Apo XK Plots: Will IGP Aid Self-Help Or Obey Court Judgement -By Abubakar G. Abdulsalam

Filed under: Democracy & Governance |

The 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). This portion of our organic law directs that the judicial powers of the court “shall extend notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this constitution to all inherent powers and sanctions of a court of law”.

Outside of our constitution, other laws that regulate enforcement of judgments in Nigeria are the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act, the Sheriffs and Civil Process Laws of the States and the Judgments (Enforcement) Rules made thereunder 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.

The Apo (XK) Extension Annex Layout was designed by the Abuja Municipal Council (AMAC) and R-of –O issued to would be residents in 1995. Owners of plots within the layout could not undertake any development due to lack of access roads.

Between 2003 and 2005, in an effort to resettle the Garki village, the MFCT decided to utilize some portion of the Apo Layouts, made up of A, B, C, D, E, F, AMV, and XK to construct the resettlement housing units.

So far construction affected only A, B, C, E and F and affected allottees were compensated with replacement plots. The AMV and XK sections of the layouts were however not utilized, plot allottees in these areas were also not compensated in any form.

Consequently, the residents there went ahead with their building plans duly approved by AMAC to develop their plots, just as some families packed to live their completed buildings.

But on Friday, April 24, 2009, the Resettlement Task Force (RTF) set up to construct resettlement housing units began to demolish houses and buildings including those occupied by families.

The affected residents/victims of about 600 earlier issued with R-of-O to own properties at the Apo (XK) Layout thereafter formed an association to press home their points.

The association wrote a letter dated April 28, 2009, to FCT Minister another dated April 27, 2009, addressed to the chairman, Senate Committee on FCT; requesting them to intervene on the injustice meted on them.

None of them responded or did anything till date, rather the then FCT Minister and the FCDA re-allocated the entire Apo XK layout plots covering 78 hectares to one ENL Consortium Limited, owned by former Osun state deputy Governor, Clement Adesuyi Haastrup.

In a very diabolic circumstance, part of Haastrup land was carved out for Federal Housing Authority (FHA).

Consequently, the association on behalf of members/victims approached the FCT High Court with their Suit No. FCT/HC/CV/1457/09.

The court granted an injunction same 2009 restraining the defendants pending determination of the substantive case.

The ENL Consortium, FHA, FCDA, and FCT disobeyed with the court order. But on May 27, 2011, Justice O.O. Goodluck of the FCT High Court delivered judgment in the matter.

Justice Goodluck however dismissed the suit and held that each allottee claiming occupation and allocation must establish their legal right on their plots.

But the trial judge declared the title of the 5th respondent, Dr. Tumala on the plot he owed as valid, awarded damages of N1 million also in his favor alone, against the ENL Consortium Limited, FHA, FCDA and FCT minister.

Dissatisfied with the judgment, both the ‘’Incorporated Trustees of Apo XK Extension Residents Association’’ filed an appeal with No. CA/A/462/2011 dated June 20, 2011, and listed FCT Minister, FCDA, FHA, ENL Consortium Limited and Dr. Tumala Muhammed Musa as 1st to 5th respondent respectively.

The appellants asked the Court of Appeal to declare they are the lawful allottees or occupants of the parcel of land known as ‘’Apo XK Layout situated within the FCT.

They asked the appellate court to hold that the trial judge errs in law when he said that ‘’in praying for a declaration of the title or lawful occupation, each allottee is a necessary party’’ thereby occasioning a miscarriage of justice.

But in the unanimous judgement delivered by Justices Mohammed Mustapha, Emmanuel Akomaye Agim and Tani Yusuf Hassan on May 18, 2017, ordered the FCT Minister, FCDA and 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 belongs to the appellants.

In the lead judgment read by Justice Mustapha, he said, ‘’having resolved all the issues that call for determination in this appeal against the respondents, this appeal succeeds and it is allowed, the judgment of the trial court is hereby set aside.

‘’This appeal succeeds and it is allowed. The judgment of the trial court is hereby set aside. The sum of N2 million to the appellants as damages for trespass. Cost of N1 million is awarded in favor of the appellants to the appellants.”

‘’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 held Justice Mustapha noted that in his lead judgement that the, ‘’proof for the purpose of the law means nothing more than the process of establishing, to the satisfaction of the court, the existence or non-existence of any fact in issue asserted; and the burden of establishing such assertion is on the party who made the assertion, since he would lose, if no evidence is led in proof at the end of the day.”

‘’The trial court found at page 309 of the record that…the 1st plaintiff vides his evidence established an existing contractual transaction on plot XK 364 Apo Layout, which in my view entitles him to a right of occupancy…”

‘’It is very important to bear in mind that the 1st plaintiff referred to is the 5th respondent in this case, who represented the appellants in the suit at the trial court.”

‘’I have stated in earlier parts of this judgment while resolving issue two 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, it is needless to be repetitive’’, Justice Mustapha held.

On June 15, 2017, the appellants sought and obtained ‘’warrant for possession of premises’’ in the bid to enforce the Court of Appeal judgment. On October 12, 2017, the court bailiffs and policemen enforced the judgment by evicting the judgment debtors (FHA and ENL Consortium Ltd) and handed same to the Appellants.

But in what has remained subject of conjecture, the same Nigerian Police on October 28, 2017, invaded the Apo XK Layouts ostensible to give cover to ENL Consortium Ltd in its bid to resort to ‘’self-help’’ instead of going to the Supreme Court if it is dissatisfied with the Court of Appeal judgment.

Beside forceful eviction of the judgment creditors – the appellants, the police locked the gates that serve as the entry points to the land to prevent the appellants from gaining access to their properties, safe for ENL Consortium Ltd and FHA who are allowed entry into the properties.

However, on November 16, 2017, Yusuf Goya and Aminu Isah filed the suit on behalf of the landowners and named IGP as the defendant asking the court to order the police to halt their backup to Haastrup’s self-help and disobedience to the court order.

In the motion moved by applicants’ lawyer, Valentine Offia stated that: ‘’That applicants were informed that it was judgement debtors who instructed the police to forcefully seize the property, evict the Applicants from their homes, luck the gates of the property in brazen violation of the judgement of the Court of Appeal and illegal opposition to the earlier enforcement of that judgement.”

Offia insisted that the IGP have no basis moving his men to assist ENL Consortium and FHA except a premeditated to perpetuate mischief such as self-help.

On December 14, 2017, IGP who was represented in the court by the Police Commissioner (Legal), David Igbodo, told the court that the police are in the property to prevent break down of law and order.

This is just as he was told by Offia that the police cannot maintain peace on the side of the judgment debtor alone except for undisclosed interest. IGP’s action is a flagrant disobedience of the Court of Appeal judgment, Offia insisted.

“Section 44 of the 1999 Constitution as amended precludes IGP from forceful seizure and occupation of people’s properties in the country.” the lawyer said.

After ruling for FHA, ENL Consortium, FCT Minister and FCDA to join in the suit, Justice Sylvanus Oriji adjourned for further hearing in the matter till February 5, 2018.

Abdulsalam is a legal practitioner base in Abuja

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