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Demolition of Trans-Amadi Central Mosque in Port Harcourt: Setting the record straight- Lawyer

Demolition of Trans-Amadi Central Mosque in Port Harcourt: Setting the record straight- Lawyer

 

By Barrister Abū Sa’eed, Muḥammad Saheed

Background

Trans-Amadi Central Mosque, Port Harcourt is duly registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission, under Part C of the Companies and Allied Matters Act.

 

  1. By a Deed of Conveyance prepared by its Solicitors in the law firm of OLORIEGBE & CO in the year, 2008, the entire land, measuring about 2187.914 square metres situate at Kalagbor Kiri, Amadi Ama, Port Harcourt, PHALGA, Rivers State was conveyed to the mosque by the late Chief (Dr) Edward Sotonye Amadi for a fee.

 

  1. Prior to the purchase of the land from the aforesaid vendor, the Rivers State government confirmed that the land was not within the Government’s Rainbow Town layout and even granted the vendor a fencing permit by letters dated 7th August, 2002 and 28th August, 2002 respectively. Therefore, the land is situate at Amadi Ama (near Rainbow Town) but outside the Rainbow Town layout of the government.

 

Court matters

 

  1. By a writ of summons, the mosque’s predecessor-in-title filed a suit against the Rivers State government (i.e. Permanent Secretary, Lands & Bureau, Director, Urban and Regional Planning and Attorney General of Rivers State) in SUIT NO. PHC/2103/2002 over title to that property.

 

  1. In that case, three witnesses testified for the Claimants before the issue as to non-signing of the writ of summons arose and after arguments, the matter was struck out. However, the Rivers State government had a counter-claim which survived the main suit. The government called one witness before it sought to withdraw the counter-claim when the second witness was to be brought. After arguments as to the proper order to make at that stage, the court, presided by Hon. Justice Boma Diepiri on *02/11/2017* dismissed the counter-claim of the government over title to the property. It should be noted that the court had earlier on *5 June, 2012* made the following order in respect of the property:

 

_That the Claimants are hereby authorized to proceed to remove the padlock from the premises subject matter of this suit._

 

  1. The registered trustees of the mosque filed a suit against the Rivers State Government (i.e. The Commissioner, Ministry of Urban Development & Physical Planning, Governor of Rivers State and the Attorney General) in SUIT NO. PHC/986/2012 for *trespass* over its land after Rivers State demolition team visited the mosque on Tuesday, 17 January 2012 and Friday, 20 January 2012 to harass and intimidate members of the mosque.

 

  1. Judgment in the above trespass suit was delivered on *27/11/2018* by Hon. Justice G. O. Omereji, who not only dismissed the suit but gave title to the government.

 

  1. Dissatisfied with the decision of Hon. Justice G. O. Omereji, the mosque filed a Notice of Appeal with ten (10) grounds through its Counsel, U. G. Nwokocha, Esq of U. G. Nwokocha & Co and appeal was eventually entered, being CA/PH/255/2019.

 

  1. At the Court of Appeal, the mosque has a pending motion for interlocutory injunction, filed on 31/07/2019 to restrain the Rivers State government from arbitrarily interfering with the land pending the determination of the appeal. The motion is yet to be fixed.

 

 Permits and approval over the land in favour of the mosque

 

10a. Ministry of Lands and Survey issued a demand notice for payment of prescribed fees for Certificate of Occupancy Form and Charting Fees on 14/08/2009.

 

  1. Stamp Duty Receipt dated 30/06/2009

 

  1. Receipt for Sanitation Fee for Tradesmen at Site and Artisans issued by Rivers State Environmental Sanitation Authority on 02/02/2010

 

  1. Land development fee issued by Amadi-Ama Youth Council, dated 18/11/2008

 

  1. Receipt for Plan Recommendation for Approval issued by Rivers State Ministry of Environment dated 26/06/2008

 

  1. Receipt for registration of Building Plan issued by the Port Harcourt City Local Government (PHALGA), dated 23/06/2009

 

  1. PHALGA Fencing Permit issued on 20/01/2010

 

  1. PHALGA Clearance Permit issued on 21/01/2010

 

  1. PHALGA Building Certificate issued on 20/01/2010

 

  1. Charting from the office of Surveyor-General of Rivers State with the comment:

 

*SURVEY IS NOT ON GOVT. LAND*

 

Demolition

 

  1. On Friday 5 February, 2010, His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi gave on-the-spot-directive for demolition of the structures on the mosque which led to fencing the mosque premises with barbwires and padlocked by the Rivers State government in the same year.

 

  1. On 29 July, 2019, staff of Ministry of Urban Development & Physical Planning invaded the mosque and destroyed some properties thereon, coupled with threat to come back.

 

  1. On 20 August, 2019 final demolition of the structures on the land took place after previous informal visits to the mosque within the month by government officials.

 

*Observations and Conclusion*

 

  1. It appears what the Rivers State government has done, despite being served with advance copies of the motion for injunction pending at the Court of Appeal through its Counsel in the Ministry of Justice, P. Enebeli, Esq and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Urban Development & Physical Planning is tantamount to what the courts have termed _executive lawlessness_. The case of Ojukwu v Military Governor of Lagos State & 2 Ors (1985) 2 NWLR (Pt. 10) readily comes to mind.

 

  1. It’s very embarrassing that the Governor, who is himself a legal practitioner and a Life Bencher with an Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, in the person of Dr Zacchaeus Adangor, who is a distinguished Constitutional Law scholar will allow this to happen in the State, save that the facts of this case as stated above may not be clear or misrepresented to them.

 

  1. Chief Barrister Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, CON is a reputable philanthropist who can build a multi-million naira mosque for Muslims not only in Trans-Amadi but in the State with Certificates of Occupancy issued within few months. Yes, he can! He did for the Ecumenical Centre in 2017 and several others.

 

  1. Dr Zacchaeus Adangor that I know at the Post-Graduate level can cite plethora of authorities on executive lawlessness off hand. Not only that, he is not a religious bigot, to the best of my knowledge and personal experience with him.

 

  1. May I therefore join in pleading with MR PROJECTS to allow the Muslims continue the quiet enjoyment of their acquired land used for religious purpose in Amadi-Ama or in the alternative, allocate another place within Trans-Amadi to the peace-loving Muslims to propagate their faith.

 

  1. To my brothers in faith, may we be reminded that we don’t incite against constituted authorities or display their errors publicly. In extreme circumstance, we are allowed to openly correct those in authority when they are present (to afford them opportunity of presenting their side of the story) and when there’s certainty (not probability)  of benefit resulting therefrom. Also, we are enjoined to be obedient to the rulers even when they take and consume our wealth illegally except they command us to disobey our Creator. This is more in line with Prophetic teachings and the way of our pious predecessors which we are obliged to follow. If this is a punishment from Allāh, we cannot remove it by fighting and if it’s a trial, then we have to be patient.
  2. We ask Allāh, the Originator of the heavens and the earth to apportion to us such fear as should serve as a barrier between us and acts of disobedience; and such obedience as will take us to Your Paradise; and such as will make easy for us to bear in the calamities of this world. O Allāh! Let us enjoy our hearing, our sight and our power as long as You keep us alive and make our heirs from our own offspring, and make our revenge restricted to those who oppress us, and support us against those who are hostile to us, and let no misfortune afflict our deen; let not worldly affairs be our principal concern, or the ultimate limit of our knowledge, and let not those rule over us who do not show mercy to us.

* Abū Sa’eed, Muḥammad Saheed is a Solicitor

 

 

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