the ownership of the land on me, that there was nothing like revocation in the first instance.
“The execution of court judgment has commenced following the paper I received on April 26. The same people who claimed that government revoked the land started building on the same land without any approval. That is why I went on demolition to serve as a deterrent to others. I have also served the state government pre-action notice which will elapse in a month’s time before I take action on the demolition of my 25 buildings worth N2 billion.”
Although Emejulu has somewhat taken possession of the land, he hinted that the trespassers were still lurking around the layout, trying to repair the damaged buildings with their police escorts.
When the Speaker of Enugu State House of Assembly was approached for his response, he clearly said he had “no comment.”
But former Chairman of Enugu East Local Government Council, Nnaji said he had no land or property in the layout, neither was he in any contention with Emejulu, to have accused him of possible fraudulent activities.
“The man is just calling my name and the Speaker’s name to tarnish our image. I have no property there. I’m not in contention with him. But if he says he owns the layout let him provide the layout plan and the plot numbers. That place is part of Free Trade Zone which was recently flagged off by the government. And if you say you have court judgment, you (have to) serve the people concerned,” he said.
One of the property owners in the layout, whose building was demolished, Madueke Basil, said he would consult his lawyer to know the next line of action to take.
“And I’m trying to find out from the seller what exactly the problem is so that I know the next thing to do. I don’t have the C-of-O, but I have the papers that cover the land from the seller. The seller is a company,” he said.
Another property owner who was raging and threating said he would die with the claimant if he did not rebuild his demolished house.