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Senior lawyers condemn oshiomole over demolition of property

Senior lawyers  condemn oshiomole over demolition of property

The University of Benin (UNIBEN), senior lawyers, have condemned the action of the Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomole  in  demolishing  properties  allegedly belonging to the University without exhausting the due process of law.

The Edo State  High Court sitting in Benin had on December 16, 2014 given a judgement  awarding the ownership of the properties in contention to Edo State Government. Being greatly dissatisfied with the reasoning adopted and the conclusions reached by the trial Court, the university authorities promptly appealed the decision of the Court on December 19, 2014 by  filing  a notice of appeal and an application for stay of execution of the judgment

The notice of Appeal and the Motion for stay of execution were served  on the State Government by the Bailiffs of the  Court and duly acknowledged by the Counsel to the State Government on December 21,  2014 .

In spite of these actions by the University authorities, Comrade Adams Oshiomole,  led a demolition squad  and personally supervised  the demolition of some of the properties in controversy  without giving notice to the occupants of the building to evacuate their belongings or  wait  for the outcome of the appeal process in defiance of all known democratic and legal procedures.

In a chat with the media, Governor Oshiomole stated that the properties were donated to the University when it was established by the then Governor of the Mid-Western Region, Brigadier Samuel Ogbemudia. That three years ago, he indicated interest to revoke the buildings, but instead of engaging him in a dialogue, the University authorities took him to Court to contest his power to do so.  The Governor  stated that from December 16 when the judgement was given, to December 23,  when he went to demolished the properties, nobody from the University came to him to ask for extension of time within which to vacate the property or told him that the University had appealed the Judgement and also filed a motion for stay of execution the nitice of the processes were not served on him. The  governor further stated that the senior staff of the universities were not  entitled to stay in those properties because since after the monitisation policies of the Federal Government, their salaries, accommodation and other benefits  have been monitised, hence the fat salary the Professors now receive, that the professors  gave out those accommodation to their wards and cronies.

Head of the Legal Unit of the University, Prof. Bright Bazuaye said that the University did all it could do within the ambit of the law to prevent the illegal demolition of its properties by the  Governor. Even though the governor had the Judgement of the Edo State High Court in his favour, law and equity demands that he should  have waited  for the outcome of the appeal process before taking any action to damage the res.

Read also: Edo reads riot act, commences state-wide demolition of illegal structures, others

The Dean Faculty of Law UNIBEN, Prof. Richard Iduber said: “I feel very embarrassed at this whole development, because it is one of its kind.  This is really taking things for granted, the architect is believed to be Comrade Adams Oshiomole, governor of Edo State.

“It is most under handled for a thing like that to be done at this point in time. If you want to gather honey, you don’t kick over a beehive. I sometimes wonder whether my otherwise amiable Comrade Governor is actually working for his party. I believe, as it has been in my mind for some time now, that he is probably working for the interest of another political party.

He might be doing  this to service the interest of another political party for now, for him to come back  and join them later depending on what the terrain looks like because somebody who believes that he is working for  his own party is supposed to be people oriented, his views here, his approach, his attitude to governance in the last couple of months, leaves much to be desired. That makes me think that he is probably working to service the interest of another party unknown to the general public.

Now look at it, you had victory at the court and you waited for no minute to go ahead before going ahead to destroy everything of value to the very building that you said that you gave out. It does not stand to reason in the first instance, because it amounts to destroying the wealth of the State, but  there was no compelling reason for destroying the buildings; the former Vice-Chancellor had stayed there for over thirty years and a number of our staff have been staying there for this number of years also.

“ It is now widely believed that those buildings have been given out to their cronies, go and find out, they have been given out unless they decide to withdraw them at this very moment. If Oshiomole doesen’t know that people have the right of appeal, he should be told that there is, at any rate he should not feign ignorance of it because it is through appeal that he got the authority that legitimise his second coming, that doesn’t understand the jurisprudence of appeal, it is only the National Industrial Court that is the court of first instance and the last court.

“We understand the hierarchy of courts in this country from the court of first instance,  to the Court of Appeal and then to the Supreme Court. So a man who wants justice to be done should allow people to have the opportunity of exhausting it all before demolishing the buildings.  People can say yes, he wants to enjoy the fruits of his successful litigation, yes at whose expense?

The buildings have been there for years, you want to recover possession,  of what you believe you have won, you don’t want anybody to have interest in appealing the judgement,  this is pregnant with insidious qualities that you directed whoever gave the judgement to produce the effect of the litigation in your favour so that you can act decisively without affording any opportunity to the other side to appeal the judgement. You destroyed the buildings, you destroyed the res and you said that you are protecting the interest of everybody in the country, everybody in this State, you destroyed our wealth and you said that you are protecting us, that is insanity at its highest.

Chief Alfred Eghobiamen (SAN)has called on the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Edo State, Mr. Henry Idahiagbon to resign from office  for telling lies to the public. Chief Eghobiamen stated that the Attorney-General lied to the public when he said  that the State Government was not served the Notice of Appeal and the Motion for stay of execution on December 21,2014,  but a research he conducted showed that the State government was duly served those Court Processes by the court officials through their counsel.

The learned Senior Advocate of Nigeria condemned Comrade Oshiomole for personally supervising the demolition of the properties stating  that the governor acted beyond his powers. “ It is the duty of Court officials accompanied by the Police to levy execution and not the duty of the State Governor”

In a petition to the Inspector-General of Police over the matter which was made available to the press, , counsel to the University, Mr. Hannibal Egbe Uwaifo questioned the source of Oshiomole’s right to the properties. “ Were those properties shared to Edo State when the assets of old Bendel State were shared between Edo, Delta and other stakeholders, is Edo State  the only State that was carved out of the old Bendel State, why should Oshiomole personally supervise the demolition of those properties, if he is the owner of those properties as he claimed, is demolishing them the reasonable way of taking possession Uwaifo asked.  He called on Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to rise up in defense of justice by condemning this illegal act.

The petition reads in part: “ The High Court delivered judgment  on December 16, 2014 and awarded ownership of the properties to the defendants. Being greatly dissatisfied with the reasoning adopted and the conclusions reached by the trial Court, by December 19, 2014, our client had promptly filed a notice of appeal and an application for stay of execution of the judgment which were promptly served on the defendants.

“Our client informed us that on December 23, 2014, unidentified agents and proxies of the Edo State Government mercilessly beat up and forcefully threw out the staff of the University, who occupied  those properties.  They afterwards locked them out of the properties with a stern warning that they will be killed if they ever were to be seen near the properties.

“It is our further instruction, that the matter was reported to the Airport Road Police Station, from which our clients received assurances of a thorough investigation and the protection of the properties from further invasion by agents and proxies of the State Government. Nevertheless, and to our client’s utmost chagrin, the perpetrators came visiting again on December 31, 2014, and this time, to pull down the buildings, destroy the properties of the occupants and bury them in the rubbles.

“ On  January 5, 2015 thugs in company of the Governor of Edo State and sadly armed Nigeria policemen attached to the Government house, Benin City destroyed the house of the immediate past Vice-Chancellor and some other houses