By Onozure Dania & Monsur Olowoopejo
Lagos—Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo of a Lagos State High Court, sitting at Igbosere, yesterday dismissed an application filed by hundreds of displaced residents of several Lagos waterfront settlements seeking the committal to prison of Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, Commissioner of Police, CP, Fatai Owoseni and two others for contempt of court.
While delivering ruling on contempt, Justice Onigbanjo stated that according to Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) the governor, who was the third respondent, in the matter had constitutional immunity from prosecution and imprisonment, adding that this meant that the court lacked the jurisdiction to hear the application against him.
Other respondents in the matter are the Attorney-General of Lagos and Commissioner of Justice Kazeem Adeniji, Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, and the CP who are the first, second and fourth respondents respectively.
The Judge ruled further that the other respondents, having acted under the clear order and direct supervision of the governor, they could not be said to be contemnors.
The applicants had through their lawyer, Friday Oteiku, dragged the Lagos state governor, Attorney-General of Lagos and Commissioner of Justice Kazeem Adeniji, Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, and the Commissioner of Police before the court over the demolition of their properties.
The applicants who were 33 in number are suing on behalf of themselves and other residents of settlements including Otodo Gbame, Tomaro, Otumara, Orisunmibare, Oko Agbon, Itun Atan, Sogunro, the Ikorodu communities of Ofin, Bayeku and Olufunke Majidun and the Bariga communties of Ago Egun, Ebute-Ilaje.
The applicants who besieged the court in their hundreds yesterday claimed, that the respondents flouted an order of court dated November 7 and 16, 2016, restraining them “from demolishing any of the applicants’ homes, business premises, properties or community facilities in waterfront communities across Lagos State inhabited by the applicants or evicting the applicants there from.”
The applicants also claimed that as recently as January 26, 2017, the respondents further disobeyed the court’s order that “parties shall maintain the status quo pending the final resolution or determination of issues between them either upon conclusion of mediation as directed by the court or the final determination of their suit.”
But Justice Onigbanjo, who expressed grave concern if it was true that the governor deliberately disobeyed a court order, stated that the government and its lawyers, had a higher moral burden in this instance.
He asked: “Are you saying that because a child is rolling in sand, you, an adult, will also roll in the sand? This court will expect a higher level of compliance from this (government’s) side than from the other side.”
Residents protest at Gov’s office
Meantime, residents of Otodo-Gbame Community in Lekki, Lagos State, yesterday stormed office of the state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, protesting against alleged killing of Daniel Anya, injuring others and demolition of their structures by suspected policemen.
The protesters were at the governor’s office after leaving the Lagos High Court where their application to commit the governor, the state’s Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni and others to prison for Court contempt failed.
The residents, who were armed with leaves and scanty things they salvaged from the community after demolition, argued that after their displacement, they now sleep in canoes, saying, ”we don’t have anywhere to go.”
The residents argued that the education of their children have been hampered with the demolition.
They demanded that the state government provide alternative abode, ensure their return to Otodo-Gbame and provide relief materials.
Addressing the protesters, Commissioner for Home Affairs and Culture, Abdulhakeem Abdul-Lateef, assured the protesters that the government would consider their demands, urging them to return next Tuesday.