Kwara State High Court has lifted the interim injunction restraining the state government from constructing anything on the civil service clinic land (alias Ile Arugbo) following repeated failure of counsel to the claimant Asa Investment Limited to appear before the court to fully prosecute its case.
The Asa Investment Limited, which is purportedly owned by the late Olusola Saraki, had taken the Kwara State Government to court after the latter reclaimed the land which it said was unlawfully taken over by the firm without any right of occupancy or payment to the owner, the state government.
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At the proceedings on Thursday in Ilorin, the court, presided over by Justice Abiodun Adebara, also awarded a penalty of N200,000 each in favour of all the four defendants (Kwara State Governor, Attorney General, House of Assembly, and Bureau of Lands) and another N50,000 to the police on account of the failure of the claimant to allow the case to proceed to hearing on various occasions.
Justice Adebara took the decision after the counsel to the claimant Akin Onigbinde SAN again failed to attend the court session on Thursday. Onigbinde instead sent a letter, accompanied with a medical report, saying he was advised to undergo bed rest between 3rd and 10th of August, 2020.
After many adjournments at the instance of the claimant, Onigbinde had again on July 8th agreed to an adjournment for July 22nd but he later said he could not make the sitting.
That led to the adjournment to August 6th which Onigbinde again did not attend allegedly on medical grounds.
Salman Jawondo, Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Kwara State who appeared for the government, said the claimant was “deliberately wasting the time of the court” and urged Justice Adebara to dismiss the case for lack of diligent prosecution and to award N250,000 penalty each against the claimant and in favour of the defendants.
Jawondo, who insisted that Asa Limited was just buying time with the numerous adjournments, wondered why other counsel to the claimant cannot continue with the case in the absence of Onigbinde.
Justice Adebara agreed.
“I agree with the learned Attorney General that the claimants are not diligent in the prosecution of this case which entitled me to dismiss the case under Order 39 rule 4 of the Rules of this Court but having regard to the provision of Order 39 rules 5 and 6 which allow the claimants to apply to set aside the judgment dismissing the case, I consider it better to give the claimants another opportunity,” the judge held.
“Hence, instead I award the costs of 200,000 Naira against the claimants in favour of the 1st to 4th Defendants and the costs of 50,000 Naira in favour of the 5th Defendant against the claimants. Furthermore, the exparte order of injunction granted the claimants earlier on in this case is hereby vacated.”
The Police, which is the fifth defendant in the case, aligned with the government’s position that the case should be struck out.
Justice Adebara however adjourned the matter to 23rd and 24th of September to allow the claimant’s counsel to continue the case, warning that he would not grant any other adjournment after this.
The government had in January reclaimed the land which it said was originally meant for the construction of the civil service secretariat but was unlawfully gifted out to a private firm in 2005 without any payment or certificate of ownership.
Asa Investment Limited, which claims ownership of the land, thereafter challenged the action of the government in the court.