Law News
Osborne residents, FG tackle Fashola over jetty operation

Residents of Osborne Foreshore Residential Estate II, Ikoyi, Lagos are currently in court seeking to stop the construction and operation of a commercial jetty and ferry services in the area.

The Lagos State Government said it embarked on the project to deliver on its electoral promises to the general masses “to procure, maintain and sustain facilities to make water transportation workable in the state.”

The state government said the commercial jetty, when fully operational, would cater to the needs of a percentage of the estimated 1.8 million or more Lagosians who ride on the existing jetties monthly.

It is also part of the grand plan of the project awarded in March 2008 that shopping facilities and a major bus stop for BRT would be built.

But the residents, under the auspices of The Incorporated Trustees of Osborne Foreshore Residents Association, said they were apprehensive that the commercial jetty, if built, would attract miscreants and thieves to the upscale community thereby undermining its existing security structure and exposing the residents to “the spate of insecurity within the nation today.”

Besides, it is their worry that having acquired from the Federal Government proprietary and property rights and having invested heavily to develop the estate, siting a commercial jetty there would distort the exclusivity of the community, leading to the devaluation of the properties, hence occasioning financial loss to the plaintiffs as investors in real estate.

Also, the residents argued that building a commercial jetty was not in consonance with the Federal Government original or master plan for “the gated and highly exclusive residential estate, wherein the plaintiffs had put up structures for their peaceful and quiet enjoyment.”

They had therefore asked Justice Ibrahim Buba of a Federal High Court in Lagos to make, among others, an order of perpetual injunction restraining Lagos State and its agents from going ahead with the said commercial jetty.

Already, by a court order of interim injunction dated November 7, 2014, the project is under restraint.

The defendants in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/1609/2014 are the Lagos State Government; its Attorney-General; the Lagos State Waterways Authority; the Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development; as well as the construction company contracted to execute the project, Hitech Construction Company Limited.

Also sued are the Federal Government of Nigeria; the Attorney General of the Federation; the Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development; the Federal Ministry of Transport; the Federal Ministry of Environment and the National Inland Waterways Authority.

The plaintiff, in their originating summons filed through their lawyer, Mr. Norrison Quakers (SAN), sought 12 reliefs, including compensation in the sum of N2bn from Lagos State, its agents and the contractor handling the project.

The compensation demanded, the plaintiffs said, is to cover the alleged “violation and threatened violation of the residents’ constitutionally guaranteed rights to private and family life and the right to own property as provided for in sections 37 and 43 of the 1999 Constitution.”

The plaintiffs said they viewed the contemplated commercial jetty and ferry services as an infringement on their rights pursuant to Aricles 9 and 14 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act Cap.10, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990.

They recalled that the parcel of land on which the Lagos State Government intended to build the terminus for its commercial jetty was specifically set out in the Federal Government’s master plan for the estate as recreation ground for the use and common benefit of all residents of the estate.

Their lawyer argued that by virtue of the National Inland Waterways Authority Act, Cap N47, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, only the National Inland Waterways Authority had the vested power to control and manage intra-coastal routes, “including but not limited to the intra-coastal routes from Badagry, along the Badagry Creek to Lagos, through Lagos Lagoon to Epe, Lekki Lagoon to Iwopin, along Omu Creek.”

According to Quakers, as long as the NIWAA remained in force, it amounted to usurpation of authority and illegality for the Lagos State Government to seek to construct and operate a commercial jetty and ferry services within the Osborne Foreshore Residential Estate II.

The senior lawyer also opposed the reliance of the Lagos State Government on the Lagos State Waterways Authority Law, 2008, arguing that the law created by the Lagos State House of Assembly, could no longer stand once it was at variance with the NIWAA, which is a creation of the National Assembly.

To that extent, Quakers argued, “The Lagos State Waterways Authority Law was in violation of the provisions of Section 4 (7) (a) of the 1999 Constitution and it was therefore null, void and of no effect to the extent of its inconsistency with the federal legislation.”

The residents urged the court to make an order of mandatory injunction compelling the Federal Government and its agents, being the plaintiffs’ landlord, to wake up to their constitutional and statutory duties of “ensuring that the plaintiffs peaceful and quiet enjoyment of the Osborne Foreshore Residential Estate II, a Federal Government-owned and managed estate, is protected from encroachment by Lagos State Government, in the purported plan to build, erect and operate a commercial jetty and ferry services in a gated and highly exclusive federal land occupied by the plaintiffs.”

Their originating summons was backed with a 49-paragragh affidavit deposed to by one Lt. Commander Philip Ansa (retd.), acting in the capacity of manager of the estate.

Ansa said the residents were shocked to wake up one day and find that Lagos State had taken over the parcel of land in the estate reserved for purpose of building a recreation centre for all the residents, just when the residents were making efforts to develop same.

Ansa said he was not aware that Lagos State had secured the approval of the Federal Government before doing so.

The deponent stated that upon this discovery, the residents immediately wrote to the Federal Ministry of Housing and Urban Development highlighting the adverse effects of the construction on the residents’ lives and their properties.

This, he said, was followed by hosting the Minister for Environment in the estate, where the residents tabled their fears before the minister and following which the construction was stopped for two weeks only to recommence thereafter.

Among other steps taken, Ansa added, was also the writing of a letter dated April 8, 2013 to the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, asking him to cancel the project but according to the deponent, Fashola neither acknowledged the letter nor cancelled the project as requested.

Ansa said he could infer from the report of the Environmental Impact Assessment conducted by Messrs Dipo Fakorede and Co, contracted by the residents, that “having a commercial jetty within the low density estate will result in a high influx of human and vehicular traffic.”

He added, “I am not aware that the 1st – 4th defendants have made any provision for additional security measures to combat any security breaches that could arise given the spate of insecurity within the nation today.”

But the defendants have objected to the reliefs sought by the plaintiffs, urging the court to decline jurisdiction and strike out the suit.

It was part of the defendants’ grounds of objection that only the Federal Government and it agents and not the plaintiffs had the locus standi to institute the action.

For example, counsel for the construction company, Bello Salihu, contended, “The individual residents are allottees within the estate. The land was allocated to them by Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development on behalf of the Federal Government. While the plaintiff may have established sufficient interest in the individual plots of land within the estate, he has failed to do same in respect of the infringement complained about. It is our submission therefore that that the plaintiff does not have sufficient interest in the parcel of land upon which the jetty is being constructed.”

In their own objection, the Federal Government and the Attorney General of the Federation vehemently opposed the plaintiffs’ prayer for an order of mandatory injunction against them to make them to wake up to their statutory duty of protecting the plaintiffs.

They, however, maintained that exclusive authority over the property in dispute was vested in the Federal Government and its agents, adding that Lagos State did not, at any time, approach them for approval and was never given any approval before embarking on the project

One Isaac Koleosho, a state counsel in the Civil Litigation and Public Law Department of the Federal Ministry of Justice, who deposed to the FG’s counter-affidavit, stated, “The only jetties operated and known to the 10th defendant in Lagos are the Maroko jetty, Lekki jetty, Queens Drive jetty.

“The 1st to 4th defendants have been trespassing on the Lekki jetty by erecting perimeter fence and sign therein.

“The 5th and 6th defendants are already taking steps to protect and secure her assets within Lagos State and these include a number of concluded and pending court cases involving the State Government, which have sometimes impeded such steps.”

Justice Buba reserved judgment in the matter till March 2, 2015.

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