A court has ordered the Nasarawa State government to pay N100 million as general and aggravated damages for unlawful termination of contract, trespass and demolition of property belonging to an investment firm, Kinric Construction & Fabrication Company, and its affiliate, HARPS Property & Investment Company Limited.
The two companies had filed a case against the state government at the state High Court for unlawful demolition and destruction of properties on the proposed Kinric Commercial Park along Abuja-Keffi Expressway, Mararaba-Karu, in the state.
Also joined in the case as co-defendants were the state Attorney General/Commissioner for Justice, Usman Yusuf, and the state property and investment agency, KAPDA Properties Company Limited.
Counsel to Kinric and HARPS Property, Sebastine Hon, had asked the court to declare that the invasion, demolition and destruction of his clients’ investments despite the memorandum of understanding with Greater Karu Planning and Development Authority (GKAPDA), were unconstitutional and illegal.
Mr. Hon, a senior advocate of Nigeria, had also asked the court to grant a perpetual injunction restraining the state government and its representatives from interfering with its right of lawful occupation of the landed property as defined in the MOU.
Other demands included an order for immediate right to repossess the property without any further interference or disturbance as well as a refund of N898 million as full value for the development of the property.
The lawyer had told the court that his clients had a MOU incorporated by KAPDA Properties Limited in whose name a Right of Occupancy (R of O) certificate No.12305 issued on January 23, 2007 by the state government through the then GKAPDA, which later became Nasarawa State Urban Development Board.
The MOU had leased to Kinric Construction and HARPS Property to develop for 25 years the 23 hectares of land that belonged to KAPDA Properties near the international market area in the state.
With the agreement, Mr. Hon said his clients mobilised and commenced development works on the site, including a concrete block production line made up of heavy duty equipment; construction of warehouses and assorted units of one, two and three bedroom apartments on the site.
The legal counsel said Kinric and HARPS also invested huge amounts of money to construct internal access roads, bore holes and other water generating and distribution plants on the site.
But, despite the huge investments on the development of the property based on the MOU they had with GKAPDA, Mr. Hon said the state government, through the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, went ahead to order the demolition and destruction of the property resulting in huge losses.
Mr. Hon had argued that because the state government and the Attorney General were not parties to the agreement, they lacked the powers to order the termination of the contract, trespass and take over, or cause to be destroyed or demolish the developments in the property.
But, counsel to the state government, Solomon Ayenaje, had told the court that because Kinric and HARPS did not do anything substantial for more than two years after the execution of the MOU, including submission of building plans for approval, the state government was compelled to order work stopped and subsequently terminate the contract.
However, in his ruling, Justice DD Adeck held that the state government had no powers to terminate the MOU the way it did, adding that the forceful entrance to the property by its agents amounted to trespass, describing its destruction/demolition as unlawful.
Consequently, the judge upheld the requests by Kinric and HARPS for a declaration that the invasion using armed policemen and other security personnel to demolish/destroy investments on the property was unconstitutional, illegal, unlawful, null and void.
The court also granted a perpetual injunction restraining the state government and its agents from interfering with Kinric and HARPS’ right to the lawful occupation of the landed property as defined by the MOU.
In addition, the judge ordered that Kinric and HARPS took back the possession of the property, while the sum of N98million should be awarded to them as general damages and another N2 million as aggravated damages against the defendants.
Additional 10 per cent interest would be paid by the state government on the N100 million judgment sum.
In a related development, a New Karu High Court has also declared as illegal, null and void and of no effect the revocation of the certificate of occupancy, No. NS 7549, issued to HAR Petroleum Services Limited, an affiliate of HARPS Group.
The court, which said the purported revocation without an advance notice was not in line with the required procedures under the Land Use Act, also granted a perpetual injunction restraining the government from unlawfully revoking the C of O, or ejecting, harassing the company from the property.
The State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Usman Yusuf, told PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday that his office was currently studying the judgment and would advise the state government on the next appropriate line of action.
“The court has just passed a judgement. We are studying the judgement at the moment. I am not actually in a position to say what the next line of action would be. But, after studying the judgment to understand the real purpose of the judgment, my office would advise the government appropriately,” Mr. Yusuf said on telephone.
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