Alleged deportation to Onitsha: Affected persons sue Lagos, CP for N1bn
Seventy-six persons allegedly deported from Lagos on July 24, 2013, have asked the Federal High Court, Lagos to order both the Lagos State Government and the state Commissioner of Police to pay them N1bn compensation.
Seven of the affected persons, who instituted the suit on behalf of others, also want the court to order both the state government and the CP to 'reabsorb and accommodate' them in the state.
The seven plaintiffs, who filed the suit on behalf of others are, Joseph Aniebonam, Osondu Mbuto, Osondu Agwu, Nnema Ogbonna, Emily Okoroariri, Friday Nduke and Onyeka Ugwa.
The Attorney-General of Lagos State, Mr. Ade Ipaye, representing the Lagos State Government, and the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Umar Manko, are the respondents in the suit.
The plaintiffs stated in their suit filed on August 23, 2012 that they were 'offloaded' by Lagos State Government's agents at Upper Iweka in Onitsha at the wee hours of July 24, 2013.
They claimed the action was in violation of their constitutional rights guaranteed under sections 34, 35, 36, 37, 40, 41 and 42 of the 1999 constitution.
Among their seven prayers before the court was an order directing the respondents to pay to them the sum of N1bn damages as compensation to the applicants from the respondents jointly and severally for unlawful violation of the applicants, constitutional rights.
They also want the court to give an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents or their agents from further deporting them or refusing them free entry and exit into and out of Lagos.
They are also praying the court to order the respondents to publish an apology to them on three newspapers continuously for 30days from the date of first publication 'for the unlawful and gross violation' their constitutional rights.
The presiding judge, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, on Wednesday fixed February 19 for mention, after counsel for the CP, Mr Sam Adebeshin, said he had yet to file his counter-affidavit.
Counsel for the Lagos State, Mr Tayo Odupitan, said he had filed his processes in response to the suit, adding however, that Ipaye, had indicated to defend the suit personally.
The plaintiffs' counsel, Chief Ugo Ugwunnadi, upon the judge's inquiry, said his clients could not be in court because they were 'special species of human being who had been barred from entering Lagos.'
Meanwhile, the Attorney-General in his counter-affidavit, denied deporting the plaintiffs or any other person. The affidavit was deposed to by a Deputy Director in the Office of the Special Adviser to the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Olabode Ajao.
Ajao maintained that the state government only followed 'established practice' among state governments in Nigeria 'to hand over rescued individuals to their home states for the purposes of rehabilitation and reintegration with kith and kin.'
One of the plaintiffs, Onyeka Ugwa, in an affidavit supporting the suit, said he had lived in Lagos for five years selling novels under the bridge in Okokomaiko before he was arrested sometimes in January 2013 by KAI operatives with the assistance of some policemen.
He claimed he was moved to a rehabilitation centre and later to a prison where he claimed to meet mostly Igbo speaking persons.