Justice Surajudeen Onigbanjo of the Lagos State High Court, Igbosere, on Thursday postponed judgement in a suit brought by residents of several waterfront communities against the state government to June 21.
Mr. Onigbanjo said he “would deliver judgment if the court finds that it has jurisdiction to hear on the suit.” The judge stated this after listening to the oral addresses of the applicants and respondents’ counsel on the court’s jurisdiction to entertain the case.
This is the second time Mr. Onigbanjo would postpone giving judgement on the matter. “While I was going through the court processes, I discovered that issues of jurisdiction were raised,” the judge had said last month.
“The applicant will have seven days to file their relevant court processes while the respondents also have seven days to file their court processes in response to the applicant.”
The suit was brought last year by 33 applicants suing on behalf of themselves and other residents of settlements including Otodo Gbame, Tomaro, Otumara, Orisunmibare, Oko Agbon, Itun Atan, Sogunro, the Ikorodu communities of Ofin, Bayeku, Olufunke Majidun and the Bariga communities of Ago Egun and Ebute-Ilaje. The communities are challenging the demolition of their waterfront settlement by the state government, a decision that has been condemned by local and international right groups. Judgment in the suit has stalled since last April 12, when the court ‘on its own motion’ raised the issue of its jurisdiction.
Addressing the court during proceedings on Thursday, the applicants’ counsel, Omotayo Enijiugha, said “the matter ought to be for judgment adding that the respondents were trying to delay the suit.” Mrs. Enijiugha argued that “the applicants’ claim was a fundamental rights issue, one which vested the court with jurisdiction to hear the suit.” She said it was “not how the respondent sees the suit” that should determine the court’s view. “We urge this court to assume jurisdiction. The court has the power to grant the reliefs sought and even more,” Enijiugha added.
Replying, first to third respondents’ counsel, Adetokunboh Ladega, stated among others that the government’s position on the suit was based on security concerns. Mrs. Ladega said: “What Lagos State has been doing is to ensure that the security of the state is not breached.” She accused the applicants of wanting to cause an “unnecessary delay by asking for an adjournment for judgment.” Mrs. Ladega added: “We are saying that they have wrongly instituted this action. They ought to have come by way of originating summons. As the matter is, they themselves have robbed this court of jurisdiction.”