The Federal High Court sitting in Abakaliki, Ebonyi state capital Thursday slated March 12th, 2020, to rule on the matter brought before it by the host communities of the ongoing construction of an international airport against Ebonyi state government.
In a suit no. FHC/CS/82/2019, Messrs Nwantiti Christopher, Oken Stephen, Chukwu Celestine, Igwe Sunday, Igwe Emeka and Nwafor Toochukwu, sued Ebonyi state government, on their behalf and the communities, Okeleru, Umuezoka, Umuogharu, alleging forceful takeover of their ancestral homes for construction of an international airport.
The six persons had through their counsel Barr. Gerald Abonyi prayed the court to compel Ebonyi state government to pay them N2bn in damages, for illegally and forcefully removing them from their ancestral homes, destroying their residential houses and economic trees, without compensations.
In their prayers also, they prayed the court to make an order stopping the construction of the airport, in the alternative.
While adopting the written addresses, the defendant’s lead counsel, Barr. Roy O. Nweze, prayed the court to dismiss the case for lacking merit.
Barr. Nweze, however, informed the court that the plaintiffs were more than one person and in consequence for being more than one, in the eye of the law, is that the action was incompetent.
Equally, he said the court had no jurisdiction to entertain the matter in the first instance, noting that “section 251 of the constitution of Nigeria, as amended, is very explicit in such matters”.
“Considering that none of the parties is a federal agency, neither the plaintiff nor the respondent is a federal agency and considering that the matter borders on land, which this court has no jurisdiction to handle, I, therefore, urge the court to graciously dismiss the matter.
On his part, Barr. Gerald Abonyi, the lead counsel to the plaintiffs, said the action is competent, because it was explicitly captured in the human rights fundamental procedure rules.
Barr. Abonyi argued that the subject matter, which borders on breach of the fundamental rights of the applicants, was what conferred the court jurisdiction to hear it.
He further argued that section 28 and 29 of the Land Act provided procedures and conditions for acquisition of public land, adding that the case in question has nothing to do with buying and selling of land.
Abonyi noted that the forceful acquisition of the applicants’ land, destruction of their residential buildings and economic trees there-in, without compensations, was illegal and the court should hold so.
After listening to the prayers of both the defendant and the plaintiffs,the presiding judge, Justice Phoebe Ayua, fixed March 12 for ruling.