By Ameh Ejekwonyilo
Nigerian families in XK Layout, Apo District, Abuja have approached the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory to order the Inspector General of Police to abate the forceful, illegal seizure and occupation of their properties and lands by the Police and pay N50 million as damages for the illegal act by the Nigeria Police. The families are represented by Yusuf Goya and Aminu Isah in their suit filed on their behalf by their counsel, Valentine Offia.
A 13-paragraph affidavit in support of the suit averred that after the Court of Appeal delivered adjudged the families to be owners of the property known as XK Layout, Apo District in Abuja, their adversaries procured the Nigeria Police to contravene the judgment of the Court of Appeal by seizing the land forcefully and handing same to their adversaries led by a private property developer known as ENL Consortium Limited.
In their affidavit, the families deposed that on October 12, 2017, court officials enforced the judgment of the Appeal Court by evicting the ENL Consortium Limited from the property and handed same to the families. However, on October 28, 2017, the Nigeria Police invaded the property, ejected the families and forcefully handed it back to ENL Consortium Ltd who was adjudged by the Court of Appeal not to be the owners of the property. Further, they averred that “That in addition to the forceful eviction, the Nigeria Police locked the gates that serve as the entry points to the land to prevent the applicants and other house owners from returning to their homes”, and added that the action of the Police amounted to aiding and abetting ENL Consortium Limited in flagrant disobedience of the judgment of the Court of Appeal.
During the last proceeding of the FCT High Court on December 14, 2017, Justice Sylvanus Oriji granted application to join the Minister of Federal Capital Territory (MFCT), Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCDA), Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and ENL Consortium Limited as respondents in the suit.
In the application for joinder, B. J Akomolafe who represented the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory and the Federal Housing Authority argued that his clients will be affected by the outcome of the suit while the Police Commissioner (Legal), David Igbodo, counsel to the IGP, informed the court that the police are in the property to prevent break down of law and order. Valentine Offia, counsel to the displaced families countered that the IGP is yet to disclose the real interest he is protecting in the said properties because he cannot be preventing breakdown of law and order by giving cover to ENL Consortium Ltd to contravene the judgment of the Court of Appeal which pronounced his clients as the owners of the property after forcefully evicting the real owners of the property to whom court officials handed the property after executing the judgment of the Court of Appeal.
However, Justice Oriji adjourned further hearing in the matter till February 5, 2018.
The Apo (XK) Extension Annex Layout was designed by the Federal Capital land administration and title documents were issued to various citizens of Nigeria in 1995. In 2009, a private developer, ENL Consortium Limited demolished all the houses of people in XK Apo Layout. No notice of revocation was issued by the authorities and no reason was proffered for the demolition of the homes. The demolition affected private residences, churches and schools and rendered innumerable families homeless. The victims sued the FCT Minister and the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory issued an injunction against the FCDA prohibiting any further action affecting the lands in XK Layout, Apo District, Abuja but in defiance of the orders of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, the FCDA re-allocated the entire lands within Apo XK layout plots covering 78 hectares to ENL Consortium Limited, owned by former Osun state deputy Governor, Clement Adesuyi Haastrup, which commenced construction of houses on the lands while the court was pending in court. ENL Consortium Limited disregarded the court orders and continued construction under an alleged partnership with the Federal Housing Authority.
In 2011, the trial judge, Justice Goodluck awarded damages of N1 million against the ENL Consortium Limited, FHA, FCDA and the FCT minister, upheld the title of one of the victims, Dr. Mohammed Tumala but held that the rest of the victims should file individual suits against ENL Consortium Limited, Federal Housing Authority and the FCDA.
The affected families who were dissatisfied with the judgment filed Appeal No. CA/A/462/2011 at the Court of Appeal on the ground that the suit filed at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory was filed in a representative capacity and the judgment in favour of Dr Muhammed Tumala should also apply to all of them. The families asked the Court of Appeal to declare they are the lawful owners of the parcel of land known as Apo XK Layout situated within the FCT. In the unanimous judgment delivered by Justices Mohammed Mustapha, Emmanuel Akomaye Agim and Tani Yusuf Hassan on May 18, 2017, the Court of Appeal granted the prayers of the families and ordered the ENL Consortium Limited to immediately halt the acts of trespass and to remove all machinery or personnel from the plots of land situated within XK Layout, Apo District which belong to the families.
In the lead judgment read by Justice Mustapha, the Court of Appeal held
“The allocation of the land in dispute to FHA by FCT Minister and FCDA is null and void. The purported revocation of the titles of the plaintiffs to the land in dispute is illegal, and therefore void. FHA or their agents are ordered to abate the acts of trespass and remove all personnel or machinery from the land in dispute”. The Court of Appeal further held that “this suit was instituted in a representative capacity and the error in misconstruing the representative nature of the suit occasioned a miscarriage of justice”
On October 12, 2017, the court bailiffs enforced the judgment by evicting the judgment debtors (FHA and ENL Consortium Ltd) from the property and handed same to the families. However, on October 28, 2017, the Nigeria Police shockingly invaded Apo XK Layout, evicted the families and handed possession back to ENL Consortium Ltd in blatant disobedience to the judgment of the Court of Appeal. The families allege that the Nigeria Police locked the gates of the property and grants access only to ENL Consortium Limited. They allege that all demands to the Nigeria Police to abate the illegal act and hand back their properties to them have been rebuffed by the Nigeria Police who have turned a blind eye to the occupation of the property by armed thugs sponsored by ENL Consortium Limited and they call on President Buhari to intervene and restore law and order to the Federal Capital Territory by ending this show of shame.
It is a statement of facts that Court judgments are meant to be obeyed without demand, especially in any country governed by rule of law. Section 287 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) guarantees the enforcement of court judgments in any part of the country.
Section 287 (2) for instance states that, ‘’the decisions of the Court of Appeal shall be enforced in any part of the Federation by all authorities and persons, and by courts with subordinate jurisdiction to that of the Court of Appeal’’. Enforcement of the Supreme Court and the High Courts are equally dictated under Sections 287 (1) and 287 (3) respectively.
In Nigeria, the power of a court to enforce and ensure compliance with its judgment or order is derived from Section 6(6)(a) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Section 4 of the Police Act states that, ‘’the police shall be employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged’’, meaning police are specifically mandated to enforce court orders or judgements.