E-RESULTS: ‘LAW MAKERS AS LAW BREAKERS,’ BY UBANI

In this article, DR. MONDAY UBANI, Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL) reviews ongoing efforts by the National Assembly to amend the Electoral Act and accuses the lawmakers of “legislative rascality”

The furore in the national assembly over the recent amendment of the electoral bill has not escaped the attention of millions of Nigerians who have been following the said exercise with religious interest.

The process of recruitment of leadership in Nigeria has been a big problem with the country having a fair share of mis-governance as unintended consequence flowing from unfair electoral process over the years. You cannot plant maize and reap mango says an African proverb.

The affliction of bad leadership stems from defective electoral process that is devoid of any iota of fairness. We are beset with electoral manipulations, ballot snatching, result-falsifications and all manner of electoral frauds from desperate politicians and their thugs who pervert the process to ascend to power.

The consequence is that those who emerge and occupy political positions in Nigeria do so fraudulently without any mandate fairly donated by the people, thereby breaching the fundamental term of the famed social contract theory propounded by early philosophers that led to formation of modern society.

For us as a nation, life just like in the beginning, has remained short, nasty and brutish despite being on the historical side of modernity. Is any one in doubt in Nigeria that our leadership has deliberately kept the country retarded, visionless and crisis-ridden since independence? Why, you may ask.

The answer is not far-fetched, you cannot give what you do not have. Leaders who know nothing about governance and the attendant responsibilities attached to it, unfortunately find themselves in corridors of power and have not failed to dish out mediocrity as their valuable asset.

All critical infrastructures are in total decay while our Institutional services are non-existent.

While pursuing my first degree in University of Nigeria, Nsukka I saw British, Americans and some African brothers in my respected Alma Mata either for their first degrees or pursuing their post graduate studies.
As at today, you will not see any of our African brothers or sisters in our universities let alone other students from other continents. Again the reasons are not far-fetched and does not require any elaboration.

The truth remains that we have had enough share of misgovernance, lack of development or progress due to inept leadership and the recruitment process is clearly implicated.

Stakeholders and patriots have diagnosed Nigeria’s sad historical trajectory and agreed amongst other solutions that we need to holistically tinker with our electoral legal framework which needs realignment with modern realities and international best practices.

One of these desired broad electoral reforms involves the deployment of technology in our electoral process.

It is shameful that Nigeria with her size, resources and sophistication are even starting late on this, because other nations smaller in size, resource, sophistication have deployed this system years ago and here we are in the year 2021 debating whether we should deploy technology in the transmission of our electoral results.

I feel humiliated by such scenario playing out in the hallowed Chambers of our National Assembly. Who does that, if I may ask.

The macabre dance over this started in the National Assembly with confirmed allegation that the Bill which passed third reading under the chairmanship of Senator Kabiru Gaya of INEC Committee has been altered to block electronic transfer of election results.

The Senate President called Nigerians every printable names for daring to challenge the alleged alterations. They had to restore the electronic transfer clause, and I am sure, it was done grudgingly.

During the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, their treachery could not be hidden any longer as one Senator Sabi Abdullahi, Deputy Senate Whip proposed that the Nigerian Communications Commission(NCC) must certify that national coverage is adequate and secure while the National Assembly must approve before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can transmit election results.

This was promptly countered by Albert Bassey, Senator representing Akwa Ibom North-East who insisted that the initial proposal which provides in Section 50(3) that:

“The Commission may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable” should stay.

After division of the whole house in plenary, the result was 52 in favour of subjecting INEC to undue interference in the performance of their mandatory duty of organising elections in Nigerian by Nigerian Communication Communication and the National Assembly contrary to the express provision of the constitution, while 28 Senators voted for the retention of the original clause that gives INEC discretionary power in carrying out its constitutional responsibility in transmission of results.

The situation in the House of Representatives was not different but more dramatic as the man who presided over the plenary did not hide his disdain to observance of the very rules that guide proceedings in the House. The Deputy Speaker, Hon Ahmed Wase to say the least is a big minus to democracy who does not believe in adherence to rules and procedures of the House. He and his majority leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa are in the world of their own. By their attitude they own Nigeria, House of Representatives and everything in it, to say the least.

WHY THIS AMENDMENT SHOULD NOT SEE THE LIGHT OF THE DAY.
What the National Assembly members did by passing a bill that clearly violates the constitution they swore to uphold is the biggest embarrassment of the century. It is more shocking and depressing to see those who claim to be lawyers amongst them running around all over the place to defend the absurd illegality. Who did this to us as a nation?
How did we get here, many are asking.

A cursory look at the provisions of the constitution will give each observer a clearer view of the sordid absurdity in the passage of the bill by the National Assembly on the 16th of July, 2021.

Section 78 of the 1999 constitution as Amended provides:-
“The registration of voters AND CONDUCT of elections shall be subject to the DIRECTION AND SUPERVISION OF INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISION,(INEC).

The same constitution in the Third Schedule, Part 1, F, S.15 provides that: “INEC has power TO ORGANIZE, UNDERTAKE, AND SUPERVISE ALL ELECTIONS”. The constitution further provides that in carrying out the aforementioned responsibilities, “INEC operations SHALL not be SUBJECT TO THE DIRECTION OF ANYBODY OR AUTHORITY”.

The question then, is the so called affirmation of network coverage and its security by NCC and approval of the National Assembly(a party to an election) not an undue interference to INEC’s power to transmit the result of an election which falls squarely under their constitutional power?
How did the members of the National Assembly see their role in approving the issue of network coverage as proper under our constitutional democracy when the role assigned by the constitution to them is LEGISLATION and not EXECUTION of the laws they enact?

I shudder to think that our legislators who are law makers have turned themselves into law breakers.

Prior to now, INEC without any legislative backing have successfully conducted elections with card readers and have transmitted results electronically in several constituencies in Nigeria without any of these “alarmist drawbacks” being trumpeted by these backward-thinking legislators that voted for that provocative amendment. Why are these set of legislators in the 9th Assembly trying to set the hand of our clock backwards? What have come over them?

Nigerians insist and I join them in insisting that INEC be given a fair and less restrictive legal framework to carry out their constitutional duties of organising, undertaking and supervising elections in Nigeria.

The present manipulative treachery to keep us stranded as a nation in our electoral improvements will be resisted with our last strength and we have the final hope placed on the third arm of the government( the judiciary) should these set of legislators persist in their doomed journey of interfering on our progressive electoral journey as a nation.

Nigeria has two years to ensure 100 per cent network coverage in the whole country, after all, the Nation is alleged to have voted over 4 billion naira recently to monitor Nigerians on social media platforms. I see no reason why we cannot vote more billions of naira for development of our key telecommunication infrastructure that will restore our dignity as the biggest country in African continent. #SayNoToLegislativeRascality.

Dr Monday Onyekachi Ubani,
Chairman, NBA-Section on Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL).

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SPIDEL APPOINTS FALANA, AMADI TO HEAD KEY GROUPS

The Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL) has appointed fiery human rights lawyers, Messrs Femi Falana SAN and Sam Amadi to head its two key groups.

Speaking at the recent NBA National Executive Committee (NBA-NEC) Meeting in Abuja, the Chairman of SPIDEL Governing Council, Dr. Monday Ubani stated that the Section has two main objectives which are pursuit of public interest issues and development of legal framework for accelerated economic development in the country.

He informed NEC that the leadership has established two groups, namely The Public Interest Law Group and The Development Law Group for the Section, adding that there is a strong link between law and economic development. While The Public Interest Law Group will be chaired by Mr. Femi Falana SAN, The Development Law Group will be chaired by Dr. Sam Amadi. The membership of the two groups would be announced soon.

He stated that would soon “engage in aggressive membership drive across the entire branches of the Federation. Towards this end, we have laid out a plan to appoint Coordinators and Secretaries in all the branches of the NBA. The Coordinators and Secretaries will recruit and at the same maintain existing membership of the Section in their various branches. Their second task is to help SPIDEL realize its objectives at the grassroot level in the pursuit of citizens’ rights generally.”

According to Ubani, “Membership of the Section is critical to its activities and a fulfillment of our mapped out objectives. Already we have started with aggressive gospel that every lawyer with conscience must first and foremost be a registered member of SPIDEL.

“We therefore solicit that every lawyer of conscience should without any further prompting from us register and join all the suitable committees to help actualize our dream country and legal practice. We need you and the nation needs you more as a lawyer with conscience.”

He informed NEC that the Section has set up an operational office in Abuja and employed a Program Officer to man the office. This is to accelerate the institutionalization process of the Section. The Section has also established SPIDEL Young Lawyers’ Forum. This is part of the institutionalization process and mainstreaming of SPIDEL objectives in the consciousness of young lawyers. “We must consciously and strategically groom our young lawyers to take the legal profession to the next level,” he said.

The Chairman stated that SPIDEL would engage in strategic litigation to push the frontiers of public interest, adding that this would be in collaboration with other NBA Sections and Committees such as the Public Interest Litigation Committee. According to Ubani, the recent Practice Direction issued by the Federal High Court in favour of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), a prospective litigant, “requires timely intervention by NBA as the only body that stands as a bulwark against oppression by any government in power.”

On the suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria, the SPIDEL Chairman said that the Section is collaborating with the Public Interest Litigation Committee to seek legal reliefs, even as Ubani had in his personal capacity filed a lawsuit against the action.

He listed other thematic areas for the new SPIDEL leadership to include Niger Delta Development Project, Promoting the Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Federalism Project, and 2023 General Election.

Ubani informed the meeting that NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata launched a human rights App at the just concluded NBA-SPIDEL Annual Conference in Ibadan code-named “SOROSOKE”. The App is to aid victims of human rights abuses in reporting and tracking such abuses. He said that SPIDEL members at the branch level “would be utilised effectively to seek reliefs on behalf of victims of human rights’ abuses throughout Nigeria.”

He stated that the Section held a successful election after its sold-out Annual Conference, commending members of the Conference Planning Committee which he led as well as the Local Organising Committee and NBA Ibadan Branch “for a job well done.” According to Ubani, the election “marked the end of the eventful tenure of Prof. Paul Ananaba SAN.”

The Council consists of Ubani as Chairman, Dr. Princess Chukwuani (Secretary), Mr. Steve Abah (Vice Chairman), and Ms. Funmi Adeogun (Treasurer). Other Council Members are Dr. Paul Ebiala, Mr. Emeka Nwadioke, Ms. Anne Agi, Chief Kunle Adegoke SAN, Mr. Kunle Edun, Mr. Abdullahi Karaye, Mrs. Igbeaku Evulukwu, Mr. Echo Godfrey, Mr. Kola Omotinugbon and Prof. Paul Ananaba SAN.

The report was received by Akpata. Meanwhile, some NEC members commended the new SPIDEL leadership for paying attention to the Development Law mandate of the Section as well as its resolve to appoint Coordinators at the branch level.

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INEC: NBA ASKS SENATE TO DUMP BUHARI’S NOMINEE

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has urged Nigeria’s Senate not to confirm Ms. Lauretta Onochie as Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Commissioner.

In a statement by the Chairman of the Governing Council of NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL), Dr. Monday Ubani, the lawyers’ body said that “Mrs. Lauretta Onochie, a clearly partisan individual by the President, an individual who has in recent years publicly displayed her partisanship and undying support for the ruling Party in her utterances, conduct and interaction with the Public cannot and should not serve as INEC Commissioner, a role reserved for an unbiased Umpire. I on-behalf of the Nigerian Public urge the Senate to righteously reject her nomination and confirmation forthwith.”

The Senate leadership had recently directed its Committee on INEC to screen Onochie for possible confirmation.

Below is the full text of the statement.

Distinguished Senator Kabiru Gaya
Chairman Senate Committee on INEC
National Assembly Complex,
F.CT,
Abuja.

Dear Sir,

OBJECTION FOR THE CONFIRMATION OF LAURETTA ONOCHIE AS INEC COMMISSIONER.

I write this letter of objection to your sir at this critical and turbulent times in our Nation’s history, and I strongly believe that the Senate as a democratic institution of this great Country, has what it takes at this trying times to save and preserve Nigeria from heckling down to hell.

Sometime in October 2020, Mrs. Lauretta Onochie, was nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari as an INEC Commissioner. Mrs Lauretta Onochie, who until her nomination by the President, served as the President’s Personal Assistant and was an unapologetic member of the ruling Party the All Progressive Congress (APC) hence, her nomination by the President as INEC Commissioner, a position that the law prescribes the holder of same should be non-partisan, is ultra-vires and unconstitutional.

Recently her name came up for confirmation by the senate after an initial set back, therefore, as a concerned Citizen of this great Country, and as a Constitutional Legal Practitioner with grave concern for the preservation and sustainability of our very fragile democracy, I hereby strongly object to the nomination of Mrs. Lauretta Onochie by the President and her intended confirmation of her nomination by the Senate.

Distinguished Senate Chairman, considering the reality of Nigeria today, with the high level of insecurity, ethnic tensions and mistrust among Citizens, the decline in trust and confidence by the Citizens in their elected officials and democratic institutions to mention a few, it is very important, that as the next election draws closer, whoever is to be nominated by the President to serve as INEC Commissioner, Chairman or as an unbiased Umpire for National elections must be in compliance with the law and must be persons that, the general public view as not being partisan or compromised in any form or manner.

Sir, Section 152 of the Electoral Act, provides that. “no person holding an elective office to which this act relates or a registered member of a Political Party shall be eligible for or be appointed to carry out duties of a returning officer, an electoral officer, presiding officer or Poll Clerk”. Therefore, the nomination of Mrs. Lauretta Onochie, a clearly partisan individual by the President, an individual who has in recent years publicly displayed her partisanship and undying support for the ruling Party in her utterances, conduct and interaction with the Public cannot and should not serve as INEC Commissioner, a role reserved for an unbiased Umpire. I on-behalf of the Nigerian Public urge the Senate to righteously reject her nomination and confirmation forthwith.

For emphasis;

As a card carrying member of the ruling party or any other party for that matter, she is unfit for the position she is nominated. I also doubt that Section 154 (3) of the constitution was complied with, which prescribe that the President nominates INEC Commissioner in consultation with the Council of State. Paragraphs B of Part 1 of the 3rd Schedule of the constitution provides that the Council of State shall have power to advise the President in the exercise of his power with respect to (iv) the INEC including the appointment of members of the Commission. When was this Section and paragraph complied with? If I may ask.

Most importantly paragraph 14 of part I of the third schedule of the constitution as amended in Section 30 No. 1 of 2020, a member of INEC should be “non partisan”, can Mrs. Lauretta Onochie be regarded by anyone in Nigeria, knowing her antecedent as the Special Assistant to the President as “non partisan” under the Nigerian context? The right answer is No.

I therefore, on behalf of the Nigerian Bar Association urge that her nomination be rejected and her confirmation be denied forthwith.

Thanking you in advance for the positive consideration of my request.

Dr. Monday O. Ubani, Esq.
Chairman
NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law.

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BENUE ASSAULT: AKPATA TACKLES BAWA, EFCC DENIES CHARGE

  • AG, SOLICITOR-GENERAL CONFIRMED ASSAULT – SPIDEL CHAIR

Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Olumide Akpata has petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman, Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa over the battered NBA Makurdi Branch Chairman, Mr. Justin Gbagir, even as the anti-graft agency has denied that its operatives manhandled the Bar Leader.

Impeccable sources told CITY LAWYER that Akpata had engaged with the EFCC Chairman over the matter. Bawa was said to have requested time to investigate the matter and take necessary action.

The EFCC has now issued a statement denying the alleged assault. The anti-graft agency said that it was the Makurdi Branch Chairman who “was the aggressor as he led a gang of thugs to breach the security of the Makurdi office in an attempt to forcibly set free a suspect under interrogation by the EFCC.”

The statement added that the Bar Leader allegedly failed to identify himself and that “the EFCC Zonal Head had no option than to show him out of his office and refuse him further entry into the Commission’s premises.”

But fiery NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL) Chairman, Mr. Monday Ubani said that several sources confirmed the assault to him, even as the under-fire Zonal Head denied the allegation. His words: “I have spoken to the Chairman of Makurdi who confirmed the beating. He is back to hospital. I have also spoken to the Special Adviser to the Governor on Legal Matters who confirmed the incident. I eventually got the President of the Bar who affirmed that the AG confirmed the beating. Our President has spoken to the Chairman of EFCC who requested for time to investigate and take action.”

He however said the Zonal Head denied “that he never touched nor directed any of his operatives to touch our member. He denied the beating.” 

Narrating his ordeal, Gbagir said: “As I made to leave, the personnel of EFCC numbering between 7 and above pounced on me and started beating me. They broke my recommended reading eyeglasses in the process and pushed me out of the premises.

“Outside the premises, the threw out my footwears which I was dispossessed of in the course of the beating.”

Below is the full text of the EFCC statement.

EFCC Press Release

EFCC Denies Assaulting NBA Chairman

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC wishes to inform the public that claims by one Justin Gbagir, Chairman Makurdi Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, that he was assaulted and brutalized by operatives of the Makurdi Zonal Office of the Commission on June 8, 2021, leading to his being hospitalized at BUSTH is false, and orchestrated to portray the Commission as draconian and uncivil.

Contrary to the false narrative being promoted in the social media by Gbagir, he was the aggressor as he led a gang of thugs to breach the security of the Makurdi office in an attempt to forcibly set free a suspect under interrogation by the EFCC.

The standard procedure for effecting the release of suspects in detention is known to even rookie lawyers. But rather than follow due process, Gbagir opted for force, recruited thugs and stormed the EFCC office.

In spite of the provocation, operatives of the Commission handled him with restraint, bent backward by allowing him to meet with the Zonal Head. But rather than reciprocate, he still refused to identify himself, against all norms of civility. In the circumstance, the EFCC Zonal Head had no option than to show him out of his office and refuse him further entry into the Commission’s premises.

Regrettably, the seasoned lawyer resorted to social media blackmail, posing in hospital bed and concocting a fantastic story of an imaginary assault by EFCC operatives.

His action is to say the least indecorous and unbecoming of the leader of the bar in a state like Benue. He demonstrated embarrassing insensitivity to the delicate security situation of the state.

Gbagir should be remorseful for his misguided action and not spew untruths in pliable sections of the media.

Wilson Uwujaren
Head, Media & Publicity
9 June, 2021

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NIN REGISTRATION: UBANI FLOORS FG, DEADLINE NOW APRIL 6

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the extension of the deadline for enrolment for the National Identity Number by two months with effect from Tuesday, March 23, 2021.

Justice Maureen Onyetenu granted the extension while delivering a ruling in a suit (MONDAY ONYEKACHI UBANI V. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA & ORS) filed by leading human rights lawyer, Mr. Monday Ubani against the Federal Government, Attorney General of the Federation, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy.

Ubani instituted the fundamental rights enforcement suit seeking enforcement of his fundamental rights as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He contended that the initial two weeks ultimatum (now extended to 6th day of April, 2021) given to telecommunication operators to block SIM Cards of Nigerians who have not registered their SIM Card with NIN if allowed, will infringe on his constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression, right to own moveable property and right to life. He therefore prayed the Court for an Order extending the deadline.

In her ruling, Justice Onyetenu granted all the reliefs sought by Ubani and made the following declarations and orders:

1. A DECLARATION that the ultimatum given to telecommunications operators by the 1st, 3rd and 4th Respondents to block all Subscriber Identification Modules (SIM) cards that are not registered with National Identity Number (NIN), is grossly inadequate and will not only work severe hardship, but will likely infringe on the fundamental rights of the Applicant (and millions of other Nigerians) to freedom of expression as guaranteed by section 39(1)(2) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as well as violate section 44(1) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which prohibits the compulsory acquisition of right or interest over moveable property.

2. A DECLARATION that in view of the covid-19 pandemic and the rising cases in Nigeria presently, the deadline given by the 1st, 3rd and 4th Respondents to the Applicant and over 200 million Nigerians to register their SIM Cards with NIN, will lead to a rush, thereby resulting to clustering of the Applicant and other Nigerian citizens in a NIN registration centre, subjecting him to the possibility of easily contracting the covid-19 virus, and such will amount to a violation of his fundamental right to life as protected by section 33(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

3. AN ORDER halting the said ultimatum given by the 1st, 3rd and 4th Respondents to telecommunication operators to block all SIM Cards that are not registered with the National Identity Numbers (NIN).

4. AN ORDER directing the 1st, 3rd and 4th Respondents to extend the deadline for the registration of SIM Cards with NIN for a further two months with effect from the 23rd day of March, 2021.

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WORKERS’ UNION: APPEAL COURT REVERSES APPOINTMENT OF EX NBA CHIEFTAIN AS PUBLIC TRUSTEE

FEATURED

  • AGREES WITH DR. LESLIE OLUTAYO NYLANDER, SAN

The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has reversed the appointment of fiery activist and former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Vice President, Mr. Monday Onyekachi Ubani as the Public Trustee of the Nigeria Civil Service Union.

Ruling on a motion brought by Ubani’s counsel and former NBA presidential candidate, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama SAN (with him, Darlington Onyekwere, Esq and Mark Chidi Agbo, Esq) for change of counsel in Appeal No. CA/A/1089/2019, The Nigeria Civil Service Union (Appellant) And Comrade Benson Ekasa & 3 Ors (Respondents), the Presiding Judge, Justice A. A. Adumien held that the President of the National Industrial Court (NICN) acted ultra vires his powers when he appointed a public trustee for the union on 29th December, 2020 after the Appellant (then represented by its Executives) had compiled, transmitted and exchanged briefs.

The court further held that the appeal had long been properly entered and the court below lacked jurisdiction to make any further pronouncement on the matter. The Court of Appeal also held that the public trustee should stop parading or acting as the public trustee of the Appellant, adding that any process filed in the court by the public trustee or through his lawyer would be discountenanced.

Chief Gadzama had filed a motion on behalf of the public trustee to withdraw the appeal settled by Mr. Leslie Nylander SAN (with him, Chika Eze Esq for Chief Lawrence Uchechukwu Amaechi, President, Nigeria Civil Service Union) on behalf of the executives of the Appellant union, arguing that with the appointment of the public trustee, Ubani became the alter ego of the troubled union and the mantle fell on him to take over all the affairs of the union, including the appeal.

In his counter argument, Nylander contended that the application was premature, as the current executives were challenging the order of the lower court to appoint a public trustee. He argued that legal representation had to be sorted out first.

He further submitted that allowing the public trustee to take over the appeal that was instituted by the Executives of the Appellant was tantamount to robbing them of their constitutional right of appeal, especially as the appeal was rightly and timeously entered and briefs exchanged by the parties as far back as November 2019 and February 2020 respectively, prior to the appointment of the public trustee on December 29, 2020.

Nylander submitted that part of the applications pending before the court is a motion to stop the appointed trustee from acting in that office, adding that any further act by the public trustee would render the whole appeal nugatory and foist a fait accompli on the court. He further argued that the President of the National Industrial Court failed to follow the laid down procedure as enshrined in Order 59 of National Industrial Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2017 in appointing the public trustee.

The 1st Respondent was represented by Chinyere Moneme, Esq while the 2nd Respondent was represented by Mohammed Ndarani Mohammed SAN (with him, Stephen Apeh, Esq).

When contacted on the ruling, Ubani told CITY LAWYER tersely: “We are studying the decision. I may appeal it.”

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OPEBI LAND GRAB: ‘COURT WILL FIX LAGOS STATE’S EXECUTIVE LAWLESSNESS,’ SAYS UBANI

Former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Vice President, Mr. Monday Ubani has vowed to contest the decision of Lagos State Government to back alleged land grabbers over the controversial parcel of land at Opebi, Lagos.

In a rejoinder to his indictment by the State Government over the land tussle, the leading human rights activist insisted that the alleged land grabbers were using the machinery of the government to perfect the land grab, adding that he is confident that the courts will redress any injustice done to his client.

Below is the full text of the statement made available to CITY LAWYER.

RE : OPEBI LAND TUSSLE, LAGOS STATE GOVERNMENT JUSTIFIES ACTION FOR THE UNLAWFUL EXECUTION OF COURT JUDGMENT ON DISPUTED LAND. – UBANI’S RESPONSE 

I have just seen the Press Release of the Honourable Commissioner of Information and Strategy of Lagos State, Mr Gbenga Omotosho concerning the land grabbing episode at 1, Folorunsho Kuku Street, Opebi in which Lagos State erroneously got itself entangled and illegally helped notorious land grabbers to chase away the rightful owner of a land and put the land grabbers into physical possession.

Despite my alarm that this action is patently illegal and wrong, the State Government through its Officials have been trying hard to justify this illegality having succeeded in using the state apparatus to commit the heinous illegality of “enforcing judgement” over a land that was never part of the alleged judgement of the Supreme Court.

I was away on Christmas holiday when the Lagos State Government led by one Engr Omotosho used bulldozer, trucks, towing vans and great number of policemen and thugs to chase away the legitimate tenants of the landowner and towed away all the vehicles at the site where they have been working for many years. When we were informed of this development, I raised alarm where I was holidaying and it was widely publicised both in mainstream and social media. Several government officials including the present Commissioner for Information and Strategy reached out to me over the issue and I promised to be back to Lagos to address the issue if they were ready to redress their error.

I returned to Lagos on the 10th of January, 2021 and on the 11th of January, 2021, I attended a meeting presided over by The Solicitor General/Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, Mrs Titilayo Shitta-Bey. It is important to point out that, that is the only meeting I attended over this issue, therefore the statement that a Committee set up by Lagos State Government sat from 4th of January to 1st of February 2021 is clearly news to me. I was never invited to any other meeting other than the one of 11th of January, 2021 which had some officials of several ministries and the Surveyor-General of Lagos State in attendance.

At the said meeting I raised the issue that:

1. Lagos State Government cannot “enforce” court judgement as that is the work of the Sheriffs of the court. I am proved right because after the invasion in collusion with Lagos State Government officials, the Meadows’ Family, the supposed judgment creditor, has gone back to court to ask the court re-issue the “warrant of possession” for them to carry out execution on Folorunsho Kuku Street that was never and had never been part of the subject of judgement of both at the trial and at appellate Courts. The matter came up two weeks ago, that is last January, 2021 which is several weeks after the illegal invasion by the land grabbers in collusion with Lagos State Government officials.

2. The Surveyor-General’s report that my client’s land fell into the subject of the judgement at the trial court was seriously objected to by my humble self because the surveyor-general based his report upon a FORGED SURVEY (it was never part of the proceeding at the trial court in Suit No ID/513/80). This purported survey plan upon which the surveyor-general based his report was never used, tendered and admitted in evidence in that case. I have a complete copy of the entire court proceedings that took place on that case and a complete set of all the surveys that were also tendered and admitted in court. I also have the court judgements which never made mention of a purported survey plan drawn by one Suveyor Ogunbiyi in 1981 which is the wrong survey that the Surveyor General of Lagos State has used in his report which the Special Task Force on Lands Grabbers acted upon. I made this particular point clear to the Committee, but my findings were that the Committee members from Lagos State Government came to the meeting with a mindset to clear their names and present a report to the governor that will clear their mess by insisting that they acted upon the purported survey that never existed during the trial of the case.

At that point I felt that the Committee cannot resolve the issue as it was set up purposely to clear their “mess” and not to mete out justice as this press release from the Commissioner of Information and Strategy justifies my position. The Land grabbers have taken over the land and have set out to sell the land (if they have not sold everything) to persons that are very close to this State government as my investigation reveals.

Let me address seriatim the other issues raised by the said Commissioner in his press release.

a. “That the Committee invited all the parties between 4th of January to 1st of February, 2021”. MY RESPONSE. As stated earlier, I was invited only on the 11th of January, 2021 and I attended only on that date and not aware there was any other meeting involving parties to this issue. The truth of the matter is that Lagos State Government cannot ordinarily be a judge in its own case. We accused Lagos State Government of aiding land grabbers to take over my client’s land illegally and it is preposterous that the said Lagos State Government through the Ministry of Justice was investigating the matter that we alleged is committed by The Special Task Force on Land Grabbing that is a Unit under them! What an irony?

b. “That the Special Taskforce on Land Grabbers acted upon a petition on behalf of the Meadows to eject occupants of the land which harbors shanties, mechanics and miscreants”. MY RESPONSE. This is clearly laughable. The mechanics that were there were rent paying tenants to the owner of the land, and the property in question was fenced round with a big gate. The mechanics are known within the Estate and are lawful tenants who pay their appropriate dues and levies to the Landlord/ Resident Association. The chairman of the Estate Mr Steve Omamole has testified to that effect.

Upon what basis in law will a State Government act upon a petition of a private citizen to eject fellow citizens without complying with due process and law? Since when did Lagos State Government constitute itself into a law court to engage in recovery of premises on behalf of other citizens? The more the Lagos State Government tries to justify this brazen illegality, the more they get themselves completely soiled in this embarrassing impunity!

c. “That the Petitioners tendered copies of judgements obtained from various courts, High Court, Suit No LD/513/80, Court of Appeal – Appeal No. CA/1/92 and the Supreme Court – SC /146/1995) and other documents showing their title to the land to substantiate their position”. MY RESPONSE. This was the most embarrassing of all the statements in this press release. I ask again, when has Lagos State Ministries or Agencies become the law court that enforce judgement of the court? If it is true as alleged that the Petitioners have these judgements, why can’t they go to court to enforce their judgements? When did they obtain these judgments? Have they enforced them before? Why did they not complete the execution? Why are they now waking up from sleep to enforce 41 year’s judgements in 2020 on a different address with a different survey? Is the Commissioner of Information aware that this same Petitioner was in court two weeks ago(this January, 2021) to ask the court to re-issue warrant of possession over the same property that Lagos State Government have purportedly helped them to enforce judgement in December 2020? Is Lagos State Government aware that the Survey Plan with which they deceived the Surveyor General to act upon in order to write that our client’s land forms part of the subject of judgement was never part of the proceeding in Suit No ID/513/80? Please note that the Hon Commissioner erroneously described the suit number as LD/513/80.

Further question will be what other documents did the petitioner show to the Lagos State Government as alleged by the Hon Commissioner that got the Special Taskforce On Land Grabbing convinced that my client’s land formed part of the subject of the judgement of the Courts in favor of the judgment creditor? Could it be the survey OGEK 1911/81 drawn by one Surveyor Ogunbiyi which the Chairman of the Taskforce Mr Arole said he got from the Court but which was never part of the proceedings in Suit No ID/513/80? How can a whole government agency believe in a document that was never part of the proceedings during trial and chose to act on it? What irks me in this whole mess is the brazen inability of the Lagos Government Officials to appreciate the gravity of this blunder. Their bold-faced attempt to justify this illegality is clearly amazing, shocking and alarming!

d. “That the Coordinator of the Lagos Task Force confirmed the authenticity of all documents presented by the Petitioner and obtained approval to embark on the enforcement in conjunction with other government agencies whose representatives were part of the Committee set up to establish facts of the matter – Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Ministry of Transportation and Office of the Surveyor- General, Lagos State”.MY RESPONSE. It is important we note that from this statement, Lagos State Government has admitted that they were the ones that helped a land grabber to chase away the legitimate owner of his land using state apparatus. Secondly, I ask which of the documents did the said Coordinator of the Lagos Taskforce confirm as authentic? Is it the judgement, the survey or the court proceedings? How does a judgement obtained on over 12 acres of land at Abule Onigbagbo cover a land in Opebi? Assuming but not conceding that Abule Onigbagbo has suddenly become Opebi, what survey plan was used to determine that the judgement of the trial court covered the land situate and lying at No 1 Folorunsho Kuku Street, Opebi which is a subject of a certificate of Occupancy obtained from the same Lagos State Government since 1989?

Why is the said judgement creditor the owner of only the 6 plots of my client’s land at No 1 Folorunsho Kuku Street, Opebi and not the owner of all the adjoining lands on left, right and its surroundings, more so when the judgment of the trial court was for over 12 acres of land? Most importantly is how did the Coordinator of the Special Task Force conclude his investigation and establish that the Petitioner has authentic documents when he knew that there were persons present in the property whose interest on the property he could have requested for in order to give every party to the matter a fair hearing? Was Lagos State fair in using all those above mentioned agencies to grab a citizen’s land without given the citizen the opportunity to explain the reason for his presence on the property? The tenants on the property have been there for over 20 years overlooking the property for our client. They have evidence of paying land charges up to date, in fact in 2019 they received a letter of commendation from Lagos State Government for prompt and regular payments of their charges.

In all these, to us, is the shocking revelations coming from the contradictory press releases coming from the various ministries of Lagos State over this impunity perpetuated by Lagos State Government over the land in Folorunsho Kuku Street, Opebi. Fact checks on the reasons advanced by the Ministry of Physical Planning is different from the one given by the Ministry of Transport and the one given by the Ministry of Environment differed from the one given by the Special Taskforce on Land Grabbing. Finally this last one released from the Ministry of Information and Strategy contradicts the earlier one issued by the Ministry of Physical Planning which alleged violation of physical planning laws. Whosever and whatsoever made Lagos State Government, the Centre of Excellence to engage in this brazen impunity and their recalcitrance justifying this illegality shall be revealed sooner or later.

e. “That the Meadows family (the Petitioner) was also invited to the Committee and it was established that after the execution of the judgement of the High Court of Lagos State, some mechanics and miscreants dislodged them from the land, and all efforts to remove the trespassers had proved abortive until the petition to the Lagos State Special Task Force”. MY RESPONSE. It is unfortunate that this press statement has clearly indicted the Lagos State Government as aiding and abetting land grabbing in Lagos State. How can someone who has a certificate of occupancy of 1989 with lawful tenants who pay their dues, one as Mechanics to the Local Government Area with receipts, two, with evidence of receipts of payment of land use charges to the State Government and three, with evidence of receipts of payment to the Landlord/Association of the Estate be described as miscreants worthy of being dislodged by the State Government? How can anyone justify this type of illegal act by the Lagos State Government? Under the military, an attempt like this by the Lagos State Government to treat a citizen like a miscreant was frowned at by the Supreme Court in the famous case of Ojukwu V Lagos State Government, and we are now under democracy where the constitution and the rule of law should prevail!

What is very interesting about the narrative above about the said Meadows Family is the several lies that this said family have told the court on why they want the court to re-issue warrant of possession to go back to execute the 41 years judgement. In one instance, they told the court that they did not have money to complete the earlier execution, hence they are now ready financially to complete it. In another application before the court, they told the court that they have completed execution but that the people on site agreed with them to vacate, however they have refused to vacate after the agreed time. In the third application before the court they told the story as re-told by the Lagos State government on their behalf that the alleged miscreants dislodged them after a successful execution. Which of these stories are true? We found out through our investigations that the family through their various counsel did abandon all these fraudulent applications anytime the court raised issue about the genuineness of their strange requests. Even if they are true, which I am not conceding, which area do they want to carry out the execution? Is it on the area for which judgement is entered or upon another area which was never part of the judgement of the court? Interestingly the Courts on which these strange applications were made usually suo motu raised these issues and the next thing is that their lawyers will abandon the application abruptly and run away. We have evidence of these. This was their method of trying to levy execution on a place they never procured judgement on until they found Lagos State Government as a good ally. The question will be why would Lagos State Government lend itself willingly for this type of infamy?

f. “That Ubani did not also provide any document to justify that the land belongs to Circle Nigeria Limited. The Committee also ascertained that the ex parte order submitted by Mr Ubani was in the name of Circle Nigeria Limited but the C of O attached thereto was in the name of Kayode Owoseye Akingbade – two different entities”. MY RESPONSE. This part was the most ridiculous. I ask again, has Lagos State Government Officials taken over the responsibility of the court of the land? Is it not funny that in one breadth the Hon Commissioner admitted that a court of competent jurisdiction granted our client an interim order and in another breadth he is querying our documentary evidence to obtain the order? Is the Hon Commissioner of the view that i got the order without documentary evidence to show ownership of the property by Circle Nigeria Limited? Is the Hon Commissioner by his assertion here querying the competence of the learned Judge who granted the order of injunction? Is the Hon Commissioner trying to rewrite the ruling of the court, which is actually what they did by invading our client’s land in collusion with the land grabbers. If I may ask, is the Hon Commissioner saying that if a legitimate land owner with a certificate of occupancy sells his land to a subsequent purchaser who has a deed of assignment coupled with being in possession for a period spanning over 20 years, that that person is in the eyes of the law a trespasser and a miscreant? Honestly I do not seem to get the argument of the Honorable commissioner on the issue of a certificate of occupancy bearing a name different from the subsequent purchaser. It again speaks volume on the desperation to justify this brazen illegality.

g. “That all the Survey Plans from both the Meadows family and that of Mr Ubani’s client revealed that the subject land falls within the Meadows’ family land; and that the land on which enforcement was carried by LSSTF falls within the parcel of land for which Meadows family obtained judgment in their favor in Suit No LG/513/80” (I am sure he meant ID/513/80). MY RESPONSE. When I appeared at the Committee on the 11th January, 2021 I saw the desperation of everyone from the State Ministries to justify the illegality hence their recourse to a survey plan that was never part of the proceedings, I counseled myself to follow process and procedure and allow the State Government to continue in their quest to justify themselves. The truth of the matter is that the survey plan made available to the Surveyor General to chart the alleged composite plan which gave him a wrong result and report was a fake survey plan as it was never part of the court proceedings in Suit No ID/513/80. All my atfempt to point out this fact to the Committee was rejected because the Committee had already made up its plans to JUSTIFY THE ILLEGALITY THAT TOOK PLACE ON THE 31ST OF DECEMBER 2020.

Sincerely speaking when I noticed the desperation of the Lagos State Officials over this land issue, we had counseled ourselves to pursue this matter legally in the court of law, but the current press release from the Hon Commissioner has made this rebuttal very imperative to avoid a situation where lies unrefuted will be taken as truth.

I am amused by the accusation that I used social media for sympathy and blackmail. I am not seeking for anyone’s sympathy but for truth to be unveiled. Secondly I am a lawyer of reputable standing and not known for blackmailing. It will be wise for the Lagos State Government to admit this grave error and correct the injustice rather than engage in smearing a name of a lawyer that is out to pursue undiluted justice for his client. Social media is open to everyone and the Lagos State Government have just used it to convey their opinion, even though, wrongly on this issue.

I am a firm believer in Lagos State as a Centre of Excellence and I think I have contributed my own little quota to the development of the State especially pertaining to the election of this present government both at the centre and at the State level. However, I will not be intimidated in pursuing the rights of any of my clients by any government official whose office is only temporal as the State will outlive any individual.

The Lagos State Government through their officials acted wrongly in the manner they dispossessed a citizen of his land. They need to check their process and procedure in investigating cases of land grabbing to avoid aiding and abetting land grabbers in perpetuating their nefarious acts. The State Officials erred gravely over our client’s land episode and it is alarming that instead of redressing the manifest injustice, the Centre of Excellence is digging deep in infamy and encouraging anarchy. The people who grabbed our client’s land have sold out all the land to desperate buyers with the aid and assistance of the State Government. This is clearly evil, unlawful and a dent on the good name of Lagos State. That they are trying to justify this is terribly alarming!

However due to my profound respect and love to the current governor, His Excellency Mr Jide Sanwo-Olu, a complete gentleman i would have said more on this issue, but I am restrained to hold my gun powder dry. I am too sure that he is yet to know the whole truth about this sad episode.

Conscience is an open wound, only truth heals it.

A word is enough for the wise!

Monday O. Ubani Esq,

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UNION CRISIS: UBANI GETS INDUSTRIAL COURT JOB

The President of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Justice Benedict Kanyip has appointed former Nigerian Bar Association Vice President, Mr. Monday Ubani as a Public Trustee to administer the affairs of Nigeria’s oldest industrial union, Nigeria Civil Service Union following the nullification of the union’s January 2018 National Delegates Conference.

Though one Comrade Lawrence Amaechi was purportedly elected at the conference, the election was set aside as being in contravention of a valid court order that status quo be maintained pending the determination of a substantive suit on the matter.

CITY LAWYER gathered that though Ubani’s initial attempt to resume duty this January was frustrated by the said Comrade Amaechi’s led Executive, this was reversed on 29th January, 2021 when the appointment was enforced by the Public Trustee with the support of the Court and the Nigerian Police.

The appointment letter from the Industrial Court, dated 29th of December, 2020 stated that Mr Ubani’s appointment is sequel to the Order contained in the judgement delivered on the 25th October, 2019 by Justice Sanusi Kado of the Abuja Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court in the suit between Comrade Benson Ekasa and 1 other v. Comrade Kiri Mohammed (then National President of the Union).

The letter reads: “Pursuant to Section 19(c) of the National Industrial Court Act, 2006; Order 59 of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria(Civil Procedure) Rule, 2017 and the Order contained in the judgement delivered on the 25th October, 2019 by His Lordship Hon Justice Sanusi Kado, in the above subject matter suit, I hereby appoint you, Monday O. Ubani Esq, as the Public Trustee for the Nigeria Civil Service Union(hereinafter referred to as the “Union” for an initial period of three (3) months, effective from the date of your acceptance of the appointment, on the following terms:

1. To oversee and superintend the running of the administration and finances of the Union.
2. To convene National Delegates Conference of the National Civil Service Union and organise election to elect new executive members in line with the constitution of the Union.
3. To render account of your activities within the above specified period in a report to be forwarded to the Court immediately after the expiration of the tenure.
4. To forward a copy of the report to the Honourable Minister of Labour.
5. In the event that you are not able to conclude your assignment within the three months period stated above, you may apply for re-appointment for another three months. In this event, you shall be requested to provide satisfactory reasons why you may be so re-appointed.”

Ubani has now received the commitment of the various Heads of the staff who are running the administration before his appointment. They all promised to support the Public Trustee to succeed in the onerous task that is placed before him.

The appointment of a Public Trustee by the Industrial Court is to enable him conduct free, fair election and enthrone a leadership that is acceptable to all and sundry including restoring sanity and stability to the operations of the union. 

Mr Ubani has since paid a visit to the Ministry of Labour and Employment where he met with the Minister of State for Labour & Productivity, Mr. Festus Keyamo SAN and the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr. Yerima Tarfa to intimate them of his appointment by the Court. He has also submitted his letter of notification and acceptance to the Minister, Dr. Chris Ngige.

LAGOS LAND GRAB: ‘MY LIFE IN DANGER,’ CRIES EX NBA VP

• ASKS GOV. SANWO-OLU TO INTERVENE
• ACCUSES LAGOS AGENCIES OF AIDING LAND GRABBERS

Former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Vice President, Mr. Monday Ubani has expressed concern over his safety following attempts by alleged land grabbers to take-over his client’s property.

In an SOS to Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the fiery human rights activist alleged that there are frenzied attempts by some land grabbers to use Lagos State Government agencies to take over the property, urging Sanwo-Olu to intervene in the matter.

He said in a statement made available to CITY LAWYER that one “Engr. Ariori,” an alleged land grabber, boasted that “they” not only “installed” the present government in Lagos State, but that they “killed a popular doctor that stood (in) their way” concerning an adjoining land.

Said Ubani: “At the police station Engr Ariori boasted to me how powerful he is and how they installed this present government and will use them to take over that land from me. He even implicated himself while talking to me at the Police Station how they killed a popular doctor that stood their way over the opposite land in the estate. I do not know whether he was serious about this claim or he was trying to use that to scare me. I have petitioned Area F over threat to my life after that story.”

Below is the full text of the statement.

UPDATE ON THE LAND GRABBING EPISODE BY LAGOS STATE GOVERNMENT AGENCIES ON NO 1 FOLURUNSHO KUKU STREET, OFF OPEBI VILLAGE.

On the 31st of December, 2020 I raised alarm and sought the help of Nigerians to reach His Excellency Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu over an unbridled attempt by the agencies of Lagos State Government to disposses a private citizen of his land he acquired legitimately and had been in possession for over 20 years with a certificate of occupancy of about 31 years. My Nigerian brothers and sisters, especially those of my friends who are close to the governor reached out to him with my pathetic cry for help. Dutifully and as a listening governor, His Excellency immediately ordered many of his aides especially the Commissioners to investigate the story including the wanton destruction of a place popularly called ‘Monkey Village’ which is close to the land in question.

Some of these aides some of who I know personally and have relationship with, have reached out to me and I have supplied some information and promised to give fuller details of the land matter in question upon resumption from my short holiday I took outside the State.

Despite the fact that I have received very vital information from numerous sources of how and who instigated the operation, I decided to keep quiet until I see what the State Government is up to with this land in question. I know how lawless we can be in this part of this world but I also know that there is always a limitation to state of anomie in our country, especially over certain matters that are very clear, unambiguous and straightforward.

However the various Press Releases and denials by the various Ministries that were clearly implicated and involved in the land grabbing scandal is becoming provoking that I feel compelled to cry out once again as there clear ominous signs in place that there is a larger sinister motive by these State officials over this land grabbing episode which the governor of the State may not be aware of.

As at yesterday, Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Environment have denied knowledge of the invasion, destruction and towing of the vehicles from the site to Alausa even when there is evidence that the “Notice to Remove” the vehicles was pasted by the Ministry of Transport and the said vehicles were towed to the Ministry of Transport Premises where the Mechanics who are legitimate tenants on the premises were asked to pay some amount of money before they can secure the release of their vehicles. So if Ministry of Transport is claiming not to have knowledge of the invasion, destruction of the site and towing of the vans to Alausa, the question will be what are the towed vehicles doing on their premises in Alausa? Who towed them there?

Today I read the Press Release of the Ministry of Physical Planning owning up to the invasion, destruction of the fences and structures on site and taking over of the property in question. They made several claims among which is that they acted on an approval by the Ministry of Justice of a faceless and nameless petition written to Special Task Force on Land Grabbers in Lagos State.

Secondly, they alleged clearing the site of shanties used for criminal activities and of mechanics who are constituting a nuisance to the neighbourhood. The site in question is completely fenced with a high gate. No one can see the mechanics(tenants) from outside unless, the gate is opened for you. No alleged criminals are harboured in an environment that is completely fenced off and have legitimate tenants that are known to the land owner.

They also allege breach of planning laws. The decent question will be which planning laws was breached? Assuming but not conceding that there is alleged breach, where is the Notice of any breach of the alleged planning laws by the owner of the property from the Ministry of Physical Planning before now? Are they saying that the “Notice to Remove” cars within 48 hours issued by Ministry of Transport has now become the Notice of breach of Planning laws of the State warranting invasion and taking over of a private property by them?

The second critical question will be which petition was written to the Special TaskForce on Land Grabbers and who were the writers of the petition? Could the writers be the same persons who invaded the same land few months ago and were sued with an injunction, and who up till now have refused to respond to the legal suit? Can we be availed of the petition and approval by the Ministry of Justice to take over a private land by the said Special Task Force on Land Grabbers?

Further and better question will be whether someone who has a certificate of occupancy over his land with effective occupation including payment of Land Charges up to date can be termed a Land Grabber of his own property in LAGOS STATE?

As at the evening of the invasion and destruction of the structures including the fences on the property on the 31st of December, 2020, the information at my disposal which I have even confirmed from Special Taskforce on Land Grabbers Unit in the Ministry of Justice is that they are the ones that led the operation to the land as a result of a complaint by the persons who purportedly obtained the Supreme Court judgement. The “beneficiaries” of the judgement were said to have alleged that they have executed the said judgement many years ago but that some people have repossessed the land and so they came to enforce the judgemrnt on their behalf.

It is confirmed to me that when the governor demanded explanation about the invasion, he was told by a high ranking officer of the Ministry of Justice that it was an enforcement of judgement that was carried out by the Ministry of Justice on behalf of the beneficiaries. At least the Press Release of Ministry of Physical Planning has further corroborated this fact.

What compounds all these stories and denials that are being spewed here and there is the questionable role of one Engr Omotosho who allegedly led the Government Officials to the site for the operation. Who is Engr Omotosho? Is he in which Ministry presently? Is he in the Ministry of Physical Planning or Ministry of Justice that have owned up being the Ministries that engaged in this illegal invasion and locking up a private property that has a certificate of occupancy given by the same Lagos State Government? He was alleged to be the one that led the operation of 31st December, 2020. Who is him in all this plans to take over this property?

Why these questions are germane is because a lawyer who was representing the family at the police station when the family first invaded the land some months ago sent me a text this evening informing me that the family has terminated the contract of one Engr Abiodun Ariori whom they contracted to help grab the land from my client at that time. The said Engr Ariori whom I sued along with others, according to him is no longer acting for the family.

My conjecture from this information is that they have contracted this Engr Omotosho who perhaps is more “powerful” and more “connected” to be their consultant for the “recovery of the land” . The intimidating and frightening mobilisation of men and materials for the destruction of the site and its environs can only be the work of a very “powerful”, “fearless”, “tough”, “intimidating consultant and contractor” who are part of the people that own and determine what happens and who can own anything in Lagos State!

PLEASE KEEP THESE FACTS IN PERSPECTIVES.

1. The Land has a certificate of occupancy of over 30 years. The owner of the property has fenced the property round with gate and has been in effective occupation with tenants, tenancy agreement of over 20 years and evidence of payment of Land Use Charge up to date.

2. Some land grabbers led by one Engr Abiodun Ariori led the invasion of the land some months ago and he is not a member of the family but hired by the family because they know his antecedent in “this business”, and they claimed they have a supreme Court judgement which was delivered over 25 years ago.

3. They refused to use court bailiffs to enforce the said judgement but illegal mopol and thugs and now Special TaskForce on Land Grabbers after many years of having obtained the said supreme Court judgement.

4. At the Police station, they tendered warrant of possession that showed an address different from the present land in dispute. They also tendered several survey plans different from the one used in the case at the High Court.

5. When I sued them at the High Court to come and prove the validity of the supreme Court judgement with regards to the land in question, they declined appearance and defence up till date.

6. The High at Court Ikeja granted an injunction against them and they were served, yet they refused to respond or file any response till date.

7. At the police station Engr Ariori boasted to me how powerful he is and how they installed this present government and will use them to take over that land from me. He even implicated himself while talking to me at the Police Station how they killed a popular doctor that stood their way over the opposite land in the estate. I do not know whether he was serious about this claim or he was trying to use that to scare me. I have petitioned Area F over threat to my life after that story.

In one meeting before the police, Mr Ariori even said that my client was dead but was reprimanded by the officer from the IG Monitoring Unit whom they brought from Abuja to come and meddle into the land matter. Those ones withdrew from the matter when they discovered their inconsistencies and moreover the matter was already in court.

8. Worthy of note is the desperation of this group of people when they invaded the land by bringing surveyors from God knows where to come and start re-surveying the land. It was shocking because this is the land they said they had judgement on. Why re-survey a land you purportedly have judgement on? That to me was the turning point in my belief that these men are just unfortunate land grabbers using raw power to take by force what does not belong them.

9. Despite the court injunction, they did not stop parading the land regularly and threatening the tenants therein that they should remove their cars as they will start work on the property very soon on the property. I have a video of when they first invaded the land and had started to commence building until I was able to stop them using the police and the law court.

10. Before this invasion, destruction and locking up of a private property with an inscription on the wall that it is in respect of an unknown judgement, Ministry of Transport pasted a “notice of removal” of vehicles on the site within 48 hours. I raised an alarm and called on the Commissioner of Transport who denied knowledge of the Notice. Their press release still say so, however I have stated it earlier that the vehicles at the site were towed to Ministry of Transport Premises at Alausa with an instruction to the mechanics from the said Ministry officials to collect their vehicles on payment of fees.

11. Special TaskForce Unit in the Ministry of Justice signed a document which was sent to the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State that the Unit was the one involved in the operation of the 31st of December 2020 in enforcement of judgement of the said Supreme court.

12. The police that I sent to the site on the day in question interviewed the people demolishing structures on the land and taking over possession, and they informed the police that they are from the Enforcement Unit in the Governor’s office. I have the video of the confirmation of where they said they came from.

13. The Ministry of Physical Planning is now claiming to be the Ministry that carried out the invasion, demolition and towing of the vans that were on the site on the grounds of approval from the Ministry of Justice and breach of an unknown planning laws without any prior notice of such breach to the owner.

14. Presently Area Boys and thugs have taken over site and some hanging around the site smoking dangerous weeds day and night, keeping vigil on the property with intention to have commenced building on the site the following day after the invasion but for my cry and shout that got the godly attention of His Excellency Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu who i believe will give me a listening ear over this matter that his officials want to use to embarrass him and the Centre of Excellence.

MY PRAYERS:

1. That His Excellency, the Governor of Lagos State should not allow these desperate land grabbers to start any work on that site as that will mean that “might is right”. Our clients who have been in possession were chased out of the premises and the place taken over with an inscription that this is in respect of a judgemrnt of a court even though the Ministry of Physical Planning is claiming some other things in addition and to the contrary.

2. That the matter is presently in court and as a State that respects rule of law, we have a court injunction to which the defendants have not responded to up till now. Possession of a property is 9/10 of the law. No contrary court order has asked our client to be driven out of possession of the property in question. Justice must not only be done but be seen to have been done in this matter.

3.Since the State Government has asked his aides(Commissioners) to investigate this case and report back to him, I request that I should be given an opportunity to present my case in an unbiased atmosphere in order to hear me out concerning what is playing out in this case.

It is a pathetic case that the Lagos State Government should not have been involved in the first place.

LAST LINE:

1. Those governing us and presiding over state agencies should have this at the back of their minds that power is TRANSIENT AND EHPEMERAL; THAT NOTHING LASTS FOR EVER.

2. I have absolute faith in the government of His Excellency, Babajide Sanwo-Olu to resolve this matter in favour of JUSTICE, NO MATTER THE PRESSURE/S FROM ANY QUARTER THAT BELIEVE THAT THEY OWN LAGOS AND BY EXTENSION THIS WORLD.
Our client should be restored back to his property after the truth is established that we are in lawful occupation before the unlawful invasion and ejection.

“CONSCIENCE IS AN OPEN WOUND, ONLY TRUTH HEALS IT”.

Mr M.O. Ubani Esq,
Legal Practitioner
4th of January, 2021.
ubangwa@gmail.com.

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NIN: UBANI SUES FG, ASKS COURT TO HALT DEADLINE

Fiery human rights activist and former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Vice President, Mr. Monday Ubani has dragged the Federal Government to court over its directive to telecom networks to block all SIM cards that are not registered with the National Identity Numbers (NIN)

According to the court papers made available to CITY LAWYER and filed at the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court, Ubani is seeking an order of the court “halting the said two weeks ultimatum given by the 1st, 3rd and 4th Respondents to telecommunication operators to block all SIM Cards that are not registered with the National Identity Numbers (NIN).”

He is also praying the court to direct the respondents to “extend the deadline for the registration of SIM Cards with NIN for at least 1 year or to such period of time as the court may consider reasonable for the Applicant (and millions of other Nigerians) to be able to register their SIM Cards safely without any rush that might result to avoidable loss of lives and injuries.”

Aside from the Federal Government of Nigeria, other respondents are the Attorney General of the Federation, Nigerian Communications Commission and Minister of Communications and Digital Economy.

The suit is brought under the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009 made by the Chief Justice of Nigeria pursuant to section 46(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

Ubani is also praying the court for “A DECLARATION that the two weeks (16th December, 2020 to 30th December, 2020) ultimatum given to telecommunications operators by the 1st, 3rd and 4th Respondents to block all Subscriber Identification Modules (SIM) cards that are not registered with National Identity Number (NIN), is grossly inadequate and will not only work severe hardship, but will likely infringe on the fundamental rights of the Applicant (and millions of other Nigerians) to freedom of expression as guaranteed by section 39(1)(2) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as well as violate section 44(1) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which prohibits the compulsory acquisition of right or interest over moveable property.”

The vocal public commentator is equally praying for a “DECLARATION that in view of the covid-19 pandemic and the rising cases in Nigeria presently, the two weeks deadline given by the 1st, 3rd and 4th Respondents to the Applicant and over 200 million Nigerians to register their SIM Cards with NIN, will lead to a rush, thereby resulting to clustering of the Applicant and other Nigerian citizens in a NIN registration centre, subjecting him to the possibility of easily contracting the covid-19 virus, and such will amount to a violation of his fundamental right to life as protected by section 33(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).”

Among the grounds for the suit are:

“That the Applicant is a lawyer, activist and social commentator on national issues. He uses his MTN SIM Card for business communication, social communication and interaction with other Nigerians through phone and online through the social media. Like millions of other Nigerians, the Applicant’s SIM Card enables him to exercise his fundamental right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Section 39(1) & (2) of the 1999 Constitution, and blocking the Applicant’s SIM Card will violate his fundamental right over his SIM Card (moveable property) as guaranteed under section 44(1) of the 1999 constitution as amended.

“That the short period of two weeks given for the Applicant and millions of other Nigerians to register their SIM cards with NIN (failing which their SIM cards will be blocked) is unreasonably too short and impracticable in view of the large population of Nigerians and the slow rate of registration by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).

“That the two weeks deadline will lead to a rush and clustering of the Applicant and other Nigerians in registration centre thereby subjecting him to possibility of Stamped and contracting COVID-19 virus, which will endanger his right to life as guaranteed by section 33(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).”

In a 21-paragraph affidavit deposed by Ubani in support of the suit, he stated as follows:

“That I am a Nigerian citizen who uses MTN (one of the telecommunication operators) Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) card for all my business communication and social interactions, including surfing the net, sending and receiving emails, attending online zoom meetings and conferences, and interact with family, friends and fellow Nigerians on all social media platforms.

“That like so many other Nigerians, I have till date not gotten my NIN despite several attempts as there are few NIN registration centres available, and most times the registration officials would complain of either network problem or lack of power supply to enable them function effectively.

“That the two weeks ultimatum given by the defendants for the telecommunication operators to block the SIM of all Subscribers (including myself) who have not registered their SIM with NIN is grossly inadequate, and will not only create unnecessary panic and inconveniences but will also cause severe hardship and suffering to me and millions of Nigerians who like me have not been able to get our NIN due to no fault of ours.

“That the Respondents’ directive to telecommunications operators to block the SIM of every person who has not registered their SIM with NIN after 30th December, 2020, is not a well thought out decision as same is too sudden, and will cut me and millions of Nigerians off from communication, and deny me the use of my SIM card which is my personal property, thereby infringing on my right to freedom of expression, and my entitlement to own a medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinion, as guaranteed by sections 39(1)(2), and 44(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

“That the 1st Respondent who has been fighting the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria since March 2020, and who has been advocating and enforcing social distancing did not avert her mind, when she and her agencies were taking such a decision, to the fact that COVID-19 is still present in Nigeria and cases of infected persons have been rising in recent time.

“That many prominent Nigerians have lost their precious lives as a result of not observing the social distancing, and other measures laid down by Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to avoid contracting COVID-19.

“That the resolution/decision of the Respondents to the effect that December30, 2020 (two weeks) is the deadline for over 180 million Nigerians to register their SIM with NIN is reckless, inconsiderate and insensitive in view of the present reality in the country.

“That the Respondents before arriving at such resolution did not check to confirm the statistics of Nigerians that do not have NIN, which if they did, their resolution would have been different.

“That no doubt, trying to meet up with the said deadline will put me and millions of Nigerians in untold pressure, and same will lead to a rush and result to non observance of social distancing measures, consequent upon which contracting the COVID-19 virus will be inevitable, thereby endangering my right life and that of other Nigerians, which is guaranteed by section 33(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

“That it will be proper and reasonable for the Respondent to extend the deadline to at least 1 year, and within that period of extension make deliberate and conscious efforts towards properly sensitizing Nigerians, and putting in place massive registration outlets in every ward of the Federation with good working facilities to ensure that easy access to registration is made possible.

“That trying to enforce this policy in a period where I, as well as most Nigerians are gearing up for Christmas festivities may lead to stamped in the process of rushing to get registered, which could lead to unnecessary death and injuries, thereby violating section 33(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“That if the Court does not halt or order the Respondents to urgently halt their plans, this directive may result to unnecessary panic in the country which may lead to exploitation of vulnerable Nigerians, thereby causing more pain in an already pathetic situation.

“That I am aware that millions of other Nigerians are also uncomfortable, worried and complaining about the gross inadequacy of the two weeks ultimatum given by the Respondents to telecommunication operators to block all SIM not registered with NIN. As a matter of fact, the House of Representatives (that represent the people of Nigeria) has asked the 1st Respondent to extend the deadline for the provision of National Identification Number (NIN) by telecommunication service subscribers, describing the two weeks given to SIM card users by the 3rd Respondent to provide their NIN to service providers as grossly inadequate. This was reported by the Punchng.com, published on December 16, 2020. The said online report by Punch newspaper is attached herewith and marked Exhibit MOU2.”

According to CITY LAWYER sources, no date has been fixed for hearing of the suit.