Justice S.A Onigbanjo of the Lagos state High Court has indicted Akinwunmi Ambode, the state governor, of brazenly disobeying a restraining order against demolition of Otodo Gbame community in Lekki. The judge equally spared the governor a sentencing due to the constitutional immunity he has.
In a statement obtained by Newsbreak.Ng, the plaintiffs – the Nigerian Slum / Informal Settlement Federation (Federation) and Justice & Empowerment Initiatives – Nigeria (JEI) – said the judge condemned the action of the state government as contemptuous of its earlier ruling.
The plaintiffs said the latest ruling, delivered on 12 April, followed a contempt proceeding it initiated after the government officials and the police moved into Otodo Gbame to forcefully evict its occupant. Based on its contempt proceeding, the plaintiffs sought that Governor Ambode be committed to prison for his actions, which Justice Onigbanjo “found to undermine the principles of constitutional democracy and rule of law”.
“But for the fact that the Governor enjoys immunity from prosecution under the 1999 Constitution, Justice Onigbanjo said that justice would require such a contemnor be remanded in prison”, the statement by the groups stated.
However, the ruling contradicts the Lagos government’s claim that the court didn’t deliver a ruling previously. Steve Ayorinde, state commissioner for information, in his March 21 release said the government didn’t flout any court order. Ayorinde explained the court merely pronounced that the status quo be maintained, which he interpreted to mean that houses razed during an inter-ethnic clash between Otodo Gbame residents and their Yoruba neigbhours in the community must not be rebuilt by the former.
“The undisputed fact is that Otodo Gbame was engulfed by fire that razed down the entire community in November 2016, which rendered the area uninhabitable’.
According to the Commissioner, since the claimants had submitted the case for adjudication, it would be unacceptable for them to return to the area or to erect shanties and perpetuate unsanitary and environmentally dangerous conditions, hence, the need for the government to maintain order and public safety”, Ayorinde stated in the release.
Meanwhile, the Lagos state government, according to the JEI had persuaded Otodo Gbame residents, who led a protest to the governor’s office recently, to return for discussion on Tuesday, 18 April, 2017.
The JEI said the protesters “stood through a major rainstorm and as evening fell, insisting that they had nowhere else to go until a delegation of three members of the Governor’s Executive Council came out twice to beg evictees to return for a meeting to discuss a solution on Tuesday, 18 April 2017.”
Also, the JEI said “thousands of homeless and now landless evictees from Otodo Gbame are still sleeping in boats and squatting with relatives and friends in at least 16 other waterfronts across Lagos.
“With support from hundreds of outraged Lagosians who have condemned the actions of the Government in Otodo Gbame, JEI and the Federation are leading efforts to provide relief materials to evictees who have lost everything.
“In partnership with sister communities in the Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation, we are organizing camps to provide temporary shelter for evictees pending the outcome of either meetings with the Lagos State Government – where evictees will demand return to their land in line with the court order – or the final judgment to be delivered by Justice Onigbanjo on 25 April 2017.”
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