A Rivers State High Court has declared that the disputed land at Rainbow Town in Port Harcourt which is currently under the control of the Rivers State Ministry of Urban Development Board belongs to the Rivers State Government.
The Registered Trustees of Trans-Amadi Mosque, Port Harcourt had approached the Rivers State High Court in Port Harcourt in February 2012, after the then Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi Administration through the Rivers State Ministry of Urban Development and Physical Planning stopped them from erecting a structure on the disputed Government land without approval.
In that instance, the Registered Trustees of Trans-Amadi Mosque, Port Harcourt claimed that the Amaechi administration through its agents and servants forcibly entered the land in dispute, fenced it up with wired fence and locked it up. The several claims of the claimants were marked Exhibits A to H1 respectively
Ruling in Suit Number PHC/986/2012 between Registered Trustees of Trans-Amadi Mosque, Port Harcourt (Claimant) and the Commissioner, Ministry of Urban Development and Physical Planning, Rivers State, the Governor of Rivers State and the Attorney General of Rivers State (Defendants), Justice G.O. Omereji on Tuesday, 27th November, 2018 said:
“It is very clear that from the above authorities, the effect of Exhibit K, the Certificate of Title in the instant case, the defendants, especially the 2nd and 3rd defendants have valid title to the land in dispute because the acquisition of the land as in Exhibit K by the Government extinguishes every prior existing title over the said land”.
Justice Omereji stated that it was clear that the claimant’s plan AI/RV/2009/013 was charged on both the Ortho-Photo map and Greater Port Harcourt Acquisition of 1959 and that the said land is within the Greater Port Harcourt.
The Court declared that Exhibits J1 and J2 clearly show that the claimant purchased a a land from Dr E.E. Amadi, which was already owned by the State Government following its acquisition by the Eastern Nigerian Government in 1959.
Justice Omereji held that: “The defendants have in Exhibits J, J1 and J2 inclusive of Exhibit K, which is the Certificate of Title, established that the land, the subject matter of this suit, was acquired in 1959 by the Government.
“My humble opinion is that the claimants have not established that they have better title to the land, the subject matter of this suit and they have not established that at the material time they were in possession and that the defendants do not have better title to the land”.
The Judge ruled that the defendants established that they have better title to the disputed land.
“My humble opinion is that the claimants in this case have not established that they have better title to the land in dispute in this case.
“The issue I have considered in this suit is to be resolved in favour of the defendants (Rivers State Government) as against the claimants (Registered Trustees of Trans-Amadi Mosque, Port Harcourt)”, Justice Omereji ruled.
Tdhe Rivers State Government in its Statement of Defence, carefully outlined its ownership of the land and spelt out that there was no approval given to the trustees to construct a Mosque on the disputed land.
In his judgment, Justice Omereji noted:
“The Statement of Defence and the evidence of the defendants two witnesses show that the land, the subject matter of this suit is State Land acquired for public purpose by the Eastern Region of Nigeria in 1959 under the Public Acquisition law as evidenced by the Certificate of Title dated 27th Day of June, 1961 Registered as Number 26 on Page 26 in Volume 2 of the Land Registry, Enugu, now in Port Harcourt and whose assets the Rivers State Government inherited which is Exhibit K.
“The evidence also show that the claimants had no approval from the Rivers State Government to make use of the said land, prior to the use of the land for any religious or other purposes and that the defendants did not destroy any property belonging to the claimants.
“The said area where the claimants uses for religious activities falls within the area acquired by the Rivers State Government as in the Exhibit K. The evidence shows that the claimants acquired nothing from Chief Dr Edward S. Amadi since Chief Edward S. Amadi cannot give what he does not have because the land in dispute has been acquired and has been State land since 1959”.