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Delta High Court fines the Nigerian Army

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By Mercy Kelani

Their acquisition of sections of Ohore 1 land has been deemed invalid.

The Nigerian Army has been condemned by a Delta State High Court in Effurun, Uvwie Local Government Area. The court has imposed a fine of one million naira on the Army and has deemed their acquisition of sections of Ohore 1 land as invalid and completely without effect. Justice Roli-Daibo Harriman, overseeing the court proceedings, has pronounced the Nigerian Army’s encroachment onto Ohore 1 land as an act of trespass. In her recent judgment regarding the case brought forward by the community, Justice Harriman stated on Monday that the Ohore community holds the legal entitlement to occupy the entirety of the land mentioned in exhibit CL3.

Mr. Godwin Imiruaye, Mr. Lucky Utebu, and Chief Julius Oghojamuni, representing themselves and the Ohore 1 community, filed case No. EHC/41/2014 against the Nigerian Army, the Minister of Justice, and six others. The court has now made a declaration in alignment with this case. The Claimants, headed by activist, Chief Victor Otomiewo, engaged legal representatives to present their case to the court. They sought a declaration that, prior to the enactment of the Land Use Act, the individuals occupying and possessing the various plots of land in Ohore were not included within any portion of land that had been acquired by the Army for the defendants’ usage.

Acquisition of Ohore 1 land holds no legal weight and is invalid.

In addition to numerous others, Chief Otomiewo has entreated the High Court to proclaim that the acquisition of Ohore 1 land holds no legal weight and is invalid if not subjected to proper protocols, substantiated by evidence of compliance with all pertinent laws and constitutional provisions. Chief Otomiewo’s position was validated by the court, leading to a restraining order against the Army. This order prohibits any continued violation of Ohore land. In 1975, the Nigerian Army came into possession of the land, which was obtained from the government of the former Midwestern State.

More so, the Army claimed ownership of the land, stating that it was acquired under reference number NAE/2801/26/1/G, specifically for the establishment of the Effurun Barracks that stand today. At the time of acquiring the land, the families who were the rightful owners did not receive any compensation as mandated by the law, even though the Land Use Act, which grants all land to the government and entrusts it for the benefit of the people, had not been introduced yet.

Army generals distributed the land amongst investors and speculators.

Furthermore, in 1979, upon the completion of the construction of the barracks, a substantial segment of the land remained unutilized and barren for an extended period of time. Instead of restoring the remaining land to its owners who rely on it for survival, a group of crafty army generals, both active and retired, devised an alternative plan. They proceeded to distribute the land amongst investors and speculators, while offering the remainder for rent to modest traders who could manage to acquire a shop within the renowned Mammy Market.

Also, in Effurun, HRM Emmanuel Ekemejewa Sideso, Abe 1, the Ovie of Uvwie Kingdom, conveyed that his community willingly relinquished this significant portion of land to the Army, being persuaded by the federal government’s claims of constructing the main campus for the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), which was established back in 1964. In their conviction, the establishment of a military educational institution held promise for the progress of the community. However, due to the military academy’s ultimate establishment in Kaduna, the government opted to repurpose the acquired land for the construction of army barracks, now renowned as 3 Battalion Barracks in Effurun.

Uvwie people were not consulted in the acquisition of the additional land.

Additionally, the total land acquired in 1975 amounted to 4,640 acres. In February of 1994, the Army acquired a certificate of occupancy highlighting their appropriation of an extra 436 acres in a later instance. The king revealed that the Uvwie people were not consulted in the acquisition of the additional land, resulting in a total of 5,076 acres being taken. The genesis of the land dispute crisis arises when the land, originally belonging to the people of Uvwie kingdom, becomes unaffordable due to its exorbitant sale price. According to report, the judgment has sparked immense excitement in the Uvwie Kingdom.

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