The Akwa Ibom State government has paid N10, 000 to Mbiabong Ikot Akpan, a village in Uyo Local Government Area, for failing to file court processes on time in a suit instituted by the latter against the former, over a land where the newly built state secretariat annex is situated.
The Akwa Ibom State High Court, Uyo division, presided over by Justice Aniekan Eton had ordered the state government to pay N10, 000 to the community, which sued the state government through eight of its indigenes vested with the power of attorneys under an incorporated company called HSD Products and Services, for failure to file counter affidavit and statement of defense.
The community had dragged the state government to the state high court demanding N10.15 billion for alleged illegal acquisition of its land.
When the claimants moved a motion for interlocutory injunction on July 20, 2016 to restrain the government from building or continuing to exercise ownership of the property the defendants did not file any response yet the 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants, through their lawyer, Usen Usen asked the court for adjournment.
Though the court granted the prayer of the defendants to enable them file their response, a cost of N10, 000 was awarded in favour of the claimants against the defendants for not filing anything in response to the suit.
When the matter came up last week for hearing, the claimants through their lawyer, Anietie Akpan, reminded the court of the award of the N10, 000.
In response, the Akwa Ibom State Attorney General, Uwemedimo Nwoko, who led six other lawyers, including Usen, the director of civil litigation, told the court, in a lighter mood, though, that the government was not disobeying the court order and that the payment could not be effected right inside the court to avoid eroding ethics of the legal profession.
However, TNN reliably gathered that the government had paid the claimants the N10, 000 shortly after the parties left the court, after the matter was adjourned to October 17, 2016.
Meanwhile, the government has filed a 15-paragraph statement of defence though its lawyers, Usen and Mrs. Mfonobong Udo-Inyang, arguing the claimants’ averment that the disputed land was acquired specifically for the purpose of building 10th Anniversary Hotel and that the original owners are entitled to assume ownership following abandonment of the initial purpose for acquisition of the land.
The government contended that it has “the right to use any acquired property for any public purpose and where one purpose allegedly fails the property can be put to another public purpose as in the circumstance of the instant case.”
“The claimants”, according to defendants, “have no authority recognized by law, custom or equity to dictate or direct the defendants which public purpose the acquired property should be used for.”
Asserting that the defendants “have been in lawful possession of the property at all material times after the acquisition” and that “the land does not belong to the claimants at all”, the government stated that it has not trespassed on the land and that no damages have been incurred.
Describing the claimants’ court action as “vexatious, mischievous and frivolous”, the defendants concluded that “the claimants are not entitled to any of the claims against” the government.
However, the government admitted that the 10th Anniversary Hotel and Towers, the original project for which the land was acquired has been abandoned.