By ABIODUN JIMOH
There was palpable fear at Gishiri Village, Abuja, as Justice Peter Afen of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, sitting in Maitama, yesterday dismissed an application for interlocutory injunction restraining the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) from demolishing the village.
Gishiri village, situated at Katampe District, Cadastral Zone B07 Abuja is currently harbouring over four thousand residents, whose remain uncertain due to the planned demolition by FCDA having been given notice of demolition since September.
The residents of Gishiri in a suit, filed against the FCDA and the FCT minister had urged the court to restrain the respondents from embarking on the demolition billed to commence on October 16th, 2020.
In the suit, Mr. Ayodele Ariyo on behalf of the residents prayed the court to issue an order stopping FCDA and the FCT minister from carrying out the demolition, pending the final determination of the case.
“Claimants/Applicants have filed a substantive suit before the FCT High Court with Suit No: CV/2784/2020 challenging the propriety and/or legality of the proposed demolition of Gishiri Village at a time like this.
“That there is an urgent need for the court to grant this application so as to preserve the area pending the determination of the substantive suit,” he said.
However, in his ruling, Justice Afen ruled that the claimants had not shown the existence of a right which must be protected, adding that nobody has such right over land in FCT, according to the Constitution of Nigeria that established the FCT.
The court thereby adjourned the case to Thursday November 12th, 2020 for definite hearing of the case.
In his remarks, the secretary of the group said that the demolition of Gishiri Village will cause untold hardship to the residents that are already suffering from economic crisis caused by the Corona virus pandemic. He added that the applicants will suffer unmitigated and irreparable damages if this application was not granted.
It was also gathered that the ‘Defendants/Respondents’, Federal Capital Territory Administration, Abuja Metropolitan Management Council; FCDA; Minister of FCT and the Local Government Chairman of Abuja Municipal Area Council, were all absent during the judgement.
It would be recalled that the affected residents had earlier sent a distress appeal to the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mohammed Bello for his intervention against the imminent demolition of their village.
The appeal was based on a notice of demolition dated September 25th, 2020 and issued by the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council and marked for demolition by the Department of Development Control (an agency of the Federal Capital Territory Administration).
In the statement of appeal,signed by Barr.Tom Alphonus, Temple Solicitors and Advocates, representing occupiers and owners of structures within Gishiri village they urged the minister to use his good offices to intervene against the proposed demolition on behalf of these families.
Barr. Alphosus in the letter however copied Senate President, Sen. Ahmed Lawal; Speaker, House Of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajiamila; Senator Philip Aduda; Hon. Minister Of Works And Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN); Chairman, Abuja Municipal Area Council, Hon. Abdullahi Adamu; Executive Director FCDA; Director Department of Development Control, and the Councilor, Ward Gwarimpa.
He stated that Gishiri village has served as residence to over 4,000 law-abiding Nigerian families who have coexisted peacefully for years, but who are now living in fear and panic as a result of the present threat of demolition.
The appeal stated: “We passionately appeal to you to use your good offices to intervene against the impending demolition and forward the following sincere concerns for your consideration.
“Gishiri village is recognized and accepted by the government of Nigeria and government of the Federal Capital Territory as a settlement for a vast population of law abiding citizens of Nigeria.
“The government has helped provide sustainable services like electricity, pipe borne water, a police station, a primary health center, a primary school and most recently a public convenience for use by the people.
“The period of 21 days indicated in the said notice of demolition is in our view unlawful, unconscionable, immoral, inconsiderate and highly unrealistic if not impossible for over 4,000 Nigerian families with no form of compensation or other alternative accommodation to vacate the area.
“Hence, we implore you, on behalf of these families to intervene against the proposed demolition.
“While we are aware of the overriding powers of the relevant authorities under the law over lands such as the one in issue, we appeal to the government and all persons in positions of authority to observe and follow due process of the law,” the statement said.
Furthermore, he noted that they were all witnesses to the economic downturn occasioned by the global pandemic (COVID-19). “It is worthy of note that about 99% of occupiers and owners of structures within the affected area are low income earners seeking succor from high cost of accommodation within the Federal Capital Territory.
“It would further worsen the already terrible economic plight of these families and expose them to unimaginable hardships if the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council embarked on the proposed demolition without any compensation from the government.
“While we are aware of the efforts of the government to enhance the wellbeing and economic situation of the country at large, we reiterate that the proposed demolition if embarked upon without appropriate compensation and or resettlement would expose the lives and wellbeing of this vast population to irreparable but avoidable danger.
“Please be assured of our highest professional regards as we anticipate your timely intervention in this matter.”