Court clears Lagos over alleged deportation of Onitsha indigenes

The Lagos State Government has won a case challenging its decision in 2012 to relocate dozens of people from Lagos to Anambra State, on the claim they had no residence or business in Lagos.

Rosemary Nathaniel, Friday Ndukwe, Grace Igbochi, Ugulori Tutua, Chinyere Nicholas and Osondu Mbuto filed a suit on their behalf and 77 others affected, accusing the Lagos government of deportation, and seeking the enforcement of their rights and payment of compensation.

The counsel to the applicants, 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.

Mr. 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.

Joined as respondents in the suit were 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 on the ground that they were non-indigenes of Lagos, was a violation of their personal liberty and freedom of movement.

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.

But Justice Musa Kurya of the Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday dismissed the suit as lacking in substance.

The judge said he accepted a counter argument by the Lagos State government denying that the applicants were deported.

The Lagos State’s position was provided through a written affidavit, as the applicants’.

The judge said conflicts in affidavit evidence tendered by different parties, are usually resolved by oral evidence.

And in the absence of an oral evidence, the judge said he had no option but to agree with the Lagos State government.

“The respondents’ case is a complete denial of the facts and circumstances as put forward by the applicants,” he said.

“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,” Mr. Kurya held.

The Lagos State government had denied deporting the applicants outside Lagos at any time.

The government said they were rescued from different parts of state while they were begging for alms and engaging in vices.

Those who could not provide details of their places of residence or businesses, the government said, 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 judge read.

“The respondents decided to assist the applicants in getting back to their families.”

(NAN)

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