An attempt by the Lagos State House of Assembly’s Committee on land and housing to investigate an alleged illegal destruction of the master plan of New Lagos Model City project in Lekki area of the state, has run into a hitch following an order of the state High Court.
Justice (Mrs) Atinuke Ipaye of the Lagos High Court had on 11 March, 2013, ordered parties in the suit to maintain the status quo and that “all construction activities of whatever nature shall cease forthwith on the subject property,” pending the hearing and determination of the suit.
The Eleku family of Oko-Olomi, Bogije area of Ibeju-Lekki Local Government of Lagos State filed suit No. LD/1946/2012 against the Executive Governor, the Attorney-General of the state and Oba Tajudeen Afolabi Elemoro, seeking among other reliefs, a declaration of the court, that the excision of their land by the state government without any notice of compulsory acquisition or payment of compensation, renders the whole acquisition illegal, invalid, null and void.
They also asked for an order of the court setting aside the government’s official Gazette No. 19 volume 40, dated 22 February, 2007 at page 132 and an injunction restraining the defendants from further embarking on any construction work on the disputed land.
At resumed hearing on Monday, 11 March, 2013, counsel to Oba Tajudeen Elemoro, Mr. Tunji Adigun, gave an undertaking before Justice (Mrs) Atinuke Ipaye that all construction activities of whatever nature shall cease forthwith on the disputed land, pending the hearing and determination of the case.
Consequently, Justice Ipaye ordered parties to maintain the status quo and adjourned further hearing till 15 April, 2013.
Lawyers from the law firm of Olufemi Dacosta Osinowo Co., acting as solicitors to Oba Elemoro, forwarded a petition to the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, alleging among other things that the applicants in the suits have constructed illegal building structures on the land earmarked for new Lagos Model City project and urged the House to investigate the matter.
Consequently, by a letter dated 22 March, 2013 the House Committee on lands invited members of the Eleku family.
Lawyer to the Eleku family, Barrister Bamidele Ogundele, however, objected to the invitation describing it as “serious contempt of court” and that his clients “will not be able to honour the invitation in view of the pending suit.”
In a letter dated 26 March, 2013, addressed to the Clerk of the House, Ogundele stated that his clients are: “law abiding citizens of Nigeria that believe in the rule of law, constitutionalism and due process. It is imperative to state that Lagos Government with some land syndicate parading themselves as permanent secretary and senior land officers perpetrated outright fraud on the land of our clients purportedly acquired for overriding public interest without payment of compensation. Most importantly, the civil matters are pending in court before Honourable Justice Ipaye and there is an order of injunction restraining Oba Elemoro and others on the land.”
Ogundele stated that the law firm of Olufemi Dacosta Osinowo Co. that forwarded the petition are conversant with the position of the law that when cases are pending, the authority of the Honourable Court as unbiased umpire must be respected and no party must take any action to overreach the other party in the case as it is presently being done by Elemoro family by not disclosing the fact that there is a pending suit and injunction granted by Honourable Justice Atinuke Ipaye.
“The solicitors involved acted unethically and we shall not hesitate to write a petition against them to National Disciplinary committee of Nigeria Bar Association for necessary action in order to protect the integrity of the court. They are meddlesome interlopers and busybodies that set out to mislead the honourable members of the land and housing committee.
One of those invited by the committee, Mr. Femi Bakare, described the action of Elemoro family as “resorting to self-help when the case was already before a competent court of law.
“Apparently, they have no confidence in the rule of law, due process and Honourable Justice Ipaye. It is a good thing that the Honourable House put a stop to further hearing on seeing the court order. Our opponents concealed the fact that the matter is subject of litigation and there is a pending injunction. This shows how fraudulent these people are. It is quite a shame that we come up against such people.”