Alleged unlawful land seizure: Ex-Army General loses N8bn suit

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By Taiye Agbaje

Abuja, Oct. 14, 2020 The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, dismissed a suit filed Maj.-Gen. AbdulRauf Tijani (rtd) against the Lagos Government and six others over alleged unlawful seizure of his expanse of land in the state.

Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a judgment, dismissed the suit on the grounds that it constituted a gross abuse of court process and defective in nature and contents.

However, the ex-army chief told newsmen shortly after the judgment that a notice of appeal would be immediately filed to challenge the decision of the court.

Justice Ekwo held that the case of the plaintiff ran foul of Section 63 of the Federal High Court Act having been instituted against a serving judge of the court in the discharge of his judicial duties.

The Judge held that immunity granted a serving judge in the course of judicial function was not ambiguous, adding that when such judge erred, the appropriate place for remedy was not a law court.

Naija247news reports that respondents in the suit are the Lagos Government, National Judicial Council (NJC) and Justice Ayokunle Faji of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court,
Others include the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA); former Lagos Attorney-General, Abdulraheem Ipaye; a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Mr Kasheem Adeniji and Governor of Lagos.

Gen. Tijani had challenged the alleged injustice perpetrated against him by officials of the states.

The plaintiff specifically challenged the alleged sabotage of the execution of a court judgment which returned his landed property in Lagos to him.

NAN reports that the retired army general had urged the court to intervene in the matter because a judgment entered in his favour had been criminally sabotaged allegedly by the Lagos authority in connivance with the Federal High Court judge.

Gen. Tijjani, although not a lawyer, argued his case himself and prayed the court to look into the justice of his case, adding that what was before him was criminal in nature and not ordinary misconduct of a judge.

He alleged that after a Federal High Court in Lagos entered judgment in his favour in the suit, the judge, in connivance with the then Lagos attorney general, took the case file to a Lagos High Court which he accused of now sitting as an Appeal Court over the Federal High Court’s judgment.

He urged the court to assume jurisdiction because both the leadership of the NJC and the Federal High Court were based in Abuja.

In his fundamental human rights suit, he prayed Justice Ekwo to order Lagos Government and the governor to pay him a cumulative compensation of N8 billion as damages for alleged injustice suffered in the hands of Lagos officials.

In the suit with number FHC/ABJ/CS/690/2020, the plaintiff also asked the judge to compel the NJC to pay him another sum of N100 million for alleged misconduct of Justice A. O. Faji during the hearing of his matter.

He also asked the court for an order for the trial of Justice Faji for allegedly perverting the course of justice in his case.

Besides, General Tijjani prayed the court to compel the Chief Justice of Nigeria to remove the rank of SAN on Mr Kasheem Adeniji and further de-bar him for alleged act of misconduct.

In a 19-paragraph affidavit in support of the suit, he averred that a former Attorney General of Lagos, Abdulraheem Ade Ipaye, now Deputy Chief of Staff to the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, allegedly converted his landed property in Shasha-Akowonjo Area in Alimosho Local Government of Lagos to his personal gain.

He said as a result, he approached a Federal High Court and got judgment in his favour on Jan. 31, 2014.

The plaintiff, however, said that the judgment could not be executed because of the alleged sabotage on the part of Lagos officials.

He claimed that his case got worse when his personal lawyer, Mr Kasheem Adeniji, SAN, was appointed Attorney General of Lagos and subsequently became an interested party in the matter.

However respondents in the suit, except 3rd (NBA) and 6th (Adeniji) respondents, all urged the court to dismiss the suit for lacking merit and being largely defective.

They furthe urged the court to dismiss the suit for being vague, contrary to the rules of fundamental rights suits and lack of jurisdiction.

While Suleiman noted that the plaintiff did not present any document showing how his rights were breached by the 1st defendant, he argued that the plaintiff ought to know where to go to if he has complaint against any judicial officer.

Da’agba on his part argued that the Federal High Court cannot sit in judgment over itself, just as Akinboro noted that the suit was statute barred because the alleged act occurred in 2018 whereas the suit was filed in 2020.

Okutepa in his submissions for the 5th, 7th and 8th respondents described the suit as an abuse of court process as it failed to show any cause of action.

Justice Ekwo, who aligned with the respondents’ arguments, subsequently dismissed the suit.

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