By Chidi Nkwopara
OWERRI – An Imo State High Court presided over by Justice K. A. Ojiako, has described the forceful entry, demolition of staff quarters of Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri and rendering of the institution’s pensioners homeless, as “illegal, unconscionable and portrayed the defendants as people that have no respect for the rule of law”.
This position was part of the more than two hours judgment, which Justice Ojiako delivered Monday, in a suit HOW/406/2016, instituted by Dr. A. M. Iwuoha and others, against Imo State Governor, the state Attorney General, the Commissioner for Lands, Survey and Urban Planning and others.
The AIFCE retirees filed the suit to contest, among other things, their forceful ejection from their quarters and destruction of their properties, as well as prayed for consequential damages to assuage their losses.
In his judgment, Ojiako held that the actions of the defendants “clearly negates beliefs and contradicts the rule of law mantra in the often sung Imo Anthem”.
Ojiako also said that what was more intriguing was that the properties which the defendants destroyed, do not belong to them.
“In view of this reprehensible, reckless, atrocious and cruel conduct of the defendants, which also amounts to condemnable self help, I will award exemplary damages against them”, Justice Ojiako said.
Apart from awarding the plaintiffs the sum of N400 million as consequential damages, Justice Ojiako also ordered that the plaintiffs should take possession of all structures built in the area.
“The defendants shall jointly and severally pay the plaintiffs the sum of N400 million only as exemplary damages for the forceful eviction of the plaintiffs and demolition of their properties, subject matter of this suit”, Ojiako said.
Continuing, the Court not only restored the possession of the plaintiffs to the properties erected in their premises, but also “restrained the defendants, their servants, preview, agents, officers from claiming, forcibly ejecting or further ejecting the plaintiffs from the said properties, or interfering or further interfering with the plaintiffs possession and/or occupation of the said properties.”