Four years after, no respite for victims of demolished Badagry communities

•President Buhari must come to our aid, they plead  

By Daniel Anokwuru

For residents of the three communities demolished in Badagry Local Government Area of Lagos State in December 2013, the wait for justice seems unending.

Atiporome, Araromi Ale and Muwo Phase II were on December 16 and 17, 2013, reduced to rubble by agents of the Lagos State government, working in conjunction with the Nigeria Police. The police claimed that the demolition of the communities was to pave way for the Police Cooperative Housing Scheme of the Lagos State Police Command.

The matter has been a subject of litigation at the Badagry High Court. The court ordered the parties in the dispute to stay away from the land pending the determination of the case. But residents of the affected communities alleged that the police establishment, which is the direct beneficiary of the proposed project, has disregarded court orders and continued with the construction of the housing project, which has since been inaugurated.

Before the launching of the project, the victims had petitioned the then Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG), Zone 2, Onikan, Mr. Abdulmajid Ali, reminding him that the continued presence of the police on the land was against court orders restraining all parties pending the determination of the case at the Badagry High Court. But the petition did not yield any result.

The victims have consistently condemned the demolition of their communities, insisting that the land allotted to the police was at Agemowe/Agelado, a long way from their own communities, as indicated in the certificate of occupancy and survey plan being brandished by the police.

Chairman of the demolished communities, Chief Charles Adu, said the victims were pained that those who were supposed to obey and enforce the law were the ones undermining it. He said there was a ruling delivered by Hon. Justice Y.A. Adesanya (Mrs.) of the Lagos State High Court, Badagry, on June 9, 2014, ordering all parties to keep off the land. He regretted that the police consistently shunned the order and have completed and launched the project, which they named after President Muhammadu Buhari.  

A copy of the order made available to Daily Sun stated that “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.”

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Adu disclosed that when the first order was violated, there was another order delivered on February 26, 2015, by Hon. Justice M.A. Dada (Mrs.) of Lagos State High Court that anybody found working on the controversial land should be imprisoned, but the police had maintained that they were not the ones building, though they were always on site to protect the workers.

The puzzle surrounding the true identity of those carrying out the construction work, irrespective of series of court orders, prompted counsel to the defendants, Mr. Olisakwe Samuel, to file a motion on notice on November 24, 2016, seeking an order mandating court sheriffs to visit the disputed land to ascertain the identities of the persons therein carrying on construction activities.

Indeed, the sheriffs of the court, led by Mr. Kilani Rasheed, visited the communities on Tuesday, May 16, 2017, to enforce the court order, but it was gathered that the police restrained them and prevented them from gaining entrance into the community.

In his reaction, Nwokedi, a lawyer from Interveners Chambers, has criticised the recent inauguration of the project on September 28, while the case was still a subject of litigation in a Lagos State High Court.  

Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, had said that the houses, built in partnership with Remax Realtors, were erected as part of efforts to alleviate the accommodation problem of the officers and men of the force. He said the gesture was also in line with President Muhammad Buhari’s change mantra of providing conducive accommodation for all categories of civil servants in the country.

In a text message to our reporter, Nwokedi said the action was highly regrettable, maintaining that it showed why the Nigerian Police was rated the worst police force globally.

The message said: “The action of the Nigeria Police Force in respect of the matter is quite regrettable. It goes to show why the last index showed Nigeria Police as the worst globally because of the level of monumental impunity associated with the Nigeria Police. Nigeria Police is quite notorious for disobeying court orders. This is because they believe they are the law enforcement agents and, therefore, no one can arrest or detain them. But I am quite optimistic that they will pay heavily for their actions by the time that matter is finally dispensed with in court. If they like, let them name it not only after President Buhari but also Donald Trump. That does not change anything in the eyes of the law. When the ownership or title of the said land is determined by the court, they will know the gravity of their illegal and unlawful actions. This is because it is a popular maxim in law that he who owns the land owns what is on top and beneath the land, except if it is a solid mineral. That is under the exclusive list of the federal government. So it is immaterial what they build on the land the law will take its course.”  

Adu has, therefore, called on President Buhari to come to the aid of the people.

“President Buhari should not allow his name to be drawn into this injustice. He should know that fighting corruption is not only about recovering cash. When what belongs to the poor is forcefully and unlawfully collected, it is also corruption. We are calling on him to come to our aid and not to keep quiet in the face of this injustice,” he said.

Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, Chike Oti, did not respond to a text message sent to his phone, neither did he return calls made to his mobile line as at press time.