Police, Adamawa ministry, seven others in bitter land dispute

Director Civil Litigation in Adamawa State ministry of justice Konleganyiga Urbanus Jonathan.
Director Civil Litigation in Adamawa State ministry of justice Konleganyiga Urbanus Jonathan.
Police, Adamawa ministry, seven others in bitter land dispute

• Parties accuse police of haughtiness, disrespect for court judgement

A malignant and bitter land dispute spanning 14 years between the Nigeria police force (NPF) and Adamawa State ministry of land and survey alongside seven others is trying to pulverize the existing conviviality and mutual respect between parties as the feuding sides vow not to shift ground.

The land dispute which started since 2010 between the Nigeria police and two others vs Mr. Alems and seven others is yet to be settled despite a consent judgement delivered by late Justice Bobbo Ardo in 2012.

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Mr. Alems, the ministry of land and survey alongside six other parties who are the defendants through their counsel, Konleganyiga Urbanus Jonathan, a Director Civil Litigation (DCL) in the state ministry of justice, have accused the police of haughtiness, and deployment of coercion to scuttle justice from taking due course by disregarding a consent judgement which the plaintiffs and the defendants willingly entered.

In a chat with our reporter, the defense counsel who expressed sadness over the failure of the police to defer to the consent judgement delivered since 2012 said the development is a sad commentary on the institution which itself is a brainchild of law and constitutionality.

“The case between inspector general of police and two others verses Mr. Aliens and seven others commenced in 2010. The police alleged that the land of survey has trespassed on its plot of land and allocated same to the people.

“But despite having instituted the suit, the plaintiffs continued development on the said land without waiting for the court to deliver judgement,” he said.

Jonathan noted that ordinarily, the police ought to stop any action on the piece of land till the court process is exhausted, noting that that singular action constitute an abuse of the law as it is obverse to the rule of law which the police vicariously pretend to promote.

“The police should have stopped development on the land till the court process is exhausted but they refused. Right now there are two residential houses and corner shops which the police constructed despite the fact that there is a subsisting litigation,” he said.

He noted that while the case was going on, the presiding judge having seen the futility of a government agency going into litigation with another government agency counsels that the two sides should embrace arbitration hence the resort to the consent judgement.

“Justice Bobbo Umar told them it is not good for government and government to engage in litigation counselling that they should sit down and iron out things,” he added.

He noted that in deferment to the counsel of the presiding judge “we sat down and all agreed with the terms of agreement spelt out and mapped out where and where belong to each party.

“We all signed it and became a consent judgement. There was no coercion or duress. Since the consent judgement was delivered in 2011 the police became evasive and uncooperative. The ministry of land and survey which I represent has made a lot of efforts to make police sit down on the table to conclude the process.

“The consent judgment will have been a win win because there is no loser. So we told them to take possession of their own portion of the land by virtue of the consent judgement and allow the ministry to take its portion.

“The ministry of land and survey going by the terms of the consent judgement will now prepare title documents for the police in respect of their property but all efforts to get the police to respect the judgement eleven years after proved abortive as the police resisted and deny ministry of land and survey to get to the place and do the demarcation and take possession.

“We have written many letters, we met with them but whenever we send the staff to survey the place, they will chase and harass them. This has gone on and on. We filed an application in the high court, the court granted an order to move to the site with the court officials to identify the boundaries so that everyone will take possession of his portion based on the consent agreement.

“We filed the application in November 2023 we served the commissioner of police in Adamawa and DPO Gombi personally and we also served IGP in Abuja we have all these motions on notice with them right now otherwise they will deny it. We have communicated to all parties on the day we moved the motion that all of us should come to the court but the police counsel refused to come.

“The court ordered its officials to move to the site with all the parties and identify and mark the demarcations. We mobilized the court to the site we served the police with the motion so that they will mobilize security to move to the site with the court officials but the police tactically ignored us by refusing to reply our letter and refused to tell us anything.

“We went to the site on the 24th of Jan when we reached Gombi the court officials went to the DPO and told him we have arrived. We are anticipating that since they are constitutional body they will respect the move for a peaceful resolution. To our surprise the DPO came with armed policemen and they declared that anyone doing anything there will be arrested,” he said.

Shedding light on the propriety of the police claim to own the land, the legal practitioner said “land in Nigeria is owned with a document we have three land tenors. We have the statutory land tenor, and the customary which is recognized in law. Then there is what we called traditional title holding it is part and parcel of the customary tenancy but now even in Yola if you want to buy land the documents that will be handed over to you is either traditional ownership which is customary or local government ownership which is also customary or state grants we call it statutory grant which is the statutory.

“In the course of this suit, we begged the police thank God they were the ones who took the ministry of land and survey and other people to court to produce document. Their statement of claim does not have any title document attached to it. There was no any document testifying that this land belongs to police barracks located in Gombi Yola road at Sangere junction.
I have not seen it but we beckon on them to bring the document so that we can harmonize them.”

He noted that had the police deployed civility during the process, the whole thing will have been addressed a long time but their harsh posture only compounded the issue.

We will never allow an inch of our land to be taken away by speculators – Police

When contacted on the matter, the Adamawa State police command insisted that the land in dispute legally belonged to it and it is not ready to allow speculators to take an inch of it.

In a chat with our correspondent, the image maker of the state police command, SP Sulaiman Nguroje insisted that the land in question is the legitimate property of the police promising that the police will religiously defend it.

The said land tussle is in a higher court and the court is yet to pass judgement on the case. Until we exhaust every legal means, that land duly belong to us and we will not leave any stone unturned to protect our property.

“But if the final arbiter gave a contrary judgement, as a law abiding institution we will abide by the judgement but until then, we will not allow anyone to trespass on our land,” Nguroje said.

Parties disagree with police

But in response to the police viewpoint, one of the defendants who does not want his name in print accused the police of double standards saying that it is preposterous for the institution to claim appealing the judgement delivered since 2012 in 2024.

“The police is being smart by half for saying that it has appealed a judgement passed over 12 years ago. The futility of its action is so glaring. But the police should know that in a democratic setting, no such illegality will be tolerated. We shall challenge this unconstitutional posture to the latter,” he said.

A glimpse of the consent judgement

In the course of this report, our correspondent, stumbled on a number of documents including the consent judgment which was delivered on May 14, 2012 and signed by all the parties to the case.

The parties include, A.A Waziri Esq the plaintiff’s counsel, J.U Konleganyiga Esq, counsel of 1st and 8th defendant, I.S Adamu Esq, 2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants’ counsel, 1st to 7th defendant and the representative of the 8th defendant.

The terms of the settlement stated that “pursuant to the meeting held by the plaintiffs and the 1st and 8th defendants on May 7, 2012 at the attorney general’s chambers, state ministry of justice, Yola, parties herein have agreed with the terms and conditions spelt herein under and same shall be binding on all parties to this suit as follows:

“1. That the three plots of land which presently accommodate one of the plaintiffs (POWA) shops, and two separate plaintiff’s residential quarters were originally allocated to six allotees by the 8th defendant as residential plots/areas in ADSGP I layout, Gombi.

“2. The plaintiffs having already developed the said three different plots of land and are currently occupying same at this material time as corner shops and residential quarters respectively . The 8th defendant has agreed to revoke the Right of Occupancy earlier issued to the original allottees and same shall be reallocated to the plaintiffs officially.

“3. The 8th defendant herein shall look for an alternative plots of land and allocate same to all the six allottees whose Right of Occupancy shall be revoked by the 8th defendant as compensation and or given to any of the allotees the full value in money of the plot of land initially allotted to him/her.

“4. The 8th defendant shall process to the plaintiffs title documents of the said three different plots which the plaintiffs are occupying as (POWA) shops and residential quarters.

“5. That one uncompleted building of a shop erected by one Daniel who claims title through the third plaintiff which is subject of this suit shall be demolished and the original holder of the plot No. 5 who is one Bashiru Ali to take possession of his plot of land.

“6. It is also agreed that title to that parcel of land measuring 139m x 98m situated at Jauro Jibir ward between former SDP secretariat and stadium, Gombi town in Gombi LG area of Adamawa State belongs to the second defendant’s elder brother in person of Dr. Abubakar Sadiq Umar and that the plaintiffs or anybody acting on their behalf will restrain and or be restrained from tampering in anyway howsoever with the said land.

“7. That the 5th, 6th and 7th defendants herein who are allocated plots of land and issued with Grant of Right of Occupancy by the 8th defendant are to take possession of their respective plots of land.

“8. That the parties to this suit herein have agreed to the terms and conditions contained in this agreement/settlement and same be entered as a consent judgement.”

 

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