Court Lifts Injunction On Ile Arugbo, Awards Penalties Against Asa Investment
Kwara State High Court on Thursday lifted the interim injunction restraining the state government from constructing anything on the civil service clinic land (alias Ile Arugbo) following repeated failure of counsel to the claimant Asa Investment Limited to appear before the court to fully prosecute its case.
The Asa Investment Limited, which is purportedly owned by the late Olusola Saraki, had taken the Kwara State Government to court after the latter reclaimed the land which it said was unlawfully taken over by the firm without any right of occupancy or payment to the owner, the state government. The court, presided over by Justice Abiodun Adebara, also awarded a penalty of N200,000 each in favour of all the four defendants (Kwara State Governor, Attorney General, House of Assembly, and Bureau of Lands) and another N50,000 to the police on account of the failure of the claimant to allow the case to proceed to hearing on various occasions.
Justice Adebara took the decision after the counsel to the claimant Akin Onigbinde SAN again failed to attend the court session on Thursday. Onigbinde instead sent a letter, accompanied with a medical report, saying he was advised to undergo bed rest between 3rd and 10th of August, 2020. After many adjournments at the instance of the claimant, Onigbinde had again on on July 8th agreed to an adjournment for July 22nd but he later said he could not make the sitting. That led to the adjournment to August 6th which Onigbinde again did not attend allegedly on medical grounds.
Salman Jawondo, Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Kwara State who appeared for the government, said the claimant was “deliberately wasting the time of the court” and urged Justice Adebara to dismiss the case for lack of diligent prosecution and to award N250,000 penalty each against the claimant and in favour of the defendants.
Jawondo, who insisted that Asa Limited was just buying time with the numerous adjournments, wondered why other counsel to the claimant cannot continue with the case in the absence of Onigbinde. The Police, which is the fifth defendant in the case, aligned with the government’s position that the case should be struck out.
The court awarded only N200,000 each in favour of the first four defendants and another N50,000 in favour of the police. Justice Adebara however adjourned the matter to 23rd and 24th of September to allow the claimant’s counsel to continue the case, warning that he would not grant any other adjournment after this.
The government had in January reclaimed the land which it said was originally meant for the construction of the civil service secretariat but was unlawfully gifted out to a private firm in 2005 without any payment or certificate of ownership. Asa Investment Limited, which claims ownership of the land, thereafter challenged the action of the government in the court.