The Senate has asked the Nigerian Army to vacate a large expanse of land currently being occupied by its Signals Barracks in the Apapa area of Lagos State.
The Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions’ Committee of the upper chamber at its sitting yesterday ruled that the contentious 20.652 hectares of land rightly belonged to the Kazuma Shipping Company Limited, based in Lagos.
The Chairman of the Senate panel, Senator Ayo Akinyelure gave the verdict brought before him by the law firm of Messrs Muiz Banire & Associates.
A copy of the petition signed by Dr. Muiz Banire (SAN), and dated November 21, 2021, was made available to journalists by the panel.
In the petition, Banire explained that the land was originally owned by the family of the late John Saint-Matthew Daniels, from whom the Kazuma Shipping Company Limited, bought it in 2002.
He alleged that the Nigerian Army encroached on it despite the fact that it was outside their barracks.
He said the owners of the land commenced series of litigations against the Nigerian Army and got favourable judgments at the High Court, Appeal Court and Supreme Court.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria explained that the Supreme Court while delivering judgment in Suit No SC/68/71, had declared that the land, which borders the Nigerian Army Signal Barracks, Apapa, Lagos State, belongs to the children of the late John Saint-Matthew Daniels.
Banire said, ” After the judgment, officers of the Nigerian Army began to trespass on the land by depriving the original owners, access to the large expanse of land on the pretext that the said land belong to the Nigerian Army.
“Upon a petition to the relevant authorities by our our client’s predecessors and in compliance with the said judgment, the Chief of Army Staff vide reference No. NA/412/A, dated April 3, 2002, directed the Commandant of the Nigerian Army Signal, Arakan Barracks, Apapa, Major General S.E. Asemota, to formally hand over the parcel of land back to our client’s predecessors-in-title.”
Banire further explained that the Daniel’s family formally sold the land to the Kazuma Shipping Company Limited after the handover in 2002.
He said the company spent N400m to sand fill the land after purchase between 2002 and 2009.
He, however, lamented that men of the Nigerian Army, allegedly disregarded the court judgements and invaded the land in 2009 and chased away the workers who were doing the sand filling.
Banire said, “upon several outcry and complaints, the Chief of Army Staff directed through a reference vide No.NA/COAS/G4/67/1 dated August 15, 2011, that the Nigerian Army should again, hand over the parcel of land to our clients predecessor-in-title.
” On November 30, 2011, the Nigerian Army, represented by Brigadier General S.J. Davies, the Commander of 45 Division Engineer, conducted another handover ceremony. ”
The Senior lawyer further lamented that men of the Nigerian Army did not respect the handover which was directed by its superior officers by erecting perimeter fence around the land with a signpost that it belonged to the Nigerian Army.
He therefore implored the Senate to intervene in the matter.
The representative of the Nigerian Army at the Senate panel session, Lt. Col. M. Biambo, however told the senators that the case was subjudice because a suit insituted by the Army was already pending before a Lagos High Court on the matter.
Members of the panel including Senators Uche Ekwunife, Smart Adeyemi and Sam Egwu rejected the submission of the Nigerian Army.
They insisted that the court of lesser jurisdiction could not upturn a verdict of the apex court.
The Chairman of the panel, Senator Ayo Akinyelure therefore ruled that the Nigerian Army should vacate the land immediately.
He said the report of his panel would be be submitted to the Senate in plenary after which he said the verdict would be communicated to the highest authorities of the Nigerian Army.