A Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja has asked the authority of Mushin Local Government Council to stop its plan to demolish a part of the popular Ladipo auto spare-part market.
The order issued Friday will subsist pending the determination of an application filed by the traders before the court presided by Justice Iyabo Akinkugbe.
Justice Akinkugbe said it would only be in the interest of justice that the Local Government authority put its demolition plan on hold pending the determination of the suit challenging the project.
Some auto spare parts dealers, who own shops at the market, had headed for court claiming that the planned demolition would disturb the peaceful and quiet enjoyment of their tenancy at the market.
The traders represented by, Nnamdi Chukwuka, Franco Offai, and eight others as claimants in the suit.
They had, through their counsel, Richard Nwankwo, filed a Motion on Notice brought pursuant to Order 38 Rules 2&8, and Order 39 Rules 3(1), seeking ‘for an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the defendant, either by itself, agents officials, privies, servants or persons, from unlawfully going into or carrying out any demolitions or ejection of the applicants from their respective business premises at the Ladipo main market, Mushin, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit filed before the court.
Arguing an ex parte application before the court Friday, Nwankwo urged the court to make an order for the parties to maintain status quo pending when the issues in the main suit would be determined.
Nwankwo told the court that since the first invasion of the market by agents of the defendant at about 4.30am on June 30, 2015, the auto spare parts dealers had been trading under the apprehension that the defendant would eject them.
The lawyer alleged that in spite of the intervention of the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, who met with the parties on July 1, 2015 and ordered that peace be maintained, the Executive Secretary of Mushin LGA, Mr. Jide Bello, had not relented on his threat to eject the marketers.
Nwankwo argued that the council would not suffer any loss if the court stopped it from taking further steps in its demolition and ejection plan until a decision was made by the court in the main suit.
But counsel to the defendant (Mushin local government), Mrs A.O. Akin-Ajayi, told the court that the defendant was served the Motion Ex-parte Notice on July 27, 2015 and would require time to file its reply.
Akin-Ajayi claimed that a group, Igbo Conscience Group, led by Joe Igbokwe and Barr. Onyekachi Ubani, had waded into the matter, and that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by the claimants and defendant, where it was agreed that the applicants would vacate the market within two months.
“A meeting was held in the office of the Executive Secretary of Mushin local government by the Igbo Conscience Group. An MOU was signed by the applicants and the defendant and the matter was resolved. But we were surprised to receive the Notice filed by the applicants, “she said, adding that they would need more time to file a reply.
But Nwankwo contended before the court that he was not “aware of any meeting between the parties. Our instruction is to move on with the case. Our application is that the defendant should sign an undertaking that they would not go into the market and demolish it,” he insisted.
Justice Akinkugbe after hearing the submissions of the two counsels said she was convinced that it would serve the interest of justice for the parties to maintain status quo pending the determination of the main suit.
The trial judge therefore ordered “in the interest of justice, status quo should be maintained to enable the defendant filed a reply to the applicant’s application”.
Justice Akinkugbe thereafter adjourned the matter till August 4, 2015 for hearing of the substantive suit.
In an affidavit deposed to by Chukwuka in support of their application, the traders averred that the demolition and ejection threat by Bello, the Secretary of the council, was coming while the plaintiffs had subsisting rents.
The deponent, who accused Bello of hiding under “the guise of redeveloping the market”, said, “The respondent also deployed some equipment in the market and removed roofs of the applicants’ shops.
They recalled that in the wee hours of June 30, 2015, some armed hoodlums and some policemen allegedly invaded the market with bulldozers and allegedly began demolition of the market.
The claimants averred that “they were neither given any statutory notices nor engaged formally by the defendant to proffer a solution on how best to create a friendly timetable for the claimants to look for alternative locations to move their wares.”
They also claimed to have “incurred heavy losses ranging from cash, stolen motor spare parts, damaged roofs, shops,’ and other materials”.
They are therefore seeking for “ a declaration that the invasion of Ladipo Main Market, Mushin, is wrongful and unlawful”.
They had also prayed for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendant, agents, officials, from unlawfully going into or carrying out any demolitions or ejection of the claimants.’
They in addition prayed the court to order the council for a refund of “a sum of N4,400, 000, being physical cash that was stolen from 1st claimant’s shop on account of the defendant’s invasion and destruction of the claimant’s business premises” and “ N2,600,000 worth of goods comprising Toyota car’s brain boxes and exhaust pipe parts that were stolen therefrom” and another N5million as damages.