Nigeria: Execution of Court Judgment Threatens to Stall Reopening of Enugu Airport

The proposed reopening of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, on August 30 is being threatened by the execution of a court judgment which ceded part of the land to one John Emejulu.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that an Enugu State High Court had in 2017 given a judgement in favour of Mr Emejulu pertaining to the expanse of land in Phase IV and V of Airport Road Layout.

However, previous attempts to execute the court order failed due to alleged interference by notable politicians in the state.

Mr Emejulu in Suit no. E/ 165M/2020 returned to the court through an application by Motion on Notice for the court to compel the Commissioner of Police, Enugu State and the Inspector-General of Police to execute the court's judgment.

On June 3, 2020, Justice J. L. C. Okibe granted an order of mandamus compelling the police to enforce the judgement and prosecute anyone that hinders its judgement.

Mr Emejulu in the early hours of Wednesday visited the affected site with equipment to take possession of the land and pulled down illegal structures including those erected for the operation of the air.

He alleged that some politicians in the state, including the member representing Enugu East/Isiuzo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Cornelius Nnaji, and others were behind the trespass on the land.

Mr Emejulu, who is an architect by training, claimed that he bought the 400 plots of land in 2008 from Umuenwene Iji Nike community in Enugu East Local Government Area of the state.

He also alleged that Mr Nnaji and another member of the state assembly threatened to use government machinery to take over the land.

"They brought the state government in the pretext that they want to site the Free Trade Zone on my land and annexed it to the airport.

"I am not opposed to the government using my land for development projects but the right thing must be done. They cannot take my land by force," he said.

Mr Emejulu faulted the state government for involving officers of the Nigeria Air Force in the matter even when the police had been mandated to enforce the judgement.

Meanwhile, the Commandant, Air Force Ground Training Command, V. O. Obiabaka, who stormed the location with four of his officers, said that the state governor directed him to intervene.

Mr Obiabaka said that he got a call from the governor to the effect that someone was causing anarchy in the state by destroying property belonging to the government and private individuals.

On sighting the court's judgment and order mandating the police to enforce the judgement, the commander said that the takeover of the property needed to be done peacefully.

"The governor called me and said someone was destroying property belonging to the government and private individuals. I thought I would come here to meet a mad person.

Mr Obiabaka said that it was not wrong for someone to enforce their rights "but you have to do it peacefully. You are free to enforce your rights," he said.

He expressed concern that the incident which had halted some civil works in the airport could affect the reopening of the airport if not properly handled.

The commandant appealed to Mr Emejulu, management of the airport and others who erected buildings illegally on the land to have a round table to resolve the issue in line with the court's judgment.

When contacted, Mr Nnaji, who was at the scene of the event, said that he would not comment on the matter.

"Why are you people talking to him (Emejulu)? I will not talk to you," the lawmaker said.

On his part, the state Commissioner for Lands, Victor Nnam, said that he cannot comment on the matter as he was not so sure about the particular court judgment.

The commissioner said the state ministry of land had more 100 land cases in the court, adding that "I cannot give you any response because the document is not before me."


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