BY VINCENT UJUMADU
AWKA—SOME landlords in the commercial city of Onitsha, Anambra State, have sued the state governor, Mr. Peter Obi, Inspector General of Police, IGP, Mohammed Abubakar, Nigerian Army and others for N3.5 billion, over alleged forceful closure of their business premises without recourse to a pending case in court.
The amount, they said, was special and general damages for trespass and loss of income, as well as damage to the buildings and structures caused by the security agents.
The houses, located on William street, Nwokedi street, First Bank road, Venn road North and their environs in Onitsha North local government area had until recently, served as the building materials section in Onitsha before the state government relocated them to the building materials market at Ogbunike, which the traders rebuffed.
Following what they described as frequent harassment by security agents, tenants operating in the said premises, in suit No FHW/AWK/CS/160/2010, took the defendants to court to protect their fundamental rights.
Counsel to the landlords, Mr. Ositadinma Nnadi, SAN, regretted that despite the fact that the case was pending in court, security agencies had cordoned off the entire area, making it difficult for even people living there to enter their houses.
Citing an earlier judgment on a similar matter by Justice C.O. Nwokedi of Onitsha High Court concerning Anambra State Street Trading Restriction Law 2004, Nnadi established that those trading in constructed buildings could not be said to be in breach of the law.
Nnadi, therefore, prayed the court for a declaration that the alleged invasion of the houses, which made it difficult for people to enter the area, was null, void and unconstitutional.
He also prayed for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants or their agents from interfering, disturbing or continuing to disturb the plaintiffs of their rights of ingress or egress of the buildings.
Nnadi said: “Clearly, the conduct of the police, vigilante group, officials of Anambra State government and those sponsoring the invasion has exposed all the officers to breach the law in the realm of torts law for which our clients shall claim N3,5 billion unless the persons concerned as a matter of urgency withdraw their agents from the buildings and allow our clients access into and out of their buildings to enable them let them out to tenants as was the position before the invasion.
“The Nigerian constitution is founded on the rule of law, primary meaning of which is that everything must be done according to law as the essence of rule law is that it should never operate under the rule of force or fear.”