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Court slams injunction on immortalizing Maryan Babangida

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The grand plot by Delta state government to immortalize Late Maryan Babangida and wife of former Head of Nigeria Military junta, Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida ran into murky waters as an unpredicted State High Court sitting in Asaba

made an order of interim injunction halting the construction of a Maryan Babangida Women Development Center in the state capital.

Post-humus plans
Although a street in Asaba has been named after the former First Lady by Governor Uduaghan's administration in Delta State, State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Oma Djebah had hinted that the former First Lady needed to be immortalized as an illustrious daughter of the state and in view of her indelible contributions to the development of the country and the enthronement of the rights of women by establishing a Women Development Centre in the state in her name. The street re-named after her is the former Anwai road stretching from Summit road junction to Anwai-Asaba campus of the Delta State University, DELSU.

How trouble started
Trouble started after complaints became prevalent over wanton demolition of certified structures by Delta state government through it Ministry of Lands, Survey and Urban Development as persons whose property are destroyed are neither compensated nor granted fair-hearing. These victims of government insensitivity have claimed that the state governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and his cronies re-allocate these lands to themselves where they erect gigantic structures with monies stolen from the state treasury.Oil and Equipment Nigerian Limited is one of many such victims. The state government had alleged that their plot of land was illegally acquired even as they were issued Certificate of Occupancy by the same government.

It was the controversial plot of land that the state government chose to erect the Maryam Babangida Women Development Center, a monument aimed at immortalizing the Late Maryam Babangida, a Deltan and indigene of Asaba, the state capital.

Court injunction
The injunction from the State High Court sitting in Asaba which sent shock waves through government circles was sequel to a motion filed by Oil and Equipment Nigerian Limited, through its counsel Mr. Andrew Odum, claiming that the plot of land, measuring 10 hectares of land upon which the Delta State Government is erecting the Maryam Babangida Women Development Center belongs to Oil and Equipment Nigerian Limited.

The court in the order issued on January 25, 2010, by Justice Kenneth O. Okpu, also restrained the state government and the Ministry of Lands, Survey and Urban Development from demolishing the property in the said plot of land located at Plot 19 and 25, Phase 2, block 2, core area of Asaba.

Justice Okpu also retrained the government from continuing with the construction of the Center on the said controversial land or revoking the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O), of the said property pending the determination of the case.

“The Defendants/ Respondents, jointly and severally, their officers, servants, agents, or otherwise howsoever called are in the interim restrained from demolishing, destroying the concrete wall fence or from clearing, constructing any building or carrying out any act whatsoever that would alter the character of the parcel of land.”

Joined as defendants in the suit are, the Attorney- General and Commissioner for Justice, Executive Governor of Delta State, Commissioner for Lands, Survey and Urban Development, Mr. William Riebelle, Permanent Secretary, Lands, Survey and Urban Development, and Mr. Anuta, General Manager, Urban and Regional Planning Board, Asaba.

Chairman of the State Task Force on Demolition of Illegal Structures, Mr. Raymos Guanah, who is also the Commissioner for Lands, Survey and Urban Development had on the 11 June 2009 lead his team to demolish the said property saying, “that there was no time the state government allocated the land,” adding that the matter is being investigated by his office.

Meanwhile, Ibrahim Babangia, former military president will be a guest of Delta State government on Saturday where he will witness the setting up of his late wife's (Mariam) Development Center and be conferred with the title of Dike Doziani of Asaba by the Asagba in council.

Uduaghan reacts
This development did not go down well with the state government as preparation had already been perfected and awaiting the arrival of Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida who was billed to commission the project. Mr. Raymos Guanah, who is also the Commissioner for Lands, Survey and Urban Development, has said that the plot of land actually belonged to Oil and Equipment Nigerian Limited but did not state that the state government acted in error. As a lawyer, he is ready to be mute as the matter is in court.

Deltans react
The action of the state government under Governor Uduaghan has been blamed for bringing insult and ridicule to the former Head of Nigeria Military junta, Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida as well as the Okogwu family of Asaba where late Maryam Babangida hails from.Some critics have said “the Judge should watch his back”. According to them the Uduaghan administration is made up of a cartel of criminals. Others say the colossal amount earmarked for the aborted commissioning ceremony should be returned to government coffers.

Maryam's memoir
Maryam Babangida died after battling with ovarian cancer, and despite her husband Badamosi is termed a tyrant and a thief, Maryan is one of the very few Nigerian women ever admired. Babangida, popularly called IBB by many, was at her bedside at the University of California Los Angele's Jonson Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Los Angeles, United States, where he said she died at the age of 61 and was buried at their Hilltop residence in Minna, Niger State.

Last word
Similar cases are presently lining the courts in Delta state over government's recklessness and involvement in land deals.

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