The Gallery

May 26, 2019

Calabar land dispute: Court decides, awards N100m damages to community 

Lawyer, Delta

By Ike Uchechukwu

Kasuk II and Ikot Ansa are Qua clans who share same language, same affinity and contiguous location. They are an integral component of the three major ethnic groups that constitute Calabar, Cross River State capital.

Lawyer, Delta

Meanwhile, the sister clans have for close to a century been at daggers drawn over an parcel of land that lies along their common boundary at the Parliamentary Extension Boulevard.

However, this fragile relationship has not resulted to full warfare following constant intervention of the state government, the police, the courts and calls for restraint by one of the chiefs, Ntoe Ededem Ayito, the Clan Head of Kasuk II Qua Clan.

Speaking with Sunday Vanguard, Ayito narrated that there has been a long standing misunderstanding between Kasuk II Qua Clan and its neighbour over the parcel of land for which a Calabar High Court has now ruled and awarded damages to the tune of N100 million in Kasuk’s  favour.

“This matter has been going on for over 70 years and, since I am the clan head, I know I have to maintain peace in my domain because what government needs is peace in order to bring development to our people and, when I had exhausted all the avenues I knew, we had to use legal measures to subdue pressures that would come to the community”, he said.

According to him, the recent misunderstanding between the two clans started in 2011 when their neighbours, once again began to claim Kasuk 11 swamp and adjoining lands, insisting that the army gave them a part of it as a Deed of Release for acquiring their land for army barracks.

“They now used that Deed of Release to trespass and sell part of our landed properties and even went ahead to excavate our red soil and destroyed our raffia palms which became a subject of litigation,” he said.

“As far back as 1950, there were so many trespassers on Kasuk communal swamp land. So those people that encroached on our communal swamp land, we took them to court and the case was decided in the customary court in1950. I was not even born then.

“The case was also decided in the Appeal Court in 1951 and 1952 in our favour that they are trespassers. That judgment even gave an order to the police to guard against people trespassing into our communal swamp land.

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“And in the suit of 1949 that we had with the old town, Obutong, it was clearly written there that Ikot Ishi and Ikot Ansa are customary tenants, that they acquired their land from Kasuk community. So, as the original owners of the land, why should tenants now come to fight us? We had out-of-court settlement with Obutong community, Essien Town Community and other communities in 1949; we had another one in 1955”.

On his part, counsel to Kasuk II Qua Clan, Ochardson Umoh, said it was a long battle and that the court finally gave judgement to bring peace to the troubled communities.

“The matter had to go to court because the two parties were insisting that they own it. It has been in court for quite some time but on February 28, 2019, the court delivered judgment and agreed with us that the Ikot Ansa community, the defendants in the matter in suit number HC242/2017, actually trespassed into the area of land and nullified all leases, grants, sale and, in fact, any dealing whatever that the people of Ikot Ansa had over the land,” he said.

“The court did not only stop them. It also awarded damages to tune of N100million against Ikot Ansa in favor of the Kasuk community. You have to understand that before the Kasuk community went to court, Ikot Ansa had trespassed into this place and they were excavating red earth from a particular part of the land in dispute.

“We had told the court how much they were making a day and the number of years that happened. I think this is what informed the decision of the court because they did not deny it that they were excavating and selling the sand even while the case was on going in court.

“We tried to restrain them with interlocutory injunction as they were excavating. They could have made over N200million but the award of N100million damages is fair”.

When contacted, the Paramount Ruler of Calabar Municipality, HRM Ndidem Patrick Inok Oqua Agbor, who oversees Ikot Ansa, declined to comment on the matter.