…As police defy court orders on demolished communities
•Armed cops seize journalists’ cameras, threaten to shoot sheriffs
By Daniel Anokwuru
There is no let up to the controversy surrounding the continued construction work on the Badagry communities demolished by agents of the Lagos State government and the Nigeria Police Force in December 2013.
Daily Sun learnt that in spite of a series of court orders restraining all parties from entering the disputed land, pending the determination of the suit, one of the parties, the Nigeria Police, has continued construction on the land unrestrained, a development that the judiciary has regularly condemned.
The communities, Atiporomeh, Araromi Ale, and Mowo Phase 11, in Badagry area of Lagos, were, on December 16 and 17, 2013, demolished by agents of the Lagos State government in conjunction with the Nigeria Police Force. The demolition was to pave way for the construction of a police cooperative housing scheme for the Lagos State Police Command. Ever since, the dispute has been a subject of litigation at the Lagos State High Court.
Residents and owners of the communities have condemned the demolition of their properties, insisting that the land allotted to the police was at Agemowe/Agelado, which is distinct from the demolished communities as shown in the certificate of occupancy and survey plan issued to the Nigerian Police Force by Lagos State government.
Justice Y. A. Adesanya (Mrs.) of Lagos State High Court, in the Badagry Judicial
Division, on June 9, 2014, delivered a ruling ordering all parties to keep off the land. But checks by Daily Sun showed that there was still massive construction work going on at the site. In fact, some of the buildings have been completed and painted, irrespective of the court order stopping the police from going on with further construction on the site.
The ruling, a copy of which was made available to Daily Sun, reads in parts: “An Order of Interlocutory Injunction restraining all the parties herein, i.e. the Claimants, Defendants and Counter-claimants, whether by themselves, their servants, agents, officers, privies and others acting in their stand, from erecting or constructing a fence or building on that large expanse of land measuring 64.429 hectares situate, lying and being at Mowo via Badagry, Lagos State, covered by Survey Plan No:LS/D/BG/749 dated 25/09/08 and delineated with Beacon No: G. 14484; G.14486;G.14487; G.14488; G. 14489; G. 14490; G. 14491; G. 14492; G.14493; prepared by B. O. Kayode, Chief Surveyor, pending the hearing of the substantive suit.”
Because the order was neglected, the court gave another order on February 26, 2015, demanding that anybody found working on the land should be arrested.
The order also made by the Badagry Division of the Lagos High Court, presided over by Justice (Mrs) M. A. Dada, ruled that any agents of the Nigeria Police Force, their servants, privies and or any person or persons found working on the land in dispute be imprisoned for their continuing flagrant disobedience of the Court Order made on June 9, 2014.
Counsel to the claimants, Mr. Olisakwe Samuel of Interveners and Joe Nwokedi Chambers, had told the court that the construction work at the site was a police project. But the police faulted his claim, insisting that they did not have any hand in the construction. They accused the plaintiffs of being responsible for the construction.
The puzzle surrounding the identity of those carrying out the construction against a subsisting court order and order of interlocutory injunction is still causng a lot of controversy. This made Olisakwe to file a motion on notice, dated November 24, 2016, seeking an order mandating court bailiffs to visit the disputed land to ascertain the identities of the persons carrying out construction activities. The motion was eventually adopted as prayed for.
A copy of the order, dated April 5, 2017, made available to Daily Sun also reads in part: “That the court hereby ordered the sheriffs of this Honourable Court to enter the disputed land at Atiporeme community to ascertain the identities of the persons therein carrying on construction activities on the disputed land in violation of the order of this Honourable Court.
“That the Honourable Court also ordered the Divisional Police Officer, Morogbo Police Station, Badagry, to enter upon the disputed land suo motu or upon any report from the applicants in order to arrest any persons found carrying on construction on the disputed land and bring same persons before this Honourable Court.”
The correspondent learnt that the court assignment executed on May 16, was carried out by a team of sheriffs, led by Mr. Kilani Rasheed.
However, the assignment nearly turned deadly when policemen guarding the site and the construction workers prevented the court officials from entering the premises. The court sheriffs and those who accompanied them were not allowed to carry out their assignments.
The policemen on the scene told the bailiffs that they were not at the premises to obey any court order but orders “from above.”
The law enforcement officers went as far as cocking their guns, threatening to shoot the reporters who were in company with the court officials. They claimed that “nothing would happen” if they killed anyone.
The policemen did not spare the tools of the journalists. They seized the reporters’ cameras, particularly the camera belonging to STV correspondent, Mr. Peter Samuel.
Chairman of the communities, Chief Charles Adu, expressed disappointed that the police who were paid with taxpayers’ money were the ones aiming their guns at defenceless citizens.
“I am very disappointed that the policemen that are expected to enforce the law are the ones ridiculing it. They told the court that they were not the ones building here, but what then are they doing at the site fully armed? And they are the ones pointing their guns at court sheriffs and even journalists who came here to do their jobs,” he said.
Olisakwe called on the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to call his men to order and obey court orders, as the police were not in any way above the Nigerian court.