A Kaduna High Court has ordered the Nigerian Air Force, NAF, to pay N5 million to Igabi community in Kaduna State as general damages for trespassing on its land.
The plaintiffs, a 70-year-old Alhaji Yusuf Madugu Umaru and four other members of Igabi community had instituted the suit on Oct. 28, 2014, asking the court to restrain the NAF and three others, being the defendants, from further trespassing into their property.
The community leaders in their submission said they inherited the land from their great grand parents who had settled on the land more than 150 years ago.
After several hearings and adjournments, Justice Isah Aliyu, in his judgment, which lasted several hours on Wednesday, held that the plaintiffs had provided documentary evidence and several witnesses to proof ownership of the land.
He said there were pieces of evidence that claimants’ great grand parents who migrated from Zamfara, Katsina, Zaria and other parts of the North settled in the area more than 150 years ago. The plaintiffs also provided evidence that they cultivated and grazed on same land over that period unchallenged.
He said there was evidence before the court that the plaintiffs rented and allocated part of the land to some Gwari, Ikulu and Kataf people in the last 40 years and no one ever challenged them.
The judge noted that the complainants had presented a registered land survey with a complete demarcation and boundary of the 74.436 hectars of the land which indicated that they were the rightful owners of the land.
He said their title to the land could only be revoked by the State Government under Sections 28 and 29 of the Land Use Act and noted that the defendants had failed to provide substantial evidence to proof their claims.
He noted that the defendants through their counsel did not also challenge the claimants’ evidence presented before the court, saying “there was no admissible evidence presented by the defendants to claim ownership of the land aside the MoU between the Ministry of Defence and the Nigerian Air Force.
The Nigerian Air Force had claimed it was handed over the land in 1962 by the Government of Northern Nigeria, through the Ministry of Defence.
The judge noted that the said documents and claims were not admitted as exhibits before the court and ordered the Nigerian Air Force to stop any kind of construction around the community land and awarded N5 million as general damages to the communities for trespassing into their land.
Counsel to the plaintiffs, Mustapha Abubakar, thanked the court for his fairness in giving his clients’ justice.
The defense counsel, Mr Sabo Samaila, commended the judge and requested for a copy of the judgment for further action.
The Community leader of Kauyen Liman, Malam Abdullahi Badaru, and Sarkin Barakallahu, Malam Muhammed Abdullahi expressed their happiness for winning the case.
They said the over 10,000 community members had lived in fear of harassment and molestation from the men of the Nigerian Air Force who had asked them to vacate the land while the litigation lasted.