A senior lawyer and human rights activist, Dr. Dorncklaimz Enamhe has urged the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to wade into a land grabbing debacle between a retired Assistant Comptroller-General of Nigeria Immigration Service, an alleged land grabber and the Enugu State Government.

Enamhe made the call while speaking at a session at this year’s NBA Annual General Meeting (AGM) which held in Abuja recently. Ironically, Governor Peter Mbah was billed to attend the plenary session on Justice Sector Reforms as a Panelist but was absent.

He decried the demolition of the property of Bar. Okey Ezugwu, a senior lawyer and husband to a sitting judge of the Enugu State High Court, allegedly by one Oke Hyacinth Ayogu, Managing Director of Hymac Real Limited, with the support of Enugu State Government and some Army officers.

Though Ayogu had filed a civil suit asking the court to determine title to the disputed land, Enugu State Governor, Mr. Peter Mbah had directed the Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority (ECTDA) “to demolish every illegal structure encroaching on Plot P/23C at Independence Layout Enugu clearly delineated in in survey plan no. EN(E)658 with beacon nos. C5829, C8012, C29932 and C29933 covering total area of 6602.515 square meter (sic).”

The directive was contained in a letter by the Secretary to Enugu State Government, Prof. Chidiebere Onyia dated July 14, 2023 and addressed to the ECTDA Managing Director and Officer-in-Charge.

It is noteworthy that the directive followed an application by the state government to be joined in the lawsuit brought by Ayogu. The application was granted by the court on 27th January, 2022.

Instructively, in its Statement of Defence, the Enugu State Government denied allocating the land to Ayogu, saying: “In answer to the said paragraph 4 of the statement of claim, the 9th Defendant avers that the Plaintiffs are not in possession of Plot P/23C, Independent Layout, Enugu as neither the Governor of Enugu State nor the 9th Defendant nor any other person having their authority put the plaintiffs in possession of the said plot of land.” The 9th Defendant is the Attorney General of Enugu State.

Speaking on the demolition exercise, Enamhe urged NBA to be “more proactive” in confronting human rights matters, decrying a situation “where a serving judge’s husband’s house was brought down even when he has his allocation and was in court over it.”

Continuing, Enamhe who is also a member of the Governing Council of NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL), said: “It’s extremely saddening that lawyers in Enugu are not speaking up, rather they are coming to the conference to hold brief for their Governor who apparently didn’t ask them to hold brief for them. Moreso, the judge’s husband is also a senior lawyer.”

Decrying impunity and saying that he was also a victim of a similar action, Enamhe said: “I am very bothered about developments in our country. I brought to the NBA a situation where I had a discussion with my former Governor, Professor Ben Ayade and the next call I got was from the police and the DSS.”

When contacted, Ezugwu confirmed the development, saying that Enugu State Government did not give him any reason for the demolition of his property.

His words: “On Monday Hyacinth Ayogu came with soldiers and some officials of ECTDA and brutalized my workers. They equally brutalized me and when I reached out to 82DV of the Nigerian Army I was told that they are not in control of the soldiers that came to my house to brutalize me and my workers. I was confidently told that the soldiers were approved for him (Ayogu) by the Chief of Army Staff.”

“Sensing that the CCTV in my house recorded their brutality they went and carted away all the CCTV and my phones. They flushed everything in the phone before returning it but they are still with my CCTV cameras. After the incident the Secretary to the State Government, Prof Chidiebere Onyia invited all the parties and I showed him all my documents and allocation papers.

“Unfortunately, this morning the Okeh Hyacinth Ayogu rolled out caterpillars and excavators to my house and demolished my property. I am distressed that such impunity could take place in my own State under this administration.”

He wondered why the current administration would seek to “re-establish” an old survey plan over parcels of developed plots of land with all known government approval documents, saying: “It is difficult for me to fathom the conspiracy behind the whole thing. I have my allocation papers and C of O to the property. I have always paid my ground rent. I am a very loyal citizen of the State. The Governor is our father and our brother and I am using this medium to plead with him to take a passionate look at my case. I have tremendous respect for the new administration.”

It has been alleged that the Enugu State Government has permitted Ayogu to commence construction on the disputed property, and that he may have abandoned his lawsuit for determination of title and resorted to self-help with the backing of the Enugu State Government.

* 48-hour ‘Notice’ from Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority

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