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An High Court sitting in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, has struck out former Senate President and former Kwara State’s Governor, Bukola Saraki’s case over the government takeover of the “Ile Arugbo” allegedly belonging to his family on the basis of “lack of diligent prosecution.”
This is as the Kwara State Government got a legal green light to proceed with building on the controversial Ile Arugbo land in Ilorin, the state capital.
The Presiding judge, Justice Abiodun Adewara struck out the case after the appellants – Saraki’s Asa Investment Ltd – again failed to call any witness to support their claim that the choice land belonged to the firm said to be owned by the late Olusola Saraki.
After many years of using the land to host their political followers in the heart of the capital city, the government reclaimed the land from the Sarakis in December 2019 and went ahead to clear the land ahead of its use for construction of another government secretariat.
The government had said the land originally belonged to the public but was controversially transferred to a firm owned by Saraki without any payment made to the government or document issued for that purpose.
The Saraki’s in turn challenged the government’s decision by filing a court case to keep ownership of the land, claiming they have documents to prove ownership of the property.
Earlier on Monday when the case came up for hearing, counsel to the claimants, Abdulazeez Ibrahim had told the court that a joinder to the case Alhaji Sanusi Babaeleku has suddenly died, leading to the court striking out the name of the deceased.
When the case resumed on Tuesday, Ibrahim said they were replacing Alhaji Babaeleku with one Alhaji Abubakar Oluwatoyin, a request that the court granted and then asked them to proceed with their case by calling their other witnesses.
The counsel, however, said they were not prepared to proceed because their lead counsel, Dr Akin Onigbinde (SAN), who he claimed has the relevant documents to proceed with the case, had just lost his mother and was preparing for the burial.
Counsel to the Kwara State Government, Barrister Salman Jawondo, however, drew the attention of the court to what he called a deliberate attempt to delay the hearing and dispensation of the case after more than one year of judicial filibustering, urging the court to dismiss the case for lack of diligent prosecution.
He cited the previous failings of the claimants to prosecute their case, an observation that the judge said was valid and therefore struck out the case “for lack of diligent prosecution by the claimants.”
Jawondo meanwhile has said the government is willing to press counter claims of ownership of the land against the Asa Investment Limited.
The court adjourned the case to 17 March, 2021 to hear the counter claims.