Delta State governor, Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, has again resumed his deceptive trait of betrayal and flippant disobedience of court order.
Sometime in March, 2016, a High Court II, sitting in Ughelli, Ughelli North local government area of the state had ordered the state government to pay the sum of N200 million as compensation to one Mr. Gideon Nwaomu, Chief Executive Officer of Giddys Place, a relaxation spot in Asaba, in the state capital for illegally and unlawfully demolishing his business place by the former governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan led administration in 2011.
Mr. Nwaomu (Claimant), popularly known as (Giddys) had in that same year dragged the state government, Nigerian police and the state Ministry of Land and Urban Development (Defendants) to court demanding for N1 billion as compensation for the illegal and unlawful demolition of his popular relaxation spot known as Giddys Place, located by Ekwumekwu Roundabout, also known as Inter-Bua Roundabout, Asaba.
Delivering his judgment early last year at the Delta state High Court II, Ughelli, in the lingering legal battle with suit No A/204/2011 which had suffered several setbacks following the foot dragging tactics of the state government to delay justice, the presiding judge, Justice M.C. Obi described the demolition action of the state government as illegal and unlawful, adding that no one has the right or powers to demolish anyone’s property without an order from a competent court of law to do so.
Justice Obi, ruled that the Delta state government erred in law to take upon itself without obtaining any order from the court to demolish the Giddys Place and therefore ordered the state government to pay the sum of N200 million to the claimant as compensation for the illegal and unlawful demolition of his property.
The Judge further ruled that the Giddys Place should be restored back to its former glory and issued the state government a seven day ultimatum to remove all barriers from the entrance of Giddys Place.
Reacting to the judgement in that fateful day, counsels to the claimant, Mr. P.A. Ogana and Mr. C.M. Ashibuogwu described the judgement as been fair enough, adding that the judgement was a well-considered one which has rekindled the hope of the common man on the judiciary.
According to the claimant’s counsels, law and lawlessness cannot work together and since justice has been done, it goes to tell the World that nobody is above the law, adding that “We are very satisfied with the judgement.”
On his part, the claimant, Mr. Gideon Nwaomu, Chief Executive Officer of Giddys Place, expressed his gratitude to God and thanked his legal team, the media and everyone who stood by him when the case lasted.
Mr. Nwaomu who was soaked in tears on that day, re-echoed the need for everyone to always fight for his/her rights and believe in God no matter the circumstances stressing that indeed the court remains the last hope of the common man and the oppressed.
Also reacting to the judgement, defendants counsel, Mr. J.O Igiebor, from the law firm of Ken Mozia (SAN), said the judgement was fair enough saying the Judge delivered a well-considered judgement and that they have applied for a copy of the judgement for deep study before taking the next step.
Independent investigation shows that after the 2016 judgement, governor Okowa insisted in his usual way of dwindling revenue that he can’t pay the N200 million.
The governor and his executive members entered into negotiations with the (CEO) of Giddys Place, Mr. Nwaomu to accept the sum of N70 million for compensation with his land returned to him, but Mr. Nwaomu said he can only accept N130 million.
It was gathered that after much pleas from governor Okowa, Mr. Nwaomu had no other choice than to concede a whopping sum of N130 million and settled for the N70 million been offered by the governor and an official deal in black and white was struck by the two parties.
After several months of the deal, governor Okowa was nowhere to be found at this point, the owner of Giddys Place, Mr. Nwaomu, resorted to a 7-day “Sit-Out” protest in front of demolished Giddys Place to press home his demand for the Delta State government to respect the judgment of the court and the agreement reached on the demolition of his only means of livelihood.
Asked while the one man protest, confused and depressed Mr. Nwaomu said, “I am taking an oath of silence and abstinence throughout this seven days sit-out. And each of the seven days is symbolic as it represents each month of the past seven month since the judgment was handed down in my favour. Therefore, this explains the reason for this Sit-Out; which of course is to draw the attention of the relevant stakeholders and the general public of my plights and to prevail on the state government to respect court order and save me and my family from further pains and penury”.
Mr. Nwaomu pointed out that “The Delta State High Court II sitting in Ughelli, on Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016, in its wisdom rejected the dubious claims as reason for the destruction of Giddys Place by Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan’s led government and ordered the state government to immediately re-open the sealed premises of Giddys Place within seven days of the delivery thereof and pay exemplary damages of a specified amount. Regrettably, nothing has been achieved.”
Going down memory lane, the businessman, event promoter and manager said, “It is almost six years now that the state government led by Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan destroyed Giddys Place in his quest to hunt down perceived political opponents and their businesses. I was targeted because I refused to accept Uduaghan’s failures as success. I spoke out against falsehood and lack of vision because I believe our children deserve a life of truth, honesty and good governance, which was very elusive under Dr. Uduaghan’s watch as governor of Delta State.
“As an aggrieved Nigerian, and with the infinite mercies of God, I resorted to the Court to seek redress of the injustice perpetrated against me and my family. And by divine providence the judiciary being the bastion of the oppressed, rose to the occasion and justice was dispensed with high standard of probity, accountability and transparency. It has not been easy; the sudden destruction of my business and the five years gruelling legal battle with the state government took a big toll on my wellbeing and family”. He lamented.
Mr. Nwaomu whose rising hope was dashed by the present government said, “With the emergence of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa as governor of Delta State, I thought everything will be resolved amicably but to my greatest shock, reverse was the case. Are they waiting to read my obituary before they will obey the court order? What offence did I commit that they are treating me with disdain? These are two questions I earnestly will like to get answers for.
“People may not know what I am passing through but my immediate family and close associates knows. Only recently, I was rushed to the hospital and subsequently put on bed rest for days over a sudden illness not unconnected with bottled up pains occasion by the destruction of my means of livelihood and my current travails in the hands of the Delta State government among other issues of life”.
On the non-implementation of the Court order by the Delta State government, he said, “It represents huge losses not just to me and my immediate family but to the entire society. For the avoidance of doubt, Giddys Place up till the day of its destruction, represented not only a major recreational and entertainment centre in the capital of Delta State, it also represented a major tourist attraction in the state, as well as an incubator for budding musicians, comedians, actors and actresses whose careers sprung off as a result of the opportunities and platform provided at Giddys Place to try out their talents.
“I can recall that a good number of Nigeria’s popular stars in the entertainment industry started from Giddys Place. The highly referenced natural relaxation centre in Asaba, Delta State is known to have hosted high profile events such as the famous Star trek of Nigerian Breweries PLC with the likes of Tuface Idibia, Faze, P. Square among others featuring. Also, in 2003 during the Cable News Network (CNN) documentary on Delta State and its tourism CNN crew anchored by Lola Alakija and Mr Chris Obi for CNN, the state government brought CNN crew to Giddys Place as entertainment hub and tourist attraction in Delta State. And up till three days after the destruction, precisely, 18th November, 2011, Giddys Place was cited in the state website as a beacon of tourist centre in Delta State.
“It was later removed from the website when people were referring to the website and wondered why the state government led by Dr. Uduaghan would brand Giddys Place as a den of robbers as reason for its destruction, a place prominently displayed on the state tourist website. What an irony. I must commend the brave stand taken by some judges and lawyers that stood tall to uphold the rule of law throughout the legal battle and also the courageous stand taken by some citizens to speak out against injustice and defiled government order to isolate and treat me as government outcast. My life is in God’s hand.” depressed Nwaomu said.
Meanwhile, it was reliably gathered that as the terms of settlement was still on going, governor Okowa deceptively approached the court to file a case of stay of execution to stall the judgement debt and following the governor’s action, Mr. Nwaomu had no option than to initiate garnishee proceeding against the Delta state government to seek enforcement.
In an enrolment of order obtained by our correspondent, with case file No. A/204/2011, filed at the High Court, Asaba, has Mr. Gideon Nwaomu, as the (Judgement creditor/applicant), the commissioner of lands survey and urban development, Delta state commissioner of police and the state Attorney General as (Defendants) while Heritage Bank is the Garnishee.
Counsels to Judgement Creditor/Applicant), Mr. P.A. Ogana and Mr. C.M. Ashibuogwu are praying the court for the following orders:
“An order attaching the sum of N200 million only being the judgement sum in suit No. A/204/2011 due to the Judgement Creditor/Applicant) and standing to the credit of the judgement debtors in their account No. 5600002491 with the Garnishee.
“An order directing the Garnishee to appear before this honourable court to show cause why it should not pay over to the judgement creditor the sum of N200 million only in satisfaction of the judgement debt in A/204/2011.
“And for such further order or orders as this honourable court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.”
At the hearing of the case before Justice Daniel. C. Maidoh of the high court 3, Asaba, the Garnishee failed to appear non it’s counsel, but surprised, Mr. J.O Igiebor, from the law firm of Ken Mozia (SAN), shown appearance for the Delta state government and at this point one of the counsels to the Judgement Creditor/Applicant), Mr. P.A. Ogana immediately drew the attention of the presiding judge the appearance of Mr. J.O Igiebor who is not involved in the Garnishment proceedings.
The case has been adjourned to May 22nd, 2017.
In an interview with our correspondent over the weekend, Mr. Nwaomu expressed displeasure over the deceptive attitude of the state governor, saying it shows the governor has failed in his responsibility as a governor to tow the part of peace not otherwise by reneging on his earlier agreement to pay him the sum of N70 million even after conceding N130 million ordered by the court.
“Now the question I asked, why would a state government willingly made an offer of less than 35% of the judgement debt awarded against it, claiming not to have enough money to pay a judgement debt to plaintiff who has suffered untold hardship as a result of the sudden destruction of his business coupled with over five years gruelling legal battle with the “Almighty Delta State Government”. But notwithstanding, I accepted the offer so we can give peace a chance and move on with life.
“Worried by the injustice meted out to me, some elders and stakeholders close to the people in Delta state government attempted a quick resolution of the matter, which we are still negotiating the modalities for the payment of what the Delta state government said it can afford to pay outside what the court ordered as compensation and all of a sudden, I received a court paper of a stay of execution of court orders. It was a rude shock to me the level of treachery display by the power that be in Delta state which demonstrate a clear evident of insincerity calculated to frustrate me and further incapacitate my person.
“I found the action of the state government as absurdity of the greatest proportion. For how could someone be negotiating with you in a cordial manner for settlement of a judgement debt which was against you and because of your perceived might and influence secretly filed a case to stall the peaceful resolution of the matter.
Consequently, I am left with no option but to also initiate garnishee proceedings to seek enforcement. Let man be man and God be God Almighty.” Nwaomu stated.