Rail Line Construction: Court Orders Lagos Govt, Ibeju-lekki Communities To Maintain Status Quo

Some Of The Affected Residents At The Court’s Premises Yesterday

A Lagos Federal High Court, has halted the proposed demolition of houses and properties in Eleko area of Ibeju-lekki Local Government of Lagos State, pending the hearing and determination of suit filed by affected residents of the communities.

The residents of the affected communities, have alleged that the Lagos State government, had issued to them seven days demolition notice.

The demolition according to the affected communities claimed is to give way for the construction of railroad into the Dangote Refinery and seaport.

The presiding judge of the court, Justice Daniel Osiagor, made the Statue quo order on Thursday, after hearing Mr. Kamorudeen Kotun and Yakubu Eleto, lawyers to the affected residents, who are applicants in the suit numbered FHC/L/CS/1374/23.

The judge, while adjourned the hearing of applicants’ suit till September 22, however held that ‘without prejudice’, parties can approach the vacation court, for the determination of the suit, before the adjourned date.

The applicants in the suit, who include: Salami Matthew; Arogundade Olatunde; Balogun Muraino; Ashekun Ike; Taofeek Kabiru; Olati Igbomoyi; Animashaun Rasheed Kunle; Arinle Kehinde; Sanni Isiaka; Frank Eshariye; Pastor Sunday Isaac; Olusegun Eleto.

Others include; Olowo Isiaka; Adex Adex; Toriola Oyetunji; Gloria Nkiruka; Funcity Hotels Idasho; View Hotel Magbon Segun; Unique Hotels Idasho; Rooftop Hotels Idasho and Ibeju-lekki Peoples Forum

While the respondents are: Lagos State Government; the State’s Attorney-General; Permanent Secretary Ministry of Physical Planning And Urban Development; TPL Animashaun, O. A. S; Inspector-General Of Police; Commissioner Of Police Lagos State and Lagos State Task Force On Environmental and Special Offences Unit.

The applicant’s suit is pursuant to Sections 33, 34, 35, 36, 41, 43, 44 (1) and 46 of the 1999 Constitution Of The Federal Republic of Nigeria; Order 11, Rules 1 and 11of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009, the applicants asked for the following reliefs: “a  declaration that the threat of arrest, torture, and detention of the Applicants by the agents of the respondents without cause is wrongful, illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional, null and void as it violates the Applicants fundamental rights as enshrined under Sections 33, 34, 35, 36 and 41 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“A declaration that the threat of forceful invasion and demolition of the applicants residential houses and business properties on the 18th of July, 2023 or any other day by the agents of the respondents, during the pendency of this matter in court and without any order of the Court is wrongful, illegal, unlawful, wicked, unconstitutional, null and void as it violates the Applicants and other residents fundamental rights as enshrined under Sections 36, 43 and 44 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“A declaration that the continuous threats of arrest, intimidation, harassment and the threat of sacking about 48 communities belonging to the applicants and other residents by the agents of the respondents without cause is illegal, oppressive, unconstitutional, null and void as it violates the Applicants’ fundamental rights as enshrined under Sections 33, 34 and 36 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“An Order Compelling the respondents jointly and severally to pay the sum of N500 million, to the applicants being general and exemplary damages for the planned unlawful and wrongful invasion and demolition of the Applicants residential houses and business places without any order of the Court.

“An Order Of Perpetual Injunction restraining the respondents, jointly and severally, their officers, agents, servants, privies or howsoever called and connected from arresting, intimidating, harassing, humiliating, detaining or disturbing the applicants and other residents of the communities in any manner whatsoever on any fact connected with or related to the facts of this case.

“N5 million, as cost of action assessed.”

The applicants in 73 paragraphs affidavit in support of the originating summon, deposed to by their lawyer, Yakubu Eleto, averred that he is the Legal Adviser of Ibeju-Lekki Peoples Forum; Association registered under the Company and Allied Matters Act and further registered with the Ibeju-Lekki, Local Government Area of Lagos state. 

Eleto also stated that he is one of the first victims of the threat of demolition of property in Lekuru community and massively under the threat of losing our family heritage alongside other over 500, 000 compensation and or an order of the court.

The lawyer stated that sometimes in 2022, the first respondents issued a notice of demolition of properties constructed on the government SETBCAKS for RIGHT OF WAY and of which all the applicants duly complied with the directives of government and the road had already been constructed.

Eleto stated that surprisingly on the 12th of July 2023, at about 10:30am, the fourth respondent, wrote a letter to the applicants that the residents should vacate their houses, places of business and land. And that the said letter from the fourth respondent covered new areas that was not captured in 2022 and specifically mentioned communities from Eleko, Iberekodo, Museyo, Odunlami, Magbon Alade, Magbon Oga, Ilado, Orimedu, Orofun, Akodo, Tiye, Imobido, Idasho, Lekuru, Idotun, Magbon Segun, Ileko, Alasia, to Okunraye,  Via Ibeju-lekki, Lagos State.

The lawyer stated further that suddenly the officers of the first to fourth respondents started marking the properties beyond one plot of land from the expressway down to the affected properties. And that the properties in question, were within the gazetted lands given to the community and are known until the date of the markings as free from all known Government acquisitions.

He averred further that some of the properties marked for demolition have the Governor’s consent, Certificate of Occupancy (C-of-O) and requisite permit from the Government. Adding that some public schools in the area, police stations, health centers, recreational centers in the area, gas stations and Hotel Recreation were also affected by the sudden marked demolition without discussion as to compensation, relocation or without adequate notices are told to quit within seven days of the purported notice.

He stated that if the above social places are demolished in the actual sense, the community will be thrown into anarchy and the center will no longer be able to hold.

The deponent averred further that all efforts made by the applicants to get the first to fourth respondents to reason that the ‘Setback’ on the road had already been observed and unencroached upon but the places now marked, do not fall on the areas covered by the setback. Adding that also all efforts made by the applicants to get them to reason were to no avail as their officers continued with the marked demolition.

Eleto stated that to applicants’ utmost surprise, the said armed policemen and Task Force officials of the Lagos State Task Force on Environment and Special Offences continue to mark the houses and to commence demolition amidst tears, pains and sorrow. Adding that during the said forceful marking of the houses, a six months old baby became unconscious in one of the houses marked. And that score of residents and youths were indiscriminately arrested and detained without cause.

He averred that about 72 residents that were arrested and whisked away, were later abandoned at Eleko Junction in Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos State after intervention by some politically connected residents in the community of the applicants.

He averred that all our valuables, houses and properties worth billions of naira are already marked for demolition on the 18th day of July, 2023 without due process of the law. Adding that the residents will not be allowed to pick anything from their houses before rendering them homeless.

He further stated that the Applicants are law abiding citizens of Nigeria who will be rendered homeless by a government that ought to provide housing for us. And that they will be put out of business and will be finding it very hard to make ends meet. While the health condition of some of our members have been seriously affected by this unfortunate development.

He also stated that some of the affected residents have suffered mental disorder and stroke because of loss of what they have labored for over the years. And that four of the residents are now unconscious because of the proposed demolition by the agents of the respondents.

Eleto urged the court to grant the applicants’ requests in the interest of justice.

The defendants are yet to file response to the suit.