by Segun Odeleye
76 Ibos who were deported from Lagos to Onitsa in Anambra state, and dumped there by the Lagos state government, have dragged the government to the Federal High court in Lagos, seeking a compensation of N1billion. The government has however filed a preliminary objection to the suit.
In a case of legal back and forth, the lawyer to the plaintiffs, Leo Nbu, said his clients had filed a counter affidavit to the objection by the Lagos government.
What do the plaintiffs want?
First, they want an apology to be published in three national newspapers continuously for 30 days.
Then, they also want the court to order a perpetual injunction restraining the respondents (Lagos government) or their agents from further deporting or refusing them free entry to-and-fro Lagos.
Seven of the applicants sued for themselves and “on behalf of the 76 persons deported from Lagos and dumped/abandoned at Onitsha, Anambra State, on July 24, last year”. They are Joseph Aniebonam, Osondu Mbuto, Osondu Agwu, Nnenna Ogbonna, Emily Okoroariri, Friday Ndukwu and Onyeka Ugwa.
They joined the Attorney-General, Ade Ipaye and the commissioner of police as respondents.
But the respondents, in their counter-affidavit, said the applicants were neither dumped nor abandoned at Oshodi Rehabilitation Centre or any prison.
According to a report by The Nation:
Deputy Director in the Office of the Special Assistant to the Governor on Youth and Social Development Olabode Ajao said the respondents did not deport the applicants as alleged.
He said it was Lagos’ policy to cater for its residents, irrespective of their state of origin.
Ajao said the state do not own any rehabilitation centre in Oshodi or control any prison facility.
The respondents said the applicants were rescued from different parts of Lagos while they were begging, living under bridges and by roadsides and engaging in other social vices.
The affected individualswere taken to the state-owned Rehabilitation and Training Centre at Majidun, where they underwent a health screening.
“The applicants were fed proper and nutritious meals and given adequate treatment by the medical corps at the centre,” the state said.
The government said after the applicants completed skill acquisition programmes, it informed their states of the need to reunite them with their families.
“After three months without any response from the Anambra State government, the respondents decided to assist in getting them back to their state.
“During my interaction with the applicants, they decided that they would find their way to their families from Onitsha, and this necessitated their transportation to ABC Motor Park, Onitsha.”
The state said the applicants have filed similar suits in the Awka Division of the Federal High Court, seeking N10millon each; at the Lagos High Court, Ikeja, seeking N10million damages, and two other suits in the Federal High Court in Lagos.
The applicants said their alleged arrest and detention amount to a breach of their rights.
They sought an order mandating Lagos to reabsorb and accommodate them.
A plaintiff, Onyeka Ugwa, who hails from Orlu in Imo State, said he lived in Lagos for five years and sold books in Okokomaiko.
He claimed he was arrested by policemen and officers of the Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) in January last year and taken to a rehabilitation centre in Oshodi, where he was “dumped and abandoned.”
Ugwa said he was transferred to a ‘detention camp’, where he met other Igbo.
“We were treated like animals; people were dying around me daily.”
He said on July 23 last year, Igbo were ‘bundled’ into buses without being told their destination.
The plaintiff said: “The bus kept moving through the night until we were ‘offloaded like log of woods’ at Upper Iweka in Onitsha, Anambra State on July 24, last year.
“The buses drove off towards Lagos. At daybreak, we found ourselves stranded .”
Ugwa said the Red Cross took care of them in Onitsha, adding that all they worked for and achieved in Lagos were taken from them.
He said while some of them admitted to being beggars, most of them had jobs in Lagos.
“I am not a destitute and I fend for myself,” he said,.
Justice Rita Ajumogobia adjourned till February 10.