By Agnes Igwe
A High court sitting in Abakaliki presided over by Justice Vincent Nwancho has fixed Sept 16 for judgment in a suit between Ebonyi government and building materials traders at the Abakaliki Regional Market.
The traders of building materials and aluminum markets Abakaliki otherwise known as Regional market numbering over 2,000 had on April 3rd, 2019 dragged Ebonyi state government to court over short time of quit notice from the market.
The traders according to their team of counsels led by Anthony Ani (SAN) had paid huge amount of money on sublease, running into billions of naira to the Abakaliki Local Government which is expected to run ranging from one year to thirty years.
In other words, the traders are challenging the alleged unlawful process adopted by the state government in issuing revocation order to owners of stalls and buildings in the regional market.
In the matter numbered HAB\43\2019 between Mr. Chigbogu Nwite, Fredrick Odanwu, Dennis Orsuahala, Benneth Nwosu, Chief Anosike P.E and Christian Okafor on behalf of other members as the plaintiffs/applicants while Ebonyi State Government and the State Attorney General are the defendants, the plaintiffs dragged the defendants to Abakaliki High court, presided over by Justice Vincent Nwancho and sought the following and many other reliefs.
They insist that in pursuant to section 7(5) and paragraph 1(e) of the fourth schedule of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended and section 50 (e) of the local government law cap 106 of Ebonyi state 2009, the local government council of a state is the tier of government with exclusive powers to establish and/or construct, maintain and regulate markets.
Also, in view of the existence and pendency of the sub-lease granted by Abakaliki local government council in terms of years over and in respect of the stalls in the market, the applicants and their other co- traders have existing leasehold interest and rights over their respective portions wherein they have their stalls, until expiration of the terms of the sub-lease.
The traders are seeking declaration of the court that the letter from the defendants’ official Hon. Ikechukwu Nwobo, the then Commissioner for Special Projects, dated Feb. 13, 2019 which directed traders at the building materials section of the regional market to vacate the market before March 25, 2019, with the intention of remodeling the regional markets are ultra vires, unconstitutional and null and void.
The SAN during interview with Newsmen said, “The government of Ebonyi state issued a quit notice to the building material market traders, giving them a very short notice to vacant their stores. These are people who paid to Abakaliki local government. They are lessees to Abakaliki local government for various terms, some twenty years some thirty years.”
“We filed an originating summons where we are urging the court to interpret the powers of state government viz a viz the powers of the local government as contain in the constitution of federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended, so that is what we have done.”
The judgment which was earlier fixed for July 10 was adjourned to July 29 and now further adjourned to Sept 16 due to non readiness of judgment.
The Judge who openly apologized to parties in the matter for the inability of the court to deliver judgment said that exigencies of the office and other official commitment affected the judgment delivery.
Nwancho said, “I am unable to complete the written work on the judgment due to exigencies of office and other official commitment. Hence, court will adjourn to Sept 16 for judgment’.”
Absence of the presiding judge on July 10 which was earlier fixed for the judgment forced the parties in the dispute to pick July 29 as a new date for the judgment which was further adjourned to September.
Clement Aiyamekhue ESQ, who represented Anthony Ani (SAN) the lead counsel to the plaintiffs on the supposed Day of Judgment, told Newsmen that court was unable to complete the written work on the judgment and hence had to adjourn to a later date.
He dismissed possible manipulation of the court by the government saying that the Judge explained reasons for the adjournment which he said was normal and human factor.