By NBF News

A Federal High Court in Asaba, Delta State on Friday ordered commissioned estate agents and valuers for 52 Ijaw communities in the state to assess the value of their properties damaged by the Joint Military Task Force (JTF) during last year's invasion of the area.

The 52 communities in Gbaramatu kingdom had in July 2009 instituted a N100 billion suit against the Federal Government challenging the May 13, 2009 invasion of their area by the JTF.

The suit filed on their behalf by Chief Femi Falana leading Chief Felude Zimughan and Selekeowei Larry, sought for damages for lives and property “wantonly destroyed'' by the military operations.

The communities also prayed the court to compel the Federal Government to rebuild all the houses demolished during the bombardment.

At the hearing, the Justice Ibrahim Buba-led court ordered that the communities be permitted to assess and carry out the valuation of property or properties said to have been destroyed on or about May 13, 2009 by JTF.

Counsel to the communities, Zimughan, told the court that armed soldiers of the JTF were still occupying the applicants' territory, adding that the estate valuers commissioned by the 52 Ijaw communities required the protection of the court to have unrestricted access to the property without fear of molestation or intimidation.

The counsel averred that the claims and reliefs sought by the applicants were such that expert evidence was necessary to determine the actual losses suffered as a result of the military bombardment of their communities.

While granting the reliefs, Justice Buba said: “ The application is granted as prayed'' and adjourned the matter to May 24 for further hearing.

He ordered that the experts commissioned by the affected communities should enter the areas to assess and carry out valuation of property said to have been destroyed on May 13 by the JTF.

Counsel to the Federal Government, Mr Emmanuel Okosun, however, told the court that his clients were not opposed to the application before the court would go into the substantive matter.