Delta High Court fines Nigerian Army ₦1m for invading, taking over community land

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The Nigerian Army was fined one million naira by a Delta State High Court in Effurun, Uvwie Local Government Area, and their acquisition of portions of Ohore 1 land was ruled to be void.

The Nigerian Army’s invasion of Ohore 1 land was also deemed a trespass by the court, which was presided over by Justice Roli-Daibo Harriman.

In her decision in the community’s lawsuit on Monday, Justice Harriman stated that the Ohore people were entitled to the statutory right of possession for the entirety of the land in exhibit CL3.

The declaration by the court follows suit No. EHC/41/2014 by Mr Godwin Imiruaye, Mr Lucky Utebu and Chief Julius Oghojamuni on behalf of themselves and the Ohore 1 community against the Nigeria Army, the Minister of Justice and six others

Lawyers for the Claimants led by activist, Chief Victor Otomiewo had approached the court to declare that prior to the promulgation of the Land Use Act, the claimants being the persons in occupation and possession of all parcels of land at Ohore did not fall within any area of land acquired by the Army at the time for the use by the defendants

Chief Otomiewo amongst others also prayed the High Court to declare that any acquisition of Ohore 1 land without due process and evidence of compliance with all the relevant laws and the constitution is null and void.

The court agreed with Chief Otomiewo and restrained the Army from further trespassing against Ohore land.

The land in question was acquired in 1975 by the Nigerian Army from the then Midwestern State government.

A letter with reference number NAE/2801/26/1/G, said the land was acquired by the Army for the construction of the present-day Effurun Barracks.

Although the Land Use Act, which vests all land in the government that holds such land in trust for the people – was not yet promulgated at the time of acquisition, no compensation was paid to the families who owned the land as required by the law.

When the construction of the barracks was completed in 1979, a large portion of the land was unused and lying fallow for years.

Rather than returning the rest to the owners who depend on the land for survival, some serving and retired army generals became clever and started to sell the land to investors and speculators and rent out the rest to small-time traders who could afford to own a shop in the Mammy Market.

The Ovie of Uvwie Kingdom, HRM Emmanuel Ekemejewa Sideso, Abe 1, said his people conceded that much size of land to the Army because the federal government made them believe it wanted to build the main campus of the Nigerian Defence Academy, NDA, established in 1964 in Effurun.

“We believed army education would bring development to the community but since the military academy was eventually located in Kaduna, the government decided to use the acquired land for the building of army barracks now known as 3 Battalion Barracks, Effurun. The total portion of land acquired in 1975 was 4,640 acres.

The certificate of occupancy obtained by the Army in February 1994 shows that the Army later appropriated an additional 436 acres.

The extra, which puts the total land acquired at 5,076 acres, was taken without the approval of the Uvwie people, the king said.

Now, the land is sold at a price beyond the reach of the original owners, the people of Uvwie kingdom. And this is the genesis of the land dispute crisis.

Our Correspondent reports that there is wild jubilation in Uvwie Kingdom following the judgement.

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