Nigerian Customs v Gowon Estate residents: Court fixes Nov. 16 for adoption of final addresses

The National Industrial Court on Thursday in Lagos fixed Nov. 16 for the adoption of final addresses by both counsel in a suit filed by some residents of the Nigerian Customs Service Quarters in Gowon Estate against their employers — the Customs Service.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that more than 192 residents of the estate had jointly instituted the suit against the defendants.

Also joined as defendants are the Presidential Implementation Committee on Federal Government’s Landed Property.

At the resumed hearing of the case on Thursday, Mr Joseph Igwe, announced his appearance for the claimants (the retired and serving officers), while Mrs A. Yakubu appeared for the defendants.

Justice B. B. Kanyip asked the defence lawyer if she had been served with the final address of the claimants to which she replied No.

According to her, she has not filed a response.

The court then asked the registrar to show the file to the defence counsel to confirm proof of service which indicated that the defence had been served.

The judge expressed disappointment with the attitude of the defence counsel for not filing court processes when they should.

“As far as I am concerned, you have foreclosed; court processes were served on you and you decided to sit on it.

“Fair hearing is like a moving train, once you miss it, you cannot get it or ask it to stop. The only thing you can do now is to file a reply to the final address.

“You must learn to take court proceedings serious because it takes priority over every other thing; you went to sleep and so, you do not expect the court to wait for you till you wake up,” he said.

Consequently, the court fixed Nov. 16 for the adoption of final addresses.

At the last adjourned date, the claimant counsel, Mr Joseph Igwe, had adopted his front-loaded documents which the court had accordingly admitted as exhibits.

In their suit, the claimants are contesting what they called clandestine moves by an “influential Nigerian’’ to get the Presidential Committee to eject them from the block of flats built some 40 years ago for FESTAC 77.

They had expressed interest to buy the flats as sitting tenants in March 2012 and paid N10, 000 each for the expression of interest forms after which a verification exercise was carried out.

In 2004, the Federal Government under the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo advertised the sale of its residential properties across the country including Lagos, first to sitting tenants.

The former Comptroller-General of Customs, Alhaji Abdulahi Diko Inde, had on Dec. 23, 2015 directed the Lagos Zonal Office of Customs to eject the officers both serving and retired by Dec. 31, 2015.

The ejection was conveyed to them via a circular no. NCS/ENF/ABJ/113/S.174 entitled, “Administration and harmonization of quarters/barracks allocation” and signed by the then Ag. Deputy Comptroller-General, Dan Ugo.

The residents averred that the move was a contravention of Federal Government’s policy removing its hands from owning and maintaining staff quarters under the monetisation policy.

NAN also reports that federal agencies in the estate that have benefited from the sale of such houses include: the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Police, Federal Housing Authority, and the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Others include: NAN, the defunct Nigerian Airways and the defunct Nigerian National Shipping Line.

The residents, among other reliefs, want the court to direct the committee to issue letters of allocation to them and stop the Customs from making moves to re-acquire the quarters already relinquished by the government.

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