Alleged Deportation of Igbos to Onitsha: Lagos Govt Wins Case
AIT -Justice Musa Kurya of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Friday entered judgment in favour of the Lagos State Government in a suit filed by some people alleging a breach of their rights.
The applicants, Rosemary Nathaniel, Friday Ndukwe, Grace Igbochi, Ugulori Tutua, Chinyere Nicholas and Osondu Mbuto filed the suit on their behalf and 77 others, seeking the enforcement of their rights.
Joined as respondents in the suit are the Lagos State Government, the state attorney-general and the commissioner of police in the state.
The applicants had sought a declaration that their alleged arrest, remand and forceful deportation from Lagos to Onitsha, Anambra, in 2012 by the government, on the ground that they were non-indigenes of Lagos, was a violation of their personal liberty and freedom of movement.
The applicants had prayed the court to declare that the alleged action was a violation of Sections 35, 41(1) and 42 of the Constitution and Articles 6,12, 2 and 28 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
They asked the court to award damages in the sum of N2 billion against the Lagos State Government and its agents for the alleged breach of their rights.
The applicants had also sought an order of the court compelling the respondents to apologise to them in at least three national dailies.
Justice Kurya held that there were conflicts in the affidavit evidence tendered by both parties, which ought to be resolved by oral evidence.
He said that efforts were made to serve the respondents with the court processes.
“Efforts have been made to get the respondents served, and from the proof of service, they have been served consequent upon which they filed their counter-affidavit.
“The respondents’ case is a complete denial of the facts and circumstances as put forward by the applicants.
“The respondents said in their affidavit that they did not deport the applicants to any place outside the territory of Lagos State at anytime.
“They said that, in furtherance of state government’s policy to cater for the welfare of citizens irrespective of their origins, the applicants were rescued from different parts of state while they were begging for alms and engaging in vices.
“The respondents said that those who could not provide details of their places of residence or businesses were taken to a rehabilitation centre at Majidun, Lagos, and given an opportunity to acquire vocational skills.
“They said that it was three months after that the applicants’ home state contacted the respondents and the applicant, who had successfully completed their programme and indicated their intention to rejoin their families.
“The respondents decided to assist the applicants in getting back to their families.
“It is trite law that where there are conflicts in affidavit evidence; it is normally resolved by oral evidence, and applicant counsel did not call for such oral evidence.
“The court was therefore, left with no option but to decide the matter on available evidence.
“I do not find any substance in the case of the applicant; there seems to be truth in the respondents’ averment.
“Consequently, judgment is entered in favour of the respondents against the applicant with no cost awarded to either party,” Kurya held.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that counsel to the applicants, Mr John Nwokwu, had argued that it was unlawful for Lagos State or any other state in the country to forcefully remove a citizen of Nigeria from its geographical boundary on account of indigeneship.
Nwokwu had prayed the court to order Lagos State to go in search of the said deported Igbo indigenes and to return them to Lagos.
He had also prayed for an order restraining the respondents from further deporting the applicants out of the state.
However, the Lagos State Government argued in its counter affidavit that the applicants’ deportation to Onitsha was not done out of malice but with the intention of re-uniting them with their families.
Lagos State averred that the applicants were assisted to re-join their families after pleading that they had no homes, relatives or businesses in Lagos State.
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