By Ike Uchechukwu
ETAB AYIP—THE people of Etab Ayip in Kasuk II Qua Clan, Calabar Municipal Local Government Area, Cross River State, whose houses were recently bulldozed by the Ministry of Lands and Urban Development, Calabar, have alleged that officials not only carried out the action in defiance to a court order, but exhibited bias, as they left the houses of political appointees, cronies and churches untouched.
Residents, who fingered the Commissioner of Lands and Urban Development, Elder Inyang John, said there was a subsisting injunction against the ministry in suit No. HC/25/2015 in respect of their property, along the Airport (Goodluck Jonathan Bypass), Calabar, yet he went ahead to demolish their houses. When NDV visited the area, it was observed that some of the demolished houses were more than 50 metres away from the road, while some houses belonging to some prominent people were not touched.
Our dilemma: One of the affected residents, Godwin Akpan Emmanuel, asserted: “I was in my place when the team from Ministry of Lands came without prior notice whatsoever. They told me to pack my things because they wanted to demolish the house. I did not even finish removing my things before they started breaking and demolishing the building.”
•One of the demolished buildings.
“I begged them to give me just one day, but they refused and went ahead to carry out the demolition, but my surprise is that the space is not for immediate use and apart from that, there was an injunction issued, last year, restricting them from entering this community for any form of demolition. As it is, they flouted that injunction.”
Disregarded court order: Another victim, Sunday Gabriel, whose twin structure was demolished without notice, said: “I am shocked, it is still a surprise to me. They came in here without even allowing me to pick my things, they started breaking down walls just within few minutes of arrival with heavy security and there was nothing I could have done.
Ignore an order from a competent court
But the funny twist was that there were some structures that are even closer to the road than ours, why did they not demolish those ones,” he said.
Gabriel wondered why an institution like the Ministry of Lands and Urban Development would ignore an order from a competent court, adding that it was rather unfortunate because “a lot of my clients have been affected by their action. We will completely handle the matter of contempt before going into the injunction that was issued, last year, no one is above the law and the law was made for man.”
We’ve initiated contempt proceeding– Umoh
Their solicitor, Barr Orchardson Umoh, told NDV: “There was an interlocutory order of injunction of the honourable court restraining the respondents, either by themselves or through their office employee, servants, agents or privies from taking any further steps in connecting with the matters of demolition or removal of the applicants’ houses or any part thereof, including the protective fences situated along the Airport (Good Luck Jonathan Bypass) holes or conduit or any other further activity thereat.”
Umoh also said ordered the respondents to stay all action aimed at dispossessing the claimant/applicants of their properties pending the determination of this matter. Also wondering why the ministry chose to violate a valid court order, he said, “There is a contempt of court proceeding and we have served them with a notice of consequence of disobeying court order of June 20, 2016 made by the Honourable Justice Adie Attoe-Onyebueke.”
Commissioner keeps mum: Commissioner for Lands and Urban Development, Elder Inyang John, neither answered calls to his cell phone nor replied text messages by our reporter.