By Enekorogha Godbless
Foremost Warri based rights lawyer and National DG of the Conference for the Actualization of Human Rights, CAHR, Omes Ogedegbe Esq has outrightly condemned the destruction of a multi-billion naira mansion belonging to Prince Kpokpogri of Delta state.
The rights activist, described the action of the federal minister of Housing who allegedly authorized the demolition as unlawful, illegal and unconditional, adding that the culprits would be brought to book in no distance time.
It was gathered that the multi-billion naira property owned by Prince Kpokpogri, a Nigerian and Deltan was located in a choice location known as Guzape in Abuja.
According to the rights lawyer, the said property was built and furnished within a year by Prince Kpokpogri at an estimated cost of over a billion naira.
He further stated, “He duly secured the approval of the Federal Capital Development agency (FCDA) before commencement and went through the requisite procedures to completion.
That few days ago a notice was served on the premises after about a year of completion and occupation.
The lawyer narrated, “The notice was with an entirely different address and location hence he never gave same a thought until the 14th of May, 2022 when a combined team of fiercely equipped police officers and military operatives in a joint operation were led to the property by the officials of the FCDA who laid siege on the property and immediately commenced demolition. Save for the noise of the bulldozer they would have collapsed the building with the Prince and members of his household locked inside.
“Sadly, the reason the FCDA claimed they could not do their job effectively was the fact the house was built to completion in about a year. The law empowers the agency to serve a stop work notice and when same is not complied with it shall proceed to serve a demolition notice of the property and thereafter head to court for an order to accentuate same after the committee stage.
“As easy as these processes the agency never complied with same. The Dracula laws that empowers various agencies and commissions to demolition properties without exhausting all legal options have long been abolished. Moreso section 36(4) of the Constitution gives every citizens right to make representation before any agency; a right that was not opened for Prince Kpokpogri to explore.
“The process is not as easy as it seems as the law provides the steps to be followed in full by the agency and begins with the responsibility to issue enforcement notices, including the following: Contravention Notice; Stop Work Order; Quit Notice; Seal-up Notice; Regularisation Notice; and Demolition Notice.
“If not for vendetta, what prevents the agency from enforcing it’s powers of regularisation assuming though not conceding there was a defective approval?
“The duty of the government to prevent the use of force was emphasised in the case of Attorney-General of Lagos v. Attorney-General of the Federation (2004) 18 NWLR (PT 904) 1 at 53 by the late Justice Niki Tobi when he said:
“The courts are available to accommodate all sorts of grievances that are justiciable in law and section 6 of the Constitution gives the courts power to adjudicate on masters between two or more competing parties. In our democracy all the governments of this country as well as organizations and individuals must kowtow to the due process of the law and this they can vindicate by resorting to the courts for redress in the event of any grievance.”
“It has been confirmed that some of the demolitions were carried out while cases challenging the validity of demolition notices were being challenged in the Lagos High Court. Even under a military dictatorship the government was called to order in the case of The military governor of Lagos State v Chief Emeka Ojukwu (1986) 4 NWLR (PT 18) 621 when the Supreme Court said:
“In the area where the rule of law operates, the rule of self-help by force is abandoned. Nigeria being one of the countries in the world, even in the third world which proclaims to operate under the rule of law, there is no room for rule of self-help by force to operate… the rule of law means that disputes as to the legality of acts of government are to be decided by judges who are wholly independent of the executive.”
“In the light of the foregoing, it is submitted that the demolition of houses carried out by the FCDA without a court order is illegal and unconstitutional. If the victims seek legal redress, the government is liable to pay special, general and aggravated damages. Perhaps the attention of the government ought to be drawn to the damages of N166 billion awarded by the Federal High Court against the Federal Government in three separate judgments over the wilful destruction and demolition of houses during the military invasions of Odi, Zaki Biam and Gbaramatu. I am confident this case will not be different.
The demolition is unlawful and unconstitutional and deserves the condemnation of all right thinking individuals, he maintained.