Home News Traders slam N50b suit on Enugu govt over demolition

Traders slam N50b suit on Enugu govt over demolition

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Enugu State Governor, Dr. Peter Ndubuisi Mbah has been dragged to an Nsukka High Court in a landmark suit which seeks to compel the state government to pay N50 billion damages as a result of the demolition of Ogige Nsukka Market by the state government.

In the suite, instituted by the registered trustees of the The Law Hub Development and Advocacy Center, Abuja, and The Ositadinma Okoro Empowerment Foundation, with the Governor of Enugu State and the Attorney General of the state as respondents, the litigants anchored their action on what they described as the manifest gross violation of their fundamental rights and the planned invasion and demolition of shops of the over 10,000 traders of Ogige Market, Nsukka.

The suit is praying for a declaration that the act of the respondents in giving traders of Ogige Market Nsukka, 72-hour notice to vacate their properties and shops, on 22 May 2024, and the purported plan to use force to remove them and throw them out, constitute violation of their fundamental rights to own movable and immovable properties as guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution.

In a move said to be aimed at urban renewal, the state government demolished a wide range of properties across the state.

Affected by the demolition are Our Saviour Institute of Science and Technology, belonging to Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ede; a motherless babies home belonging to the Nigerian Red Cross Society, in Enugu; sections of the Ogige Market, Nsukka, and a motor  park in Gariki, Awkunanaw, Enugu.

The institutions behind the legal action are seeking, among other reliefs, an order of perpetual injunction “restraining the respondents, whether by themselves, their agents, privies or otherwise howsoever from further harassing, intimidating, trailing, scaring away the traders of Ogige Market Nsukka, from their shops, and properties: arresting or detaining them upon the same facts constituting the complaints enumerated in this application or in any other manner infringing on the applicants’ fundamental rights”.

They are also praying for a N50 billion “exemplary, punitive, aggravated, special and general damages against the respondents, for their infringement on the rights of traders of Ogige market Nsukka,”

In his court filings, counsel to the applicants, Olu Omotayo, who is leading two other lawyers, J.E. Akubue. and Desmond Kakaan, averred that the over 10,000 traders in the Ogige market have invested over N10 billion in the development of the market since its inception more than 50 years ago.

He further averred that, on 22 May 2024, agents of the respondents came to the market and gave the traders 72 hours to vacate the market.

“In a manner reminiscent of the military era, the agents of Enugu State government wrote on walls in the market the notice that they should vacate within 72 hours. The traders of the market have been trading peacefully in the market for over 50 years, before the respondents just woke up and gave them 72 hours notice to vacate”, the court filing read in part.

They prayed the court to urgently restrain the respondents from further demolishing the market, to prevent further violation of the rights of the traders.

The action of the state government has elicited condemnation from across the country.

On Friday, the House of Representatives unanimously adopted a motion of national public important with respect to the demolition of properties belonging to the Nigerian Railway Corporation in Enugu.

The displaced railway workers have threatened court action following the demolition of properties on their 30,000 square metres land located inside the Railway Corporation in the Holy Ghost area of the state capital.

Addressing journalists during a protest, the President-General of the Nigerian Union of Railway Workers, Comrade Innocent Ajiji described the demolition as outrageous and unacceptable, adding that the government carried out the exercise with impunity.

Ajiji said that, contrary to the claim by the government, there was no negotiation with Railway Property Management or the worker’s unions.

He further said: “We are here in Enugu today to protest the demolition of our properties by the Enugu State government. We have properties all over Nigeria and if there is a need for the government to invest in our properties, there are due processes.

“Ten of our flats with people having their habitation were affected in that demolition. We have a traffic training school that was demolished, and a carriage and wagon workshop were also demolished, including a whole training school of the civil engineering department.

“Also demolished were 10 three-bedroom flats where railway workers and some retirees were living”.

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