Nigerian Navy In 11,378 Hectares Land War
Nigerian Navy In 11,378 Hectares Land War In Rivers State
- Family Alleges Constitutional Breach
- Seeks Court Interpretation Of Sections 43, 44
THE Nigerian Navy is currently entangled in a potentially dangerous land dispute with a rustic local family in the Rivers State axis of the Niger Delta, Nigeria's main oil and gas region that is home to rampaging insurgents galvanised by the Movement for the Emancipation ofthe Niger Delta (MEND).
The conflict is over 11,378 hectares of land situated at Rumuolumeni, an Ikwerre community in Obio/ Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State. The said land was allegedly appropriated illegally by the Commander of Pathfinder, a naval formation in the area.
The Ogutum family, the owners of the land, is alleging that the Nigerian Navy breached some provisions of the 1999 Constitution by allegedly taking over their ancestoral land with the assistance of 50 heavily armed naval personnel in August this year without their consent. The land in question is within the Port Harcourt metropolis.
Counsel to the aggrived Ikwerre family,Chief Ahunanya Ekwem, has already filed a motion on notice before the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital, which is billed for Wednesday, December 3.
The Ogutum family in the motion which is part of their suit: FHC/PH/CS/582/2008, is praying the court for the interpretation of sections 43 and 44 of the 1999 constitution as to whether the defendants complied with same, and the sum of N1,525,000,000 as special and general damages jointly and severally from the defendants.
The first defendant in the legal tussle is the Commander of the Pathfinder, Navy Captain Okojie. The second defendant is the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Isaiah Iko Ibrahim, followed by the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshall Paul Dike. The fourth defendant is the Defence Minister, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, followed by the Attorney-General and Justice Minister, Michael Aondooaka, SAN as well as President Umar Yar'Adua
The plaintiffs are also seeking an order of the court to restrain the defendants, their servants, agents, asigns, privies, legal and personal representatives from arresting, detaining or any act inconsistent with their guaranteed fundamental rights as enshrined in chapter 4 of the constitution
Section 43 of the constitution however, states: ''Subject to the provisions of this constitution, every citizen of Njgeria shall have the right to acquire and own immovable property any where in Nigeria''.
Section 44(1) of the constitution reads: ''No moveable property or any interest in an immovable property shall be taken possession of compulsorily and no right over or interest in any such property shall be acquired compulsorily in any part of Nigeria except in the manner and for the purposes prescribed by a law that among other things, requires the prompt payment of compensation therefore, and gives to any person claiming such compensation a right of access for the determination of his interest in the property and amount of compensation to a court or tribunal or body having jurisdiction in that part of Nigeria''.
In the mean time, head of the Ogutum family, Elder Henry Ogutum, has deposed a 31-paragraph affidavit in support of the legal battle.
They are equally praying the court to stop the defendants from building any structure on the land in dispute, pending the determination of the suit.
With this development, the family is claiming that they are being harassed by the navy.
In their statement of claim deposed before the court the Ogutum family stated that since they started confrionting the navy in August this year, ''there has been constant threats of arrests, detention and intimidation of us to the extent that we no longer sleep in our houses for fear of being arrested and taken into the naval barracks for milit5ary discipline''.
The family is praying the court for the interpretation of Sectiopns 43 and 44 of the 1999 constitution as to whether the defendants complied with same, and the sum of N 1,525,000,000 as special and general damages jointly and severally from the defendants.
The plaintiffs are claiming that on August 1, 2008 about 50 armed naval personnel with some civilian contractors invaded the said land and started digging a foundation thereon, and before the evening of the same day, had erected iron pillars and cast same with sand, cement and concrete.
The land is dispute is situated at Mgbuoshimini, Rumuolumeni, an Ikwerre community in the Riversd state capital city. The conflict is already generating tension in the Ikwerre community. Community youths said they want President Yar'Adua to call the navy to order in a bid to rescue the situation from degenerating to violent conflict. ENDS