Court voids land acquisition in Delta, fines Army N1m

There was jubilation in Uvwie Local Government Area of Delta State on Monday as an Effurun High Court declared “null and void” the purported acquisition by the Nigerian Army parts of Ohore 1 community land in the area.

The presiding judge, Justice Roli-Daibo, while delivering judgment in suit No. EHC/41/2014, had also declared the invasion of Ohore 1 community land by the Nigerian Army as “trespass”. 

The judge fined the Army N1 million saying the Ohore people were entitled to the statutory right of occupancy in respect of the entire land in exhibit CL3.

The suit had been brought before the court by Mr. Godwin Imiruaye, Mr. Lucky Utebu and Chief Julius Oghojamuni on behalf of themselves and the Ohore 1 community against the Nigerian Army, the Minister of Justice, and six others.

Lawyers for the claimants led by Chief Victor Otomiewo, had approached the court to declare that prior to the promulgation of the Land Use Act, the claimants being the persons in occupation and possession of all parcels of land at Ohore did not fall within any area of land acquired by the Army at the time for the use by the defendants

The plaintiffs, among others, also asked the court to declare that any acquisition of Ohore 1 land without due process and evidence of compliance with all the relevant laws and the constitution is null and void.

In the judgment, the court agreed with the claimants’ lawyers and restrained the Army from further trespassing on Ohore land.

The PUNCH gathered that the land in question was acquired in 1975 by the Nigerian army from the then Midwestern State government via a letter with reference number NAE/2801/26/1/G. 

The land was reportedly acquired by the Army for the construction of the present-day Effurun Barracks. 

Community sources said that though the Land Use Act – which vests all land in the government that holds such land in trust for the people – was not yet promulgated at the time of acquisition, no compensation was paid to the families who owned the land as required by the law.

Also, when the construction of the barracks was completed in 1979, a large portion of the land was unused and lying fallow for years. Rather than returning the rest to the owners who depend on the land for survival, some serving and retired Army Generals reportedly “became clever and started to sell the land to investors and speculators and rent out the rest to small-time traders who can afford to own a shop in the Mammy Market”.

It was gathered that the land is presently being sold at a price beyond the reach of the original owners, the people of Uvwie kingdom which is the genesis of the land dispute crisis.

The Ovie of Uvwie Kingdom, Emmanuel Sideso, Abe 1, said his people initially conceded that much size of land to the Army because the Federal Government made them believe it wanted to build the main campus of the Nigerian Defence Academy established in 1964 in Effurun. 

The monarch said, “We believe Army education will bring development to the community. 

“But since the military academy was eventually located in Kaduna, the government decided to use the acquired land for the building of army barracks now known as 3 Battalion Barracks, Effurun. The total portion of land acquired in 1975 was 4,640 acres.

“The Certificate of Occupancy obtained by the Army in February 1994 shows that the Army later appropriated an additional 436 acres. The extra, which puts the total land acquired at 5,076 acres, was taken without the approval of Uvwie people.”

Credit Gist New Today News in Newspaper Nigeria Headlines

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