Lagos State Government has asked the Court of Appeal to set aside judgment of a Lagos High Court in Igbosere, which faulted the demolition of illegal structures in Otodo Gbame Community and ordered the resettlement of displaced persons in the area.
In a signed statement by the Assistant Director of Public Affairs, in the Ministry of Justice, Kayode Oyekanmi, the state government said a June 22, 2017 Notice of Appeal, filed before the Lagos division of the Appeal Court, showed that apart from violating constitutional provisions, the judgment of the lower court, delivered by Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo, on June 21, was capable of encouraging illegality.
In the appeal, which was hinged on two grounds, the state government argued that the lower court erred in law and misdirected itself when it made far-reaching decisions which conflicted with the facts of the matter, as placed before the court.
According to the first ground, the state government, through its lawyer, Mr. Saheed Quadri, director of Civil Litigation, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, said Justice Onigbanjo erred in law when he held that the demolition was illegal, when there was no demolition carried out in Otodo Gbame, prior to institution of the suit.
Going into details, government said there was fire outbreak in Otodo Gbame, caused by violent clash between two rival cult groups and that the fire engulfed and destroyed the entire community, with no residents and property remaining.
Pursuant to the government’s constitutional duties, particularly sections 13 and 20, Quadri said the state Fire Service responded timely to put out the fire and excavated the debris, while Governor Akinwunmi Ambode consequently visited the community to commiserate with the people.
The governor also gave directive barring re-construction of illegal shanties and further directed that all squatters living along the riverine/swampy areas or strips in the state should vacate immediately as they pose security threat with the increase in vices and crime. The crimes include bunkering, kidnapping, armed robbery, among others, especially when the criminal elements used the riverine areas as escape route to the hinterland.
The directive of the governor, according to government, was pursuant to Chapter 2, Section 14 (2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
After the directive for all squatters staying illegally in the riverine and swampy areas in the state to vacate, residents of the riverine areas instituted the suit in which Otodo Gbame Community was also represented, while Justice Onigbanjo on January 26, 2017 referred the matter for mediation but ordered parties to maintain status quo pending the final resolution of the matter.
While parties were still at Lagos MultiDoor Courthouse for mediation, the state government said residents of Otodo Gbame seized the period to rebuild the illegal structures, contrary to a court order, and added that it was that action which prompted it to carry out the demolition, in line with orders for maintenance of status quo.