A Lagos State High Court has dismissed the preliminary objection challenging the court’s jurisdiction in hearing a suit filed by Mr. Adekoya Temitope Akinwunmi, and his wife Mrs. Ayoola Akinwunmi over alleged demolition of their property situated at No 9 Arowolo Adeyemo Avenue, Millennium Citi Centre Estate, Oke-Alo, Gbagada, Lagos State.
The Claimants, Mr. Adekoya Temitope Akinwunmi, and his wife Ayoola had in a suit marked ID/8178/GCMW/21filed by their lawyer, Mr. G.O Odimayo accused the Lagos State Commissioner for Physical Planning & Urban Development, Dr. Idris Okanla Salako, Permanent Secretary, Physical Planning & Urban Development, Engineer Abiola Kosegbe, the Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning & Urban Development, and the Attorney General, and Commissioner for Justice of illegal demolition of their four terrace building.
However, the Defendants in their preliminary objection dated February 4, 2022 challenged the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit on the grounds that the Claimants failed to exhaust the statutory administrative remedies contained in the Urban and Regional Planning and Development Law of Lagos State, 2019 before the commencement of the suit.
The Defendants through their lawyer, B.T Fasayegbe argued that the Claimants’ suit is incompetent and that the Court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain it. Ruling on the Preliminary Objection, Justice Yetunde Pinheiro held that the Claimants have properly invoked the jurisdiction of the Court, adding that the Court has unfettered jurisdiction to entertain any aggrieved citizen.
“I have earlier found that several Petitions had been written to the Defendant for which no response was received. Not even the Pre-action Memorandum of Claim was responded to, I have also found that by the operation of SECTION 81 (a), (c) and (f) any person inclusive of the Defendants (upon receipt of the correspondence of the Claimants) could have initiated the Appeals Committee process. It would be standing the law upside down to hold otherwise. Consequently, the failure of the Defendants themselves to refer those Petitions and trigger an Appeals Committee process under Part 7 of the Law must be construed against them. By the clear intendment of Section 6 (6) of the 1999 Constitution, the unlimited Jurisdiction of this court is unfettered as regards any aggrieved citizen.
Further, it is my view and I so hold that this case does not fall within the purview of complaints envisage under Section 89 (2), the Claimants having written several letters, attended the offices of the Defendants as requested by them without being attended to; and by the provisions of Section 82 (a), (c) and (f), the Defendants themselves having failed to refer those complaints to an Appeal Committee whose Secretariat by Sections 80 (xi) and 88 is still within the same Ministry and/or Civil Service. All told, I find this application lacks merit, the Claimant having exhausted the administrative remedies; the jurisdiction of this court has been properly invoked. The objection fails and must be dismissed. I so hold.”
The Judge stated that from the facts presented before the Court, the factual situations are not in doubt. The court noted that the Claimants were told that the only person that could stop the demolition was a Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mrs Uzamat Akinbile-Yussuf.
When the Claimants approached the former Commissioner for a truce, she allegedly made an adverse claim of ownership of the land and threaten that “whatever the Claimants built on the land would be demolished. She allegedly said, “I can tell you as an insider of Lagos State that even if you build a 10-story house, it will be demolished and flattened”.
The Claimants had in their statement of Claim dated September 23, 2021 averred that they paid all levies charged by the 3rd Defendant into the Lagos State Government account and the original copies of the payment receipts were submitted to the 3rd Defendant.
The Claimants stated that the 3rd Defendant approved the Building Plan and issued a permit with No: PRV/2021/31 /KS/DO in respect of the proposed residential ‘ buildings at No. 9, Arowolo Adeyemo Avenue, Millennium Citi Centre Estate, Oke-Alo, Gbagada, Lagos State. They stated that they commenced the construction of the four terrace buildings on the parcel of land having obtained the Building Permit from the said 3d Defendant,
The Claimants further averred that they applied and obtained safety compliance approval in respect of the said property from the Lagos State Safety Commission after paying all the levies charged by the said commission.
The Claimants averred that at every stage of the building under of this suit, construction, the Lagos State Materials Testing Laboratory carried out tests and approved the quality of the jobs done and all the necessary fees were paid by the Claimants into the coffer of the Lagos State Government in respect of the property.
The Claimants further averred that the Lagos Slate Building Control Agency saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that the construction of the building complies with the Approved Plan visited the property under construction at NO. 9, Arowolo Adeyemo Avenue, Millennium Citi Centre Estate, Oke-Alo, Gbagada, Lagos State,
The Claimants averred that to their great shock and dismay, while the construction of the four terrace buildings was ongoing, on the 21st day of June, 2021, the 1st to 3d Defendants’ officers suddenly arrived at the site of the construction and without warning, completely demolished the four terrace buildings under construction.
According to the Claimants no contravention notice or warning of any sort whatsoever was served on them prior to the demolition. The Claimants aver that it was upon subsequent enquiries and complaints by them at the offices of the 1st – 3rd Defendants that they were informed that the reason for the demolition was the purported failure of the Claimants to obtain the necessary building permits and approvals for the construction.
The Claimants explained to them that all necessary documentation were obtained (and copies were presented to prove it) and that they did not in any way contravene nor violate the Planning Permit granted to them by the 1st-3rd Defendant. They stated that Defendants merely scoffed at their explanations and threatened to demolish any new buildings the Claimants erect on the land.
The Claimants stated that the demolition of the four terrace houses by the Defendants is illegal, unlawful, and against the law.
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