28 June 2010

Nigeria: Court Restrains FG, Transcorp From Evicting Tenants

Lagos — Justice Okechukwu Okeke of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the Implementation Committee of the White Paper on the Commission of Inquiry on Federal Government Landed Property and their agents from evicting the occupiers of No 1 Rumens Roads, Ikoyi, Lagos, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.

Justice Okeke, who gave the order after listening to Gordy Uche, also restrained the 2nd defendant, Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc (Transcorp) from participating in evicting the occupants.

The judge, before he adjourned the case to July 6, 2010 for the hearing of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction, directed each of the plaintiffs to give an undertaking as to the damages should it turn out that the order of interim injunction ought not to have been made.

The occupants, who are the plaintiffs, are: Lt. Col. Godwin Okon, Bello Morenike, Joseph Bassey, Akinyeke Akinyeke and J.E. Bentem.

Surprisingly, in spite of the court order, the tenants were at the weekend forcefully evicted from the property with a bulldozer.

In their affidavit in support of the motion ex-parte, the plaintiffs averred that as civil servants and occupiers of the property, the guideline governing the alienation of federal government land property allows them to buy the property.

They contended that when they indicated interest to purchase the property, the committee by its letter dated 24/10/05 offered the property to them for the sum of N375million plus additional five per cent payment for the administrative costs.

They added that part of the express terms of the said offer letter required them to sign a letter of acceptance and make a 10 per cent down payment of the consideration of N375m within 14 days or two weeks of the date of the offer letter, adding that in accordance with the terms of the letter, they promptly signed the acceptance form and made a part payment of N37million to the committee.

The plaintiffs stated that the offer letter also provided that they also raise and pay another 15 per cent of the consideration of the property within a period of 90 days from the date of making the part payment of 10 per cent, saying that surprisingly, before the expiration of the said 90 days, the committee through a letter dated December 20, 2005 purportedly withdrew the offer letter from them.

When our correspondent yesterday visited the property on No 1 Rumens Road, Ikoyi, the building had been demolished under the supervision of stern looking security operatives.

They accused the committee (the 1st defendant) of deliberately delaying the lodgment of their bank draft for part-payment or even return same for a period of about 44 days in order to ensure that they lose the opportunity of purchasing the property and thus create grounds for the withdrawal of the offer from them.

They revealed that they later discovered that the 1st defendant had sold the said property to the 2nd defendant in violation of the existing guidelines concerning the alienation of the federal government landed property as their rights as sitting tenants were grossly breached.

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