Proposed Demolition: Lagos Govt. fails to stop Timber Dealers’ suit

Posted by News Express | 12 April 2017 | 2,314 times

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•Timber Dealers’ attorney Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa.

The Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos, on Tuesday assumed jurisdiction over the case filed by Okobaba Timber Dealers, Sawyers, Towing Vessel Owners and other stakeholders over the proposed demolition and relocation from the Okobaba Foreshore.
Exactly a year ago on April 11, 2016, the Timber Dealers had filed an action before the court to challenge their forceful eviction by the Lagos State Government, to be relocated to an abandoned and uncompleted location in far away Ijede area of Ikorodu.
They contended that they were being excluded from all negotiations and arrangements in a matter in which their interests were involved.

In the suit filed on behalf of the Timber Dealers by eminent lawyer and human rights activist Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, the Timber Dealers had sought the court’s declaration that the Lagos State Government has no authority over any land situate and being within the 100 metres of all declared navigable inland waterways, such as the Lagos Lagoon, which is under the authority and jurisdiction of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA).
The stakeholders have been paying their regular dues and permit licences to the said NIWA for many years. Thus, the stakeholders are contending that the Lagos State Government is without legal powers to interfere in their possession and occupation of the Okobaba Street Foreshore, to eject them forcefully and to transfer the land to developers and foreign investors who have no history of any contribution to the development of the area.

Upon being served with the suit, the Lagos State Government filed a preliminary objection, contending that the Federal High Court  had no jurisdiction over the case, since it has to do with title to land, physical planning and it borders on the executive decision of the state government to relocate the timber dealers. The timber dealers opposed the application, stating that the relevant laws of the land have vested authority over land abutting inland waterways in the National Inland Waterways Authority.

Delivering his ruling yesterday, the Honourable Justice Anka reviewed all laws covering the subject matter and held that by virtue of the Land (Title Vesting) Decree and the National Inland Waterways Authority Act, the Federal Government has been vested with exclusive power and authority over all land within 100 metres of a declared navigable waterway, including the Okoboba Foreshore in Ebute-Metta. The court concluded that the case of the timber dealers was not one of title to land but rather the administration of land within the inland waterways. In dismissing the preliminary objection filed by the Lagos State Government, the court held that since there is no evidence before it to challenge the case of the timber dealers that they were empowered in their location by NIWA, only the Federal High Court has exclusive jurisdiction to entertain the case of the plaintiff.

The case was then adjourned to May 15, 2017 for hearing.

Source: News Express

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