By CrossRiverWatch Admin
The Ogoja division of the High Court of Cross River State has granted an order restraining any person from entering the premises housing Magistrate Court 2 in Ogoja magisterial division pending the determination of the Motion on Notice filed by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
The Ogoja branch of the NBA approached the Court to stop the sale of the premises to the Leader of the Cross River State House of Assembly, Peter Odey (PDP, Ogoja) after it became public knowledge that the Governor, Benedict Ayade had approved the land for him to build his “personal house”.
The case has been adjourned until March 18, 2021 for hearing of the motion on notice.
How It Began?
Mr. Odey who just completed his private residence at the Cross River State Water Board Limited premises in Calabar, wrote to Mr. Ayade for land to be allocated to him in Ogoja Local Government Area to build another private residence.
Ogoja is almost 300 kilometers north of the southern port city of Calabar.
Mr. Ayade, whom by virtue of his office as Governor and empowered by the Land Use Act of 1978 holds lands in trust of the people and issues a Certificate of Occupancy, approved and directed the Lands Commissioner, Mr. John Inyang to allocate land for Mr. Odey.
However, experts say the power of the Governor is limited to the extent that he cannot revoke public property, in this case Judiciary property and allocate same for private interest or to a private individual.
Inyang, who is the brother in-law to the Governor’s wife, is said to have showed Mr. Odey, a plot directly behind the Ogoja Local Government Secretariat, next to the Ministry of Justice annex at the Government Residential Area in Igoli.
The land is where Court 2 of the Ogoja Magisterial division, presided over by senior Magistrate Eno Iyamba is situated.
But, Magistrate Iyamba sits alongside Chief Magistrate Ekong Imona on rotational basis in Court 1 after years of neglect led to a decay of Court 2 which was worsened by a windstorm that blew off the roof.
As at press time, it remained unclear whether the decision to allocate Court 2 was deliberate by Messrs Ayade, Odey and Inyang. But, sources say the Magistrates quickly informed the Chief Judge, Justice Akon Ikpeme and the Police who arrested workers who appeared on the site last week Saturday and begun work.
Judiciary sources say the workers were to be arraigned earlier on Monday but we’re released following pressure from Mr. Odey, a claim, he denied.
“That is not true. I never went to the Police station. As I am talking to you now, I am in Calabar,” Odey said.
However, he did not deny that he directed work to start but claimed he had no knowledge the land allocated was a Court premises.
“I did not ask that a Court be given to me. I only applied to the Governor for a piece of land in Ogoja to build a house and the Governor approved. The Commissioner allocated that space to me. I didn’t even know it is a Court. If there is contention around it, it is the Commissioner that should address it. If anyone has any question, it should be directed to the Commissioner,” he told CrossRiverWatch late Monday morning.
But, earlier, on Monday morning, the workers had resumed with the Magistrates reporting to the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps charged with the protection of sensitive public infrastructure, which led to the arrests of two people and the confiscation of some work materials.
And, Odey said he had directed that work should stop. “I have directed that work should stop on the site until matters are sorted. I don’t want a Court. I just need a land to build a house. If anyone even came up to me to tell me there is an abandoned Court there that needs repair, I would have contributed to fixing it for my people.”
As at press time, work had stopped at the premises.
As at press time, efforts to get the Lands Commissioner, Mr. Inyang have proved futile as several calls to his mobile phone were neither answered nor returned.
Since You Are Here, Support Good Journalism
CrossRiverWatch was founded on the ideals of deploying tech tools to report in an ethical manner, news, views and analysis with a narrative that ensures transparency in governance, a good society and an accountable democracy.
Everyone appreciates good journalism but it costs a lot of money. Nonetheless, it cannot be sacrificed on the altar of news commercialisation.
Consider making a modest contribution to support CrossRiverWatch's journalism of credibility and integrity in order to ensure that all have continuous free access to our noble endeavor.