By Vincent Ujumadu
AWKA — FEDERAL Government workers in Anambra State who were beneficiaries of the plots of land for a housing estate at Amansea, Awka have been grumbling following the revocation of the Certificate of Occupancy, C of O, issued to the Federal Government for the land by the Anambra State government.
The land, measuring 148.337 hectares, was acquired by the Federal Government during the administration of Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju and was subsequently allocated to federal civil servants in the state. However, because of the delay by the Federal Government to build the site and services scheme that would enable the allottees identify their plots, most of the beneficiaries became frustrated and later started reselling their plots.
When Governor Willie Obiano learnt of the status of the land, he revoked the allocation and invited a private developer, who is already developing the estate. At the site, many houses have reached the roofing level and work is also going on with the provision of other amenities such as internal roads, electricity and water supply.
Worried by the action of the Anambra State government, the original beneficiaries and the Federal Government dragged the state to the Supreme Court claiming damages of N50 billion. But what is worrying them more is the alleged disobedience of the Anambra State government to the order of the Supreme Court for stay of execution on the matter, pending the determination of the N50 billion suit.
A full panel of the apex court presided over by Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammed had, on June 9, 2016, adjourned the case to February 13, 2017, for hearing of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction filed by counsel to federal government, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) and directed the parties to maintain status quo.
But few weeks after the adjournment of the case, Ozekhome wrote to the Attorney General (AG) of Anambra State, alleging disobedience to the Supreme Court directive, warning that his client would not hesitate to commence contempt procedure against the state governor, Chief Willie Obiano, the Attorney General of the state and others involved in the land, if they failed to obey the apex court’s directive.
Ozekhome’s letter read in parts: “Our attention, has been drawn lately by our clients to the fact that notwithstanding the admonition of the apex court and the undertaking by your counsel, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) to communicate to you the need to desist from further acts on or concerning the res, subject matter of dispute, before the apex court, the Anambra State Government has gone ahead with renewed vigour and zeal, to carry on further developmental works on the res. Your clients had moved to the site after it was served court processes on this matter and after you had responded to same.
“We would want to believe in the circumstances that the admonition of the apex court had not been communicated to you by your counsel as at the time of our writing you this letter. Assuming, without conceding, that this is the position, we hereby bring to your notice the admonition of the apex court, per Honourable Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammed, JSC, presiding, which is to the effect, that further acts of development on the land be stopped forthwith, so as not to foist a situation of fait accompli on the apex court. The doctrine of “lis pendens” now prevails.
“If however, the reverse is the case, that this admonition has been communicated to you by your counsel, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), but you still chose to ignore same, we hereby bring to your notice that such flagrant disobedience of the apex court’s directives can be visited with dire legal consequences. Even if no order, whether direct or otherwise; was made that you maintain the status quo, we expect you to do so as a matter of judicial pertinence. See the case of Governor of Lagos State vs Ojukwu (1986) 1 NWLR (Part 18) Pg. 61 at Pg. 626 Paras 26.