By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory FCT sitting at Maitama, on Friday, extended the order restraining the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Muhammad Bello, from further demolishing the residence of Abuja socialite, Prince Joseph Kpokpogri.
The injunctive order followed an ex-parte application by Kpokpogri a former lover of popular Nollywood actress and deputy governorship candidate in Rivers State, Ms. Tonto Dikeh, filed through his team of lawyers led by Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN.
Justice Charles Agbaza held that the order would subsist until the hearing and determination of the suit the Claimant brought before the court.
“This court has the powers to grant an extension of the order in exercise of its discretion so as to preserve the Res (subject matter) of this suit.
“It will serve the interest of justice to allow the order to remain alive until the determination of the matter. Accordingly, this matter is hereby adjourned till September 12”, Justice Agbaza held.
The FCT Minister had through his lawyer, Mr. Y. Abubakar, urged the court to vacate the restraining order which he said ought to elapse after seven days.
“It is exactly eight days after the order was made. The Rule of this court provides that such order shall abate after seven days and there is no formal application for its extension”, Abubakar submitted.
However, counsel that represented the Claimant, Mr. Richard Ebie, urged the court to revalidate the order which he argued had no definite lifespan until the determination of the case.
“There is no formal application before this court for the ex-parte order made on July 7 to be vacated.
“This is a case where a party had on its own, decided to take laws into his own hands. If the order is set aside that means they will have a leeway to continue the demolition”, Ebie added.
After he had listened to both sides, Justice Agbaza dismissed the oral application by counsel to the FCT Minister.
Ozekhome had at the last adjourned date, told the court that some persons from the Federal Capital Development Authority, FCDA, had on May 14, invaded his client’s residence, “accompanied by a multitude of heavily armed policemen and bulldozers and excavators”, and commenced the demolition of his house, beginning with the boys quarters.
He told the court that agents of the FCDA threatened to return for total demolition of Kpokpogri’s house, even though they failed to give any reason for their action.
Consequently, Ozekhome begged the court to intervene in the matter, in the interest of justice.
Aside from the FCT Minister, other Defendants in the suit are the Federal Capital Territory Administration and the Federal Capital Development Authority, Abuja Metropolitan Management Council, Federal Housing Authority, and the Attorney General of the Federation.
Specifically, the court, issued an order of interim injunction restraining the Defendants either by themselves, agents, officials, privies, all those purporting to have derived title from them or other persons howsoever called from trespassing on or further trespassing on, demolishing, or further demolishing the property known as Plots 203 and 204, 27 Road, Gusape District, Apo Estate, Abuja, covered by letters of allocation issued by the Federal Housing Authority with Ref. No. FHA/BD/ES/APO/P.203 and Ref. No. FHA/BD/ES/APO/P.204 or from evicting the occupants of the said property or in any way interfering with the plaintiff’s exclusive right of possession of the said property pending the determination of the motion on notice.
Kpokpogri is among other things, praying the court to order the Defendants to pay him aggravated and general damages to the tune of N2billion.
In an affidavit he personally deposed to, the Claimant told the court that he is the beneficial owner and the person in exclusive possession of all that property known as Plots 203 and 204, 27 Road, Apo Estate, Abuja, covered by letters of allocation issued by Federal Housing Authority with Ref. No. FHA/BD/ES/APO/P.203 and Ref. No. FHA/BD/ES/APO/P.204 respectfully.
“I fully completed the building on the said property and parked into same since 2021 and I have been living in the said property with my family therein until the demolition of the building by the agents of the Defendant.
“The Defendants did not issue or serve any stop work order notifying me to stop the construction of the building even though the Defendants were aware of the construction of my building from the foundation to the completion; and were indeed supervising it.
“And no demolition notice was ever issued to me. The staff of the 6th Defendant duly supervised the construction of the Plaintiff’s building on the property from the beginning to the end without them raising any issue on the property.
“The property was never marked for demolition by the Defendants until one week to the demolition, precisely on the 7th of May, 2022; and no reason whatsoever was given for the marking of the building.
“Before I could realize what was happening, precisely on the Saturday morning of 14 May, 2022, the agents of the 1st to 4th Defendants invaded my house vi et armis and accompanied by a multitude of heavily armed policemen and bulldozers and excavators and commenced demolition of my house, boys quarters and appurtenances thereto, at Plots 203 and 204, 27 Road, Apo Estate, Abuja.
“I was at home on that fateful morning of 14th May, 2022 when the agents of the 1st to 4th Defendants without any warning came with bulldozers and excavators to demolish my 6-Bedroom detached house etc.
“No order of court was first sought and obtained by the Defendants before they demolished my house, and no court of law ever made any order to that effect.
“The defendants just arbitrarily acted at their own whims and caprices with impunity and with reckless disregard for the harm, financial loss, mental and psychological trauma they were causing to me.
“The cruelty, savagery and hasty manner with which the demolition was carried out could only have been motivated by malice aforethought.
“Even though I was physically at home, I was not allowed to remove anything from my house in spite of my cries and pleas to that effect. All entreaties for them to give me a little time, like one hour, to remove things from the house fell on deaf ears.
“No reason or explanation for the demolition was given to me by the Defendants.
“The defendants’ agents, watched indifferently, and indeed enjoyed themselves, as my edifices were wantonly pulled down”, Kpokpogri lamented, even as he begged the court to intervene to save a portion of his house yet to be demolished.