FCT Minister, Alhaji Muhammad Bello, and the Federal Housing Authority, have asked a High Court to dismiss a suit challenging an illegal demolition of the residence of Abuja socialite, Joseph Kpokpogri.
Other Defendants in the suit are the Federal Capital Territory Administration and the Federal Capital Development Authority, Abuja Metropolitan Management Council and the Attorney-General of the Federation.
The Minister, alongside the Federal Housing Authority, FHA, through their lawyer, Dr Mubarak Adekilekan, maintained that the court was bereft of the jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
The defendants contended that the suit was filed “by a lawyer not known to law”.
According to them, Ozekhome, was the name on the seal of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, that was affixed on all the court processes, a search at the Supreme Court disclosed that such name does not exist in the nominal roll of lawyers.
Besides, the defendants, contended that the plaintiff, Kpokpogri, whose house was demolished, failed to disclose any reasonable cause of action to warrant the exercise of the court’s discretion in his favour.
Consequently, they prayed the court to dismiss the suit.
However, counsel for the plaintiff, Dr Benson Igbanoi, noted that the suit was originally fixed for the court to hear a motion his client filed for interlocutory injunctions against the defendants.
Igbanoi said he was surprised that though the defendants filed the objection since August 12, they waited till last Friday to serve same on his client.
He alleged that the defendants are deliberately frustrating the hearing of the suit, the plaintiff’s lawyer, urged the court to proceed with the business of the day.
In a ruling, Justice Charles Agbaza held that once a preliminary objection is raised to challenge the jurisdiction of the court, such motion must be heard and determined first before any further step could be taken in the matter.
He, therefore, adjourned the matter until Oct 12 for hearing of the preliminary objection .
The court had on July 15, extended its order that restrained the FCT Minister from completely demolishing Kpokpogri’s residence.
The injunctive order followed an ex-parte application the plaintiff who is a former lover of popular Nollywood actress, Tonto Dikeh, filed through his team of lawyers led by Ozekhome.
Justice Agbaza held that the order would subsist until the hearing and determination of the suit before the court.
Ozekhome, had told the court that some persons from the Federal Capital Development Authority, FCDA, had on May 14, invaded his client’s residence, “accompanied by a multitude of heavily armed policemen and bulldozers and excavators”, and commenced the demolition of his house, beginning with the boys quarters.
He told the court that agents of the FCDA threatened to return for total demolition of Kpokpogri’s house, even though they failed to give any reason for their action.
Ozekhome, SAN, begged the court to intervene in the matter, in the interest of justice.
Specifically, the court, issued an order of interim injunction restraining the defendants from trespassing on or further trespassing on, demolishing, or further demolishing the property known as Plots 203 and 204, 27 Road, Gusape District, Apo Estate, Abuja.
The plot is said to be covered by letters of allocation issued by the Federal Housing Authority with Ref. No. FHA/BD/ES/APO/P.203 and Ref. No. FHA/BD/ES/APO/P.204.
The order also restrained the defendants from evicting the occupants of the said property or in any way interfering with the plaintiff’s exclusive right of possession of the said property pending the determination of the suit.
The plaintiff, in the suit is asking the court to the order the defendants to pay him aggravated and general damages to the tune of over N2 billion.
Kpokpogri, in an affidavit deposed to in support of the motion said that he was the owner of all the property covered by letters of allocation issued by FHA with reference No. FHA/BD/ES/APO/P.203 and reference No. FHA/BD/ES/APO/P.204.
He averred that he was entitled to the statutory right of occupancy and exclusive possession of the said plots having been lawfully acquired from two separate individuals, Mr Muyideen Obans and Mrs Alaba Akindele, who were the original allottees of the lands from the (AGF) 6th defendant.
“The letters of allocation of the land to the original allottees dated Jan. 14, 2015 with No. FHA/BD/ES/APO/P.203 and FHA/BD/ES/APO/P.204, issued by FHA Abuja are hereby exhibits A and Al.” he claimed.