A Lagos-based legal practitioner and human rights activist, Mr. Inibehe Effiong has dragged the Nigerian Army before the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) over the refusal by the Nigerian Army Post Exchange Limited (NAPEX), a company registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission, owned and operated by the Nigerian Army to obey a subsisting court judgment.
In separate petitions to the National Human Rights Commission and the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Effiong accused the Nigerian Army of forcefully evicting his client, taking over and destroying his properties and arbitrarily disobeying the orders of the Federal High Court.
The lawyer stated that his client, Chief Abayomi Akerele (carrying on business under the name and style of JOE-YOM MARITIME SERVICES NIG. CO.), a licensed ship chandler and a ship operator, was the original owner of a property situated at No. 3, Eleke Crescent, (Now Walter Carrington Crescent), Victoria Island, Lagos and was in possession of the said land since 1975 before it was declared a federal inland waterway following the enactment of the Inland Waterways Authority Act No 13, of 1997 which vested the exclusive control, management and direction of all land within 100 metres from the Federal Waterways in the National Inland Waterways Authority.
Mr. Effiong however explained that the National Inland Waterways Authority had regularised his client’s continued possession of the land by giving his client necessary license and that his client was paying rents to the Authority without any controversy but that problem stated when the Nigerian Army Post Exchange Limited (NAPEX) became his neighbour. NAPEX, according to the petition, forcefully trespassed on his client’s property, demanded and compelled his client to also pay illegal rents, taxes and charges to them despite that NAPEX, like his client, is equally a licensee of the National Inland Waterways Authority. He said the Army chased away his client from his properties when his client stopped paying the illegal taxes and insisted that only the National Inland Waterways Authority, which has lawful control over the land, is entitled to rents from him.
Effiong stated that his ‘’client operates a slipway with which boats and ships are brought in for repairs from the waterways to the shoreline and equally own a jetty which is a structure at the shoreline used in transferring passengers to the shoreline and into the boat.’’ And that his ‘’client’s business premises is behind the NAPEX premises, the said premises are not in the same compound as they are both clearly demarcated by a fence.’’
The human rights activist revealed that his client obtained final judgment in his favour and against NAPEX in Suit No: FHC/L/CS/789/05 delivered by Honourable Justice Abimbola O. Ogie of the Federal High Court, Lagos Division, on the 6th day of August 2006 and that the appeal filed by NAPEX was dismissed in 2009.
‘’In the said judgment, NAPEX being the 1st Defendant in the said suit was affirmatively restrained from destroying the Plaintiff’s jetty, structure and slipway or anything at all in the Plaintiff’s compound or from exercising any further acts of control or ownership over the land occupied by our client, in addition to the above, NAPEX was also restrained from further harassing, disturbing, unlawfully ejecting our client from his quiet enjoyment and or unlawfully ejecting our client from the said land or from exercising any further acts of control or ownership over the land.’’
‘’Despite the valid, subsisting and extant judgment of the Honourable court, and in flagrant violation of the injunctive orders of court as contained in the judgment, on the 24th March, 2012, one Brigadier General Musibau Amolegbe of the Nigerian Army Post Exchange (NAPEX) Limited in contempt of the Honourable Court to which he is aware of, led stern and combatant looking soldiers to our client’s premises and forcefully dislodged and dispossessed our client of the land’’, Effiong stated.
NAPEX is also accused by the lawyer of erecting a signboard in front of the property with the inscription ‘’THIS LAND BELONGS TO NIGERIAN ARMY, KEEP OFF’’. The Army according to the petition also stationed armed soldiers to chase away his client from the property.
Furthermore, Effiong revealed that all efforts made in the past by the Sheriffs of the Federal High Court to enforce the judgment were frustrated and resisted by the Army despite the fact that the National Inland Waterways Authority supported his client in court and has given his client the green light to resume his lawful possession of the said property which is under the exclusive control of the Authority.
He also stated that Hon. Justice C.J. Aneke of the Federal High Court, Lagos had on 10th March 2014 ordered thus, “ Inspector General of Police, the Assistant Inspector General of Police (Zone 2), the Commissioner of Police Lagos State Command, their deputies, assistants and all other officers attached to them to assist the Registrars and Sheriffs of this Honourable Court in the performance of executing the judgment of the Honourable Justice Abimbola O. Ogie delivered on the 3rd day of August 2006 in favour of the Applicant in recovering possession of the property located at No. 3B Eleke Crescent, Victoria Island, Lagos.’’
Effiong however expressed dismay over the refusal by the Police to assist in enforcing the judgment despite the two requests made to the Lagos State Commissioner of Police by the Deputy Chief Registrar of the Federal High Court, Lagos.
According to the lawyer, his client, Chief Abayomi Akerele has lost income and properties, including boats, office structures, damaged jetty worth over N150,000,000.00 (One Hundred and Fifty Million Naira) and has been out of job for several years which has made it difficult for his client to cater for his family.
‘’Sir, democracy is worthless without adherence to the Rule of Law. Nigeria cannot progress if institutions of the state are viciously deployed to subvert the law and oppress the weak. Our client is a law abiding senior citizen of Nigeria who had served his country as a Naval Officer before he disengaged from the Nigerian Air Force in 1978 and should be accorded equal protection by the government.’’ Effiong said.
Copies of the petition have also been sent to the Inspector General of Police, Minister of Defence, the Chief of Army Staff and copied to the Chief of Army-Civil Relations and Chief of Administration at the Nigerian Army Headquarters.
Several documents were attached to prove the contents of the petition, including the court judgment, order of the Court of Appeal dismissing the appeal, video cassette showing invasion and destruction of the property by Brigadier General Musibau Amolegbe and his men, photograph of the signboard erected by the NAPEX and photographs showing the current deplorable state of the jetty and boats destroyed by the Army, among others.
The lawyer therefore appealed to the National Human Rights Commission and the Attorney General of the Federation to assist his client to recover possession of the property from the Army as ordered by the court and also make NAPEX to pay the sum of N100,000,000.00 (One Hundred Million Naira) to his client as compensation.